Digital Marketing in China: Overview of Wechat(微信)

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This article introduces the overview of digital marketing using Wechat in China.

In China, mobile phone penetration rate is over 90%, and now many internet-based businesses are being launched. Among those new businesses, Wechat is taking an important role in the digital marketing.

Here are some strategies for how Wechat is used in the digital marketing.

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What is Wechat(微信)?

I will not go int full detail about Wechat, but let me explain some general concepts. Wechat is the most popular messaging mobile application, similar to WhatsApp or Facebook Messanger.

As of the end of 2015, the amount of active users has grown to be over 600 million, and 90% of people who own a mobile phone use it. So, in summary, Wechat is one of the most important tools for digital marketing in China.

Marketing types using Wechat

Here are some types of marketing using Wechat.

Open the official account

Letting user subscribe to the corporate official Wechat account is a good way to easily send marketing messages to users.

Wechat has two different types of official account, a subscription account (订阅号 or dìng yuè hào) and a service account (服务号 or fú wù hào). The main differences are as follows:

Subscription Account (订阅号) Service Account (服务号)
Broadcasting One broadcasting message per day Only 4 broadcasting message per month
投稿場所 Displayed in subscriptions folder and no push notification. Displayed in-line with personal contacts with push notification
アカウント開設 For both corporate and individual users Only for corporate users

When receiving a subscription account message, this message would be mixed into other messages, making it hard to attract users (See the image below). So if you don’t consider broadcasting frequent messages, I recommend using a Service Account.

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FYI, foreigners can’t open both accounts, so you need a Chinese person or corporation to open an official Wechat account.

Companies are using various way to let users subscribe to their account, which I’ll introduce in a separate article.

Viral Marketing of Wechat’s Moments (Timeline)

Wechat has Moments function (similar to Timeline’s function on WhatsApp), in which users can introduce some articles they are interested in or share posts about their daily life. This Moments functions is now becoming very popular in China. According to TechNode:

On average, more than 3 billion webpages are shared on Moments in one day. About 76.4% users check Moments regularly to share or consume content shared by their contacts. Interestingly, this is higher than the percentage of users (67%) that are using WeChat for messaging.

It would save money for companies to broadcast some articles that will make a buzz around Wechat Moments, but high-quality articles are essential for that. If it’s hard to prepare alluring articles, then utilizing 红包 (free gift or coupon) is another common route in digital marketing.

Infeed Ad on Wechat Moments (Timeline)

Wechat has started a new advertisement on Moments since 2015 (Details). Advertisements can be directly sent to users’ Moments. Similar to an ad on Facebook, companies can set the details for their targeted user profiles by specifying things like age, gender, and interest.

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However, this type of ad is not as common so far. I heard it is restricted only twice a week for each user. First, I thought that I was excluded from the ad target group because I’m Japanese and so I might not be the main target for Chinese companies, but some of my Chinese friends are in the same situation.

Register as an Official App

It might be impossible for a normal company to imitate, but the inside link from the Wechat App provides a quick way to market other apps.

Mobile taxi calling app, Didi Chuxing (滴滴出行), E-commerce, JD.com (京东), online ratings & reviews, Dianping (大众点评), have a direct link from the Wecaht app to their app. (See the image below).

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Extra

Furthermore, there are other digital marketing strategies using Shake function, etc. I’ll introduce other cases in another article.