Why WeChat content bans are a good thing for marketers

Recently, Tencent officially announced a wide set of bans on content for its overwhelmingly popular WeChat mobile social network that had the marketing world reeling. The list included lucky draws or giveaways to induce sharing, money or other incentives to induce following, and unofficial interactive games or tests.

As those have become the de facto way for campaigns to get the KPI their brands demand, marketers are understandably worried about what content they can push. However, what marketers should be is thankful that WeChat has refocused brand conversations on where they should be in the first place: around the consumer.

So how do you wean yourself off the cheap stuff and provide great content under WeChat’s new regulations? There are four things to keep in mind:

Is your content reflecting the emotional pull of the brand?
Your consumers will care momentarily about a lottery scratch off. They care much deeper about the feeling they associate with your brand. Think back to before you binged on gimmicks – what emotion was your brand trying to convey? Sophistication? Joy? Empowerment?

Is your content leveraging WeChat’s nature?
WeChat is mobile and agile, so your content should be too. Think about what parts of the brand’s mission intersect with content on the consumer journey. Ideally, your content can be as fluid as user interactions allow.

Related: Is WeChat’s role in your marketing mix clear?
For too long, brands have forced WeChat to fit as a communications channel just because “everyone else was doing it!” Solely being on WeChat became the focus of the brand conversation. The ban now pushes brands to do a “reality check” – WeChat could be the hub of the conversation, but it shouldn’t be the hub of the brand itself.

Most importantly: Is your content valuable?
An integrated user-centric approach will refocus WeChat as the hub of user interaction, and of integration with other platforms. By limiting spam, WeChat can become an integrated conversation between user experience and engagement – a combination of push marketing, CRM and e-commerce that delights the user and translates to ROI for the brand. By adding value and functionality together, you pull a sharing trigger without the need of a hongbao (red packet).

Since WeChat launched, Tencent has been careful to provide a clean and non-promotional environment for content engagement. Even as they began to monetise Moments ads, they have made it clear that they don’t want followers to feel overwhelmingly disturbed by commercials.

Allowing H5 pages was originally to allow brands to create opportunities for engagement within WeChat’s segregated Subscription channels. However, it quickly evolved into a gimmick, driving unnatural actions to share content and force follows. Posts such as “share to win money” or “if you don’t share, you’re not Chinese!” began to proliferate like the spam that already makes us dread opening our emails.

While this content does create high follows and sharing KPI, they are ultimately bad for consumers, bad for brands and bad for WeChat. Tencent is essentially forcing a course correction, and it should make any marketer worth their salt happy.

We now get to concentrate less on fancy click-bait and more on the substance of our ideas and conversations with the consumer. We essentially get to have a meaningful dialogue with the audience again.

Authored by Joyce Ling, VP of strategy and Freeman Chiu, experience strategy director Publicis.Sapient China.