WeChat marketing

WeChat Marketing: How to Get Started

What if your best customers have no idea you exist?

You’d probably want to know how you can reach them. But the answer lies not in your standard North American marketing channels.

China’s population is the largest in the world at 1.4 billion people. Out of those, 86% of them use WeChat as their ‘everything app’. Why? Because the other big-name players not limited to Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram are blocked in China by the Great Firewall put in place by the Chinese government.

While these platforms promise a gigantic pool of potential customers, it’s worth thinking about how you can reach people who aren’t on these networks. After all, the world’s largest country by population probably doesn’t even know you exist.

It goes without saying that a successful marketing campaign is dependent on its strategy, size, and scope. To have the most impact on your target audience, you need to ensure you’re reaching them where they spend their time.

WeChat, the social media messaging app from Chinese tech giant Tencent, is the 6th largest social network in the world thanks to its Asian market share. With more than 1.2 billion active users per month, WeChat’s scope —and reach— are in direct competition with Facebook. 

A pie chart depicting the popularity of social networks around the world. WeChat’s slice may not look huge, but it represents over 15% of the world’s population. Of China’s 1.4 billion people, 86% of them use WeChat!

Want to learn how to get started with integrating WeChat into your marketing strategy? This guide will explain how you can set up your WeChat account and how to use the app to take advantage of its superior market penetration to reach new and profitable demographics which will send your business soaring above your competition.

What is WeChat?

WeChat is a little bit of everything. It combines the best features from competitors like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter into a single, all-inclusive social media platform. Its power lies in its range and utility. 

The WeChat platform includes:

  • Text messaging
  • Voice messaging
  • Video conferencing 
  • Games
  • News feeds (Moments)
  • Digital payment abilities
  • Streaming broadcasts
  • Content sharing
  • QR code scanner

WeChat is an integral part of China’s economy. It’s level of use in Asia is unprecedented — 46TB of WeChat data is consumed in one minute of the morning rush hour. It is a social platform but also a key business driver, with more than 900 million people using WeChat Pay every month. The result? More than $50 billion dollars injected into the regional economy yearly.  

But what do Asia’s social media usage stats have to do with Western marketing?

Canada alone has a huge population of Chinese expatriates who use WeChat regularly to communicate with each other and also family and friends back in Mainland China. WeChat’s marketing value is undeniable from an advertising perspective, and if you aren’t considering integrating WeChat into your marketing strategy, you could be missing out on a huge chunk of customers who have no idea you exist.

Types of WeChat Marketing Tools

WeChat’s reach and market penetration are prolific both inside China and worldwide. Usage in Canada is growing year-by-year alongside a rapidly expanding Chinese population. Smart marketing professionals have a golden opportunity to gain additional business using WeChat’s suite of advertising opportunities. 

Mini-programs

In 2018, WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, opened up the app to developers by offering the use of APIs. The result was a robust and thriving ecosystem inside the greater WeChat platform. You can think of mini programs as apps within WeChat. 

3 examples of mini programs: Tencent Video — not unlike a video streaming service like YouTube or Netflix; Pinduoduo — a social selling ecommerce app; Pomodoro Timer — a productivity app to help you stay on task.

Mini-programs are capable of delivering all kinds of curated content and functionality to potential customers, from discount offers, to brand-related news and trends, to hotel booking, Bitcoin buying, and bike sharing. In 2020, the WeChat app store currently offers more than 3.2 million different mini-programs with every conceivable function, with a user base of more than 840 million people. 95% of the brands that use WeChat for social media marketing purposes currently use mini-programs to extend their brand’s reach, giving customers a sense of convenience and functionality. 

But what should your mini-program look like? Check out our blog post where we go into further detail about mini-programs as well as some ideas to get you started.

Moments

Like Facebook, WeChat offers its own version of a news feed called WeChat Moments. Moments offer a way for platform users to share text, pictures, videos, and weblinks with their friends —literally the moments that make up their lives. Moments are also prime real estate for advertising. 

With Moments Ads, a single image or short 6-15 second video advertisement shows on the user’s Moments feed once per day. Once tapped, these ads take the user to an HTML5 page hosted within WeChat. 

