WeChat ranked as the top brand on Asia's Top 1000 Brands 2021 list from Mainland China.
The de facto national superapp in China, where it's known as Weixin, entered the competition among video platforms about two years ago with the launch of Weixin Channels.
As a relative newcomer behind platforms such as Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili, and Red in short-video marketing, Channels has grown rapidly and has shown its power during the past few months.
In December, a livestream of a London concert by Westlife drew nearly 28 million viewers and generated more than 160 million likes on the platform, according to data released by Tencent. Weixin’s head of marketing, Juliet Zhu, commented that "Weixin Channels can be a connector of cultures by leveraging Weixin’s open platform and the creators’ ecosystem.”
In January, a TVB live concert held simultaneously in Shanghai and Hong Kong attracted 34.63 million viewers and generated 196.7 million likes.
Then during the spring festival period, Tencent updated the WeChat app and brought the Chinese New Year Gala of China Central Television into the palms of 1.2 billion users, with Channels showing live performances and allowing users to grab lucky-money envelopes and share moments via WeChat's social-media features.
During the Beijing Olympic Games, Tencent maximised its status as a broadcast rights-holder to the benefit of the Channels platform, which became a primary resource for many to view the games.
In part because of Channels’ greater impact from 2021 and into 2022, social-media management platform Kawo highlighted it in its most recent ultimate guide to China's social media as a brilliant new entrant. Kawo emphasised Channels’ B2C and B2B functions in the field of lifestyle, music, news, fashion and art, stating that they provide more opportunities for brands by deepening “the integration within the WeChat universe” and increasing brand awareness.
Brands are competing on this changing battlefield to impress consumers. Nina Kong, head of strategy from Media.Monks China noted two brands that stand out among those using Channels for content marketing. BMW stays true to its premium brand image, but “steps out of the conventional language of the category and has made car features and after-sales services playful, entertaining and surprisingly accessible for non-petrol heads”, she observes. Meanwhile, Burberry collaborated with local artists on filmed documentaries, “giving the stage to emerging and niche multimedia artists around the country”.
Tencent's 2022 WeChat open class highlighted video channels as an engine of innovation and creativity. However, Channels is just beginning to show the power of livestreaming, and brands are still exploring the role of Channels in marketing using short-form video. Campaign invited experts to talk about the competition and unique features of Channels among China’s top video-sharing platforms, such as Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili, and Red.
Head of strategy
Havas Greater China
Recently, we’ve been working with our client Wanchai Ferry to create content for their WeChat channels, which has helped our client to communicate more meaningfully and frequently with its precise audiences.
Because WeChat Channels is an integrated part of WeChat, it’s now easier for brands to post videos and allow their audiences to share these videos and follow the brand’s official WeChat account. Essentially, WeChat is helping brands create a library of all their content so audiences can access content and information at any time.
WeChat Channels also allows the brand to express their personality more by showcasing different types of content, and to be more available whenever consumers want to discover and explore the brand.
We find that social platforms that feature videos, like WeChat Channels and Red, are becoming a key part of consumers’ search habits.
Certainly, Douyin is the dominant video channel now, but we’re seeing that brands and consumers are also viewing short videos on Red. Each of these video channels has its own strengths and unique characteristics catering to different audiences. We therefore help our clients prioritise which video channel to appear on based on the client’s target audiences and those audiences’ passion points.
Overall, the new WeChat Channels has become a compelling offer for our clients in the past year. They have been regularly improving in terms of function and usability. One key improvement suggestion is for WeChat to offer more powerful editing tools to those who post videos. Another suggestion is a way to better help users manage their privacy (beyond the currently available settings options) so that they could feel more comfortable to “like” and share videos without being seen by their contacts on WeChat. We have received feedback from users who say that they prefer using Douyin to view and share videos so that their contacts on WeChat don’t have to know about it.
Head of strategy
While other video channels have established specific roles and with it, attached values (ie, Bilibili and community), it’s up to brands now to shape what this looks like for WeChat Channels that fully leverages the nature of the WeChat ecosystem. There is still too much copy and paste happening out there, where WeChat Channels is treated purely as an extra owned channel to broadcast the same content. One thought to experiment with is the idea of conversion-driven content created specially to activate a seamless and shortened journey to conversion within the WeChat ecosystem. The type of content that might fail miserably on other channels [that are more] fit for upper funnel awareness, engagement and image-building, could very well find a home in WeChat Channels, giving people the valuable information they need while they’re making critical purchase decisions while simultaneously giving them a smooth user experience leading to the conversion destination (such as Mini Programs).
WeChat Channels may comparatively have smaller user bases and lower traffic, but it has a slew of unique advantages that shouldn’t be overlooked:
- WeChat is the top social app with over 1 billion daily active users, granting WeChat Channels large potential to grow its user base and to penetrate in diverse markets (both high- and low-tier cities) and user groups (different demographics, especially with the fast-growing older age groups who are often ignored in social strategies across platforms like Douyin).
- While Douyin, Kuaishou and BiliBili all offer entertainment value and are inherently designed more for young audiences, WeChat Channels is still an open slate with a diverse reach, fit for B2B brands that can’t quite win over the highly conditional world of Douyin audiences, but have much to offer its audiences through short-form video content.
- Being part of the WeChat ecosystem, WeChat Channels makes it much easier to engage and share directly within the ecosystem (for example, to share to Moments and group chats), with a more straightforward and shortened journey to conversion. This helps create a more seamless customer experience and avoid unnecessary traffic loss.
- Unlike other short-video platforms that offer public traffic, WeChat Channels can strengthen CRM data capture and strategies for brands.
Another consideration is the struggle many marketers face in creating social videos at scale within finite budgets. With all social channels—and now also Wechat with its Video Channels—becoming more and more video-driven, this investment in social video creation can now be better justified by marketers.
However, we still see marketers making irrational budget allocations between TVCs with multi-million production budgets and short social videos with miniscule budgets. A real person does not make this distinction, and the impact of a well crafted and highly entertaining short social video—whether or not boosted with media buy or KOLs—has the potential to deliver much greater reach and impact, and thus value. Budget allocations should reflect this value: Just because it’s short and social, doesn’t mean it needs to be cheap, as earning the attention of your audiences has never been more valuable.