WeChat, China’s “One-in-all” social media platform, is a tool used 24/7 by Chinese consumers, for everything from messaging with their friends and posting about their cultural outings to keeping abreast of the latest offerings by luxury brands. Yet, a lot of Western brands are still a little in the dark when it comes to their perceptions about how it works and how it can be used to maximize a brand’s reach.
In this post, we aim to clarify some of the biggest misconceptions that consumers have about WeChat. We spoke to industry experts who have helped brands get the most out of their WeChat strategy and gotten tips from in-house marketing staff who work for luxury brands.
Here are the top six misconceptions that brands have about WeChat:
1. Presence on WeChat is mandatory
“Brands often approach WeChat with a FOMO (fear of missing out) rather than buckling up with a well-crafted WeChat strategy and follower journey beforehand,” said Preeti Kumar, head of digital strategy at the digital agency 31ten.
Brands flock to the social media app to have a ‘presence,’ an official account, where they can contribute ‘meaningful’ updates hoping to be a part of the organic conversations people are having on WeChat.
The competitive landscape of WeChat is not what it was four years ago when it first launched. There were 20 million official accounts that are all hoping for the same.
“Unless you have zeroed in on the specific role WeChat will play in your consumers’ journey, don’t get onto this already highly crowded platform,” said Kumar.
And investment on WeChat doesn’t come cheap, according to Alexis Bonhomme, the Co-Founder and General Manager of Curiosity China, usually, a reasonable campaign on WeChat will start at about 200,000-300,000 yuan ($30,000-$45,000) while a more comprehensive one will be more in the region of 500,000 yuan ($75,000). This would include a campaign concept, creation and production, and media buying and KOL engagement. If brands go with a smaller budget, then the impact might likewise be smaller.
2. WeChat is a broadcast medium
Bringing the traditional media mindset to WeChat, brands often have the misconception that WeChat is a broadcast medium.
The numbers clearly show how misplaced this belief is. In the second quarter of 2017, the official reading rate on WeChat was 3.18 percent. Judging by this small number, it’s easy to see why the return on investment (ROI) for brands with regard to broadcast content is low.
On the other hand, WeChat has sophisticated functionalities for brands that they can use to intimately learn about their followers and thereby build a highly personal and relevant WeChat experience.
“Brands often see WeChat as a PR tool, and build a ‘digital advertising strategy,” said Bonhomme. “What they need is ‘digital tech’ that involves online-to-offline (O2O), payment, E-CRM, E-commerce, etc.”
The misconception is further reflected by their hiring decisions for in-house WeChat staff.
“Luxury brands prioritize aesthetics and brand image, but a lot of them may fall into the rabbit hole of hiring advertising talent,” said Suyu Meng, a WeChat consultant. Meng suggested that brands hire someone that has a basic mindset for digital marketing because the role of WeChat constantly shifts becoming increasingly complex. “The success of a WeChat campaigns is a combination of content, design, operation and more,” she said.
“Brands think they can just repurpose and translate content from western social platforms and publish on WeChat,” said Jeff Fish, co-founder of WeChat agency TMG Worldwide, he urged brands not to keep a simple or straightforward strategy on WeChat. “They need to take their content and make sure it is in the right tone and segmented by audience.”
3. My WeChat strategy is working if I have a lot of followers
Brands often erroneously believe that follower count is the sole measurement of success on WeChat. As the ecosystem of WeChat becomes more complex, a single metric, such as your number of followers, is simply not enough.
Brands looking to leverage WeChat, especially to sell, should be clear on this because even if WeChat accounts have a huge volume of followers, not all followers will translate to sales because not all of them have purchasing power.
“If a brand wants to sell products,” said Jenny Chen, COO at WalktheChat, “KOL is a much better method.” Though the pricing of working with a KOL varies, it could range from $100-$50,000, depending on the goals that brands are trying to achieve.
4. WeChat is a sales tool
“Short-term quarterly focus and incentives to meet the sales targets can often make CMOs approach WeChat content as a sales incentivizing tactic,” said Kumar. “This leads to producing very salesy content that says, ‘Look at me! I am so pretty! Buy now!!’ That stuff is a big turn-off for readers.”
It comes as no surprise that the No.1 reason cited for unsubscribing from a WeChat account,” according to a 2016 WeChat Behavior Study by Globeone, is this: It is boring.
Though there is a reason for brands to create product-centric content. A marketing employee of a luxury brand told Jing Daily that a lot of brands’ WeChat creations have guidelines. They need to stay consistent with the brand’s imagery across the board, leaving the local team with a limited degree of creative control.
5. WeChat ads are just like Facebook ads
Even though WeChat keeps reinventing its functions, the WeChat ads system is relatively basic compared to Facebook or Google.
For example, while Facebook ads are very advanced and can drive sales, according to Chen, “On WeChat, what a brand can do is limited.” “They are not able to build a complex campaign to retarget customers,” she said. “So it’s best to use WeChat ads for follower acquisition and branding.”
Jeremy Webb, the Vice President, and Head of Social for Ogilvy & Mather, addressed WeChat directly about this in an open letter: He said: “(if you) keep improving the targeting and bringing the costs down, we’ll keep on spending.”
6. WeChat is a “China mainland only” social media platform
For a lot of brands, one big misconception is that WeChat is exclusive to mainland China, so they would often hand over the development and execution of their WeChat strategy to local third party agencies or an internal China team. But it’s necessary to consider WeChat with a global mindset, according to Bonhomme from Curiosity China, “(WeChat) is actually bigger than that and is the perfect way to reach and engage with travelers.”
Earlier this year, WeChat launched a new feature allowing domestic users to synchronize their Moments posts to Facebook and Twitter. This revealed WeChat’s ambition to expand its user base and further tap into the pool of Chinese users who live, travel, and study overseas.
To learn more about Moments advertising and how brands can use WeChat marketing to optimize their sales in China, click here to download our latest WeChat report.