You can adjust your Moments ads targeting to ensure you are serving them to your target audience aligning with your buyer persona. However, targeting options slightly differ for Official Accounts created in China versus the rest of the world. They include:

  • Interest & behaviour
  • Ages 14 – 65+
  • Marriage status
  • Education
  • Device type
  • Geolocation by country

Our Marketing Strategist & Senior Account Manager, Cate, had some further insights about Moments ads to share:

“There is a much larger user base in China than in North America, so the CPM* will be lower in China. However, the competition in China’s big cities, for example, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, is extremely high so the ad might not show up on users’ Moments feeds unless the advertiser is willing to increase their spend. In North America, there is less competition, but because of the smaller user base, it will still drive up the CPM.

People in China feel much more comfortable using the different functions in the Moments ad feed because they are used to buying products using WeChat Pay. Whereas in North America, people are not as familiar as not all brands have WeChat Pay set up.”

* Cost per mille, or the cost for one thousand impressions

This reinforces the idea of why choosing Moments ads may be a lucrative option to reach the Chinese audience. This approach to WeChat marketing helps put your brand in front of an augmented customer pool without risking ad fatigue and driving customers away. Given that the app’s over 1 billion users check their Moments an average of 9 times per day, your brand message is bound to go far and wide.

Banner Ads

Banner ads are a tried and true marketing method from individual websites to social media platforms. They are similar to display ads you see on media publications and other websites. Banner ads are branded, clickable graphics that take users to the business’s webpage. The secret to effective banner ads is their on-page placement, compelling creatives and call-to-action.

WeChat handles banner ad placement automatically — either the top, centre or bottom of Official Account content. 

Banner ads at the beginning and end of articles on Chinese media WeChat accounts, not unlike a display ad you would see on your favourite media publication website.

Organic Content

Organic content is the original social media marketing strategy. With organic content, your business can insert educational content, industry news and trends, and other pertinent content right in the users’ feed. 

Push notifications differ for the different types of WeChat Official Accounts. Subscription accounts are best for those who publish articles on a consistent basis, like news sites. This content is nested under a subscriptions folder in the WeChat home screen. With a subscription account, companies can post one broadcast message with up to 6 articles per day, and they do not push a notification to followers. 

Service accounts allow for more customization and features. This type of account can send a push notification up to four times per month with 8 articles in each (although we wouldn’t recommend posting 32 articles per month for this type of account — learn why). 

The goal of organic content is usually to keep your company top of mind for your target audience so they come to you when they’re ready to buy, which is why you don’t want to be heavily promotional as you will turn people off. At its heart, organic content is all about fostering brand loyalty and building a sense of community between your company and prospective clients.

Advertorials

Advertorials differ from regular articles on WeChat as they are sponsored content hosted on another account. They are long-form content that begins with a compelling, non-promotional headline and focuses on telling a story or educating a reader about a product or service rather than being heavily promotional. They often contain interactive elements and have an eye-catching design, ending with a call-to-action.

WeChat Advertorial
An advertorial for Periphery client Anthem for their Wood & Water project. Instead of going straight into the real estate project, it starts by talking about data and leveraging market trends. You can see the creative is colourful and engaging! This advertorial received over 7500 views.

Advertorials are a great strategy to get your content in front of a wide audience. Periphery has long-standing partnerships with WeChat vendors who sell advertorial placements on their accounts. We also handle all media buying and content creation aspects for our client’s campaigns. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about how advertorials can help you reach your audience.

Setting Up Your WeChat Account

As we mentioned above, there are two different options when it comes to setting up a WeChat account for business purposes: the service account and the subscription account.

Regardless of which account type you choose, setting up an official WeChat account for your company is not as straightforward as other social media platforms. Tencent requires an extensive verification process for non-Chinese entities looking to use the platform. This process involves an official application that includes your business’s licensing credentials and articles of incorporation, a photo ID, three months’ worth of mobile bills for the business owner/ account manager, and a yearly registration fee of $99. Once these criteria are met and Tencent accepts your application, you are free to tap into WeChat’s extensive user base.

Harness the Power of WeChat Marketing

WeChat is the 6th most popular social media platform in the world, and its user base has been steadily gaining popularity over the past decade. For users in China, setting up a WeChat business account is a staple marketing technique in their rapidly-involving economy. 

For Canadian users looking to harness the platform’s power, getting started is not so simple. Along with gathering and submitting all your documentation to Tencent, you need to decide which types of WeChat marketing activities you will use to reach your target audience, and how to balance your budget in order to get the best results possible for your organizational needs.

Periphery Digital is an expert in all things WeChat with experience creating WeChat Official Accounts for our clients and handling all end-to-end WeChat marketing initiatives. We can help you reach an even wider demographic with culturally fluent content and advanced marketing strategies tailored to your unique business objectives. For more information and to request a proposal, contact us today.

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