With tight controls over what brands can post through subscription and service accounts, doing marketing on WeChat is a completely different ball-game compared to micro-blogging platforms Twitter and Weibo.
And users may be more forgiving on Twitter and Weibo to branded content than on WeChat, says David Ko, partner and managing director of marketing agency Daylight Partnership.
“You have followers on Twitter and fans on Weibo but users who follow your WeChat account are called ‘friends’. The term itself shows that you can’t sell a brand – you have to be very engaging and personal with people on WeChat,” Ko said.
Ko shares tips on WeChat marketing along with his company’s junior marketing associate Tanmy Tan, who looks after the Wechat account of their client Fitbit.
1. You are judged by the quality of your content more than ever
Users would often look at the number of fans following your brand’s Weibo account before deciding whether to follow it. On WeChat, because users are not able to see the number of followers you have, they make the judgment call based on your brand name and the content you have posted so far.
“Even after a user has followed your brand on WeChat, if one or two of your recent posts are not interesting, they will stop following you. That manes you have to be at your game,” Ko said.
There is also no limit on the length of the posts, which means that you can post even 800-1000-word essays, and also audiovisual content up to one minute long, adds Tan. While long posts are not necessarily a bad thing, the key is to keep the user interested.
2. Stay informed about changes in WeChat’s rules
The rules governing what you can post, how you can post content and the parameters of accounts can change from time and time and it is important to stay on top of those changes, says Ko.
For instance, in the past, each service account could only put up one post per month but now, a post per week is allowed.
Another example is the number of friends a personal account user could have – before, there was no limit but now, the maximum number of friends you can have is capped at 5,000. After your friends list has exceeded 5,000, your posts are only randomly shown to some of your friends.
3. Make the most out of audiovisual posts
Audiovisual content are one of the formats for WeChat posts, so why not make the most of it?
Ko said, “Videos sound expensive to the client, who imagine that you need a TVC type of budget.”
“Not only advertising agencies and media companies need to use videos – all communicators, including PR and marketing agencies, should be using video.”
But marketers fear that the quality of the videos will not be good, said Tan.
Ko argues that if the story is good, it doesn’t matter if the video isn’t of TVC quality.
4. Beware of content that could be interpreted as political
There are lots of political posts on Weibo. Ko says some marketers may be tempted to make political jokes to get a post to go viral, or accidentally post content that could be interpreted as political.
“WeChat probably decided to limit the number of friends personal account users could have because it didn’t want to make the same mistakes as Weibo. Marketers need to plan content to make sure it can’t be misunderstood,” he said.
5. Mix interactions into multiple digital channels
Don’t be afraid to mix channels in the digital world, says Ko.
In 2010, men’s shampoo brand Old Spice did a campaign where it asked users to tweet questions, which was answered by a model in a studio on live video. The answers were written in real-time by comedians at the studio.
See an example of one of the video responses here: