How to make the world’s strongest brand work for you

March 25, 2021
By Helena Beard

Anyone who knows anything about China – or technology – has heard of WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app. WeChat is the fifth most-used app in the world, and by far the most-used in China, with over 1.2 billion monthly active users in Quarter 3 2020. But why is it so popular?

This multi-purpose mobile text and voice messaging app doesn’t just allow easy communication via mobile. On WeChat, users can share updates (like Facebook), upload pictures (like Instagram) and post videos (TikTok).

And it doesn’t stop there. In the last 10 years, WeChat has exerted a hitherto unimaginable influence on Chinese society. Its “mini-programs” – essentially third party apps which run on its servers – allow users to manage their lives through WeChat. You can buy clothes, order food, hail taxis, pay bills and even book flights. In 2020 WeChat’s mini-programs generated 1.6 trillion yuan, nearly US$250 billion – double the revenue in 2019.

WeChat and travel

WeChat also plays a key role in Chinese travel planning and booking. Before travelling, Chinese citizens use WeChat to seek inspiration, looking at the official accounts of destinations, hotels, retailers and attractions and sharing vacation inspiration with their friends. When WeChat users follow a brand’s official account, they receive push notifications of updates, providing the brand with a direct route into followers’ mobile inbox. Destination accounts have even received a surprising boost during the Covid-19 pandemic, with Australia, New Zealand and Thailand leading the way in communicating the measures they are taking to make their destinations safe for tourists.

And the icing on the WeChat cake is that it’s used so widely that it can be used to target businesses as well as consumers. Little wonder, then, that WeChat was named world’s strongest brand in the 2021 Brand Finance Global 500.

Mrs Crocombe woos the Chinese

Promotions and lucky draws run throughout the year to raise the profile of the English Heritage brand in China, managed by the CTO team and often delivered in collaboration with like-minded brands. A recent promotion with VisitBritain China showcased Victorian cookery recipes from English Heritage’s fabled Mrs Crocombe, a cook who worked at Audley End in the late 1800s. This campaign enabled access for English Heritage to VisitBritain’s large WeChat following, promoting the brand to a highly targeted audience.

The campaign generated more than 250 new followers for English Heritage, attracted by its compelling creative, rich historical detail and the lure of the prize draw. These followers will now receive the weekly stories and news posts that CTO writes and delivers in Mandarin for English Heritage. During this period when people aren’t able to travel, they are still dreaming and planning, and WeChat gives brands like English Heritage the upper hand in ensuring their attractions are high on the ‘must visit’ list when borders open.

How to win at WeChat

So how do you make the most of WeChat? How do you get started as a travel brand? And how do you share interesting content to build your Chinese social presence and inspire followers to think of you first when planning their first post-pandemic trip?

Getting started

It’s possible for foreign businesses not located in China to open an official WeChat account, but the application process is quite involved and complex, and account functionality is limited. A better option, and one which secures full functionality, is to obtain a business licence via a trustworthy Chinese partner which can create an account on your behalf. But do choose your partner wisely, because they have complete control over your account.

What makes great WeChat content?

Creating great content for WeChat is not so different to creating great content for any other social channel. You need interesting content which grabs users’ attention. Here are our top tips:

  1. Tempt users with a terrific title

First impressions count in a world where we’re inundated by digital content. A strong title will encourage browsers to dig deeper.

2. Entice your audience with engaging content

Your content needs to resonate with your audience – whether that’s through emotion, entertainment, humour or being of huge practical use. If your post ticks one of these boxes, it’s likely to generate more likes and follows.

3. Add some seasonal spice

Make sure you’re in tune with followers by marking important Chinese dates, from Chinese New Year in February to Tomb Sweeping Day in April. But be accurate and be authentic – work with experts to make sure your theme and tone are right for your audience. Many major brands have struggled to rebuild their reputations after disastrous seasonal campaigns.

4. Focus on format

Take advantage of the opportunity to experiment with format. You can use video, music, pictures and text in WeChat posts. But bear in mind that WeChat users prefer lots of pictures to lots of text – and there’s no limit to the number of pictures per post.

5. Vaunt your videos

Videos are instantly interesting and immediately accessible by users. Try out different lengths between 30 seconds and 3 minutes.

6. Keep it snappy

Life is busy, time moves fast and users are tired of reading longer articles. If you’re using text, posts of between one to two thousand words work best.

Because WeChat keeps innovating – it has recently enhanced its search function and added livestreaming video capability – it is only set to grow even bigger in the future. Can you afford not to be on WeChat? Contact us now about how we can help you gain a following on this all-important Chinese app.

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