Don’t overcomplicate the experience
When brands create campaigns on WeChat, they tend to want to get as much data as possible from users. They will want users to answer questions in order to gather insights.
This is understandable, but what brands need to remember is that they need to give consumers what they need at the right moment as well. Users are in a rush, and if they get kicked out of your site because your experience isn’t smooth, they may never come back. The lesson learned from my experience and from my clients is you need to give consumers flexibility and let them experience what they want to experience. Brands need to balance that with their business objectives.
Don’t blast content on WeChat
The most popular content on WeChat is entertainment-based content that is easy to digest. I guess it’s not so different to the rest of the world. But from a marketing perspective on WeChat, it’s not easy for every brand to craft content that is always “entertaining”—except maybe Durex, which has been very successful on WeChat.
What I see as an effective strategy is to create different kinds of content and encourage subscriptions on WeChat, which allows user to select content they like the most and want to see from a brand’s channel. For example, as a user you can click and chose to see content ‘a and b’ while muting ‘c and d’ from a brand page.
Brands can then push a notification to the user based on their selections. This is great from a marketing standpoint because you can better understand what kind of content resonates with different segments.
WeChat could improve its backend
Compared to Facebook ads, which are very targeted and give you a lot of preferences in the back end, WeChat Moments could be better. For example, on Facebook you can create look-alike profiles and even target your competitors’ audience. WeChat only has basic information on users like name, age, sex, email and phone contacts. But WeChat can’t give user’s contact numbers to marketers, which is illegal.
It’s also not easy to utilise WeChat Moments. It’s very expensive to run a Moments ad campaign. On the positive side, WeChat recently opened up a self-serve function so you can bid your keywords and see how much the campaign will cost.
WeChat could bring in more social data. For example, I browse a lot of content on WeChat every day. I like street fashion, sneakers and coffee. If they could tag users based on this content browsing, which then shows up in the back end, that would be very useful to marketers forming strategy and ideas for execution. WeChat claims to have a pretty strong back end but from a marketer’s perspective, it just isn’t there yet.
International brands using WeChat
The problem for international brands using WeChat is the same for Chinese brands wanting to understand Facebook in foreign markets. It’s hard when you’re not working in that environment. For example, if you’re sitting at your international headquarters in New York, it’s hard to know the connectivity and utility benefits of WeChat. And when it comes right down to it, a lot of global brands just see WeChat as another social-media platform to host their content. Their first thought is to simply localise their content but without a dedicated team for WeChat.
Many global brands think that WeChat is a longer form of Twitter. They think that WeChat is a blog and they get people to write something in English, translate it, and post it up. When they see low engagement, they wonder why.
Global brands have to invest in WeChat to be successful. This starts with getting the right people who understand the platform, the content and the utility benefits and can then bring it all together both online and offline.
From my observations, global brands that do well on WeChat have strong team players locally that can help their agency up sell ideas internally. They also have global people that understand the situation and even though they sit in a global office they have quarterly visits to China and have conversations from a tech perspective. They ask questions like: What kind of API do you have open to us and how can we incorporate that and bring WeChat data into our global app so we can synchronise all our data and communications?
There’s no doubt that WeChat wants to go global. I think WeChat penetration has already reached saturation in China. The area that will grow is WeChat’s utilities as the platform has opened a WeChat app store, which allows brands to create their own service apps. This will make WeChat even more immersive and connected than what it already is.