As anyone contemplating building a marketing campaign in China knows, establishing a robust presence on Tencent’s WeChat social media platform is a must. With over 1 billion monthly active users, virtually everyone in China uses it, and not just just for chatting with friends. WeChat Features include:
- WeChat Pay – money transfers
- Search – WeChat is becoming a popular search engine in China
- Video calls
- “Moments” a timeline-like social feed called
- Native apps (“mini programs”)
- Divorce filings (yes you can file for divorce on WeChat)
- and many more!
Once a simple SMS platform it is now a virtual operating system inside an app where users can practically live their entire lives.
Douyin for users in China, and TikTok, which is aimed at overseas markets, are short video sharing apps. These apps began in 2016 and are all the rage.
Introducing WeChat Channels
Not wanting to be left behind by this new trend, WeChat has its own video-sharing feature called Channels. Adoption has been robust, and with the continued popularity of Douyin, Kuaishou, and BiliBili, we can expect Tencent to continue to invest in technology to keep them in the top tier in this category.
Users with a WeChat account will create a separate profile in Channels. A Channel linked to a brand’s official WeChat account can share videos up to 30 minutes in length. Followers get videos in a separate Channels feed, but these videos can also be shared on WeChat moments, group chats, or individual chats as well: videos can be re-shared if they like.
This is a powerful new tool to drive engagement within the country’s most popular digital ecosystem. Besides the large audience, revenue potential is huge. Advertising in Channels is still in beta testing. But paid advertising spend on social media apps in 2020 was RMB 200 billion. Predictions for 2022 is that this will reach RMB 300 billion.
How WeChat Channels Works (for Users)
Like Instagram, Channels allows a user to search for or discover:
- Content that a friends has liked
- Videos posted in certain locations
- Sample “hot topics” served by WeChat’s algorithm
Users can also search for hashtags, keywords, product categories, or even brand names. Here’s an example of what popped up when a user searched for “luxury watches”:
When a user comes across content that they like, there are ample opportunities for engagement. They can like, comment, and favorite, as well as forward to chats and post on their Moments…. all within the WeChat ecosystem! Here’s an example of how a typical user amplified a post from Cartier:
Users can even streamline their experience in the feed. They can see and interact with other users’ comments on content or shut them off for a cleaner feel
The Advantage of Channels (for Brands)
As noted above, when launching a Channel, it will have a new profile – like a “sub-account.” The Channel has zero followers until connected to the main WeChat account. Once users start following and engaging with the Channel’s content then names, locations, and gender are visible. Reaching out to followers and admin is all done via a mobile or through a [desktop/web] app:
Branding on WeChat Channels
Brand experience is richer and far more engaging because content is tightly focused. Marketing tailored for a specific audience aligns with WeChat users who chart their own course. Content can also target potential new customers who seek that message.
Compare this to users’ feeds on Duoyin and TikTok which are almost totally algorithm driven. Those users get videos based on ones they liked before, so marketing on those platforms requires a wide target.
Brands can link to a WeChat article of their choosing, while publishing content on WeChat Channels
WeChat Channels Luxury Brand Best Cases
Take a look at how Prada built their first Channels campaign in March 2020. The campaign, called “Hidden Poems,” appeared on most major social media platforms, but the content made for WeChat served as a more complete brand showcase.
During the “Hidden Poems” marketing campaign, Prada used their initials as interesting metaphors to express their diversity in design concepts. And this campaign led Prada’s global social media strategy.
Landing on Prada’s WeChat Channel, users can click on links to:
- See Prada’s Official WeChat Account
- Learn about e-commerce products
- Watch videos
- Enter the limited-time boutique WeChat Miniprogram
- Choose the WeChat payment form, closing the loop of content monetization
Since the brand has complete control, this is undoubtedly the most attractive point for luxury brands that utilize e-commerce.
Communicating Not Selling
Prada’s “Hidden Poems” campaign on WeChat Channels is entirely different than what they did on Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Weibo. On WeChat, Prada focused their marketing on communicating rather than selling.
Besides uploading the videos on Channels as a collection, Prada added a filter for “Hidden Poems.” Then they invited celebrities and KOLs to spread “viral” videos on Douyin.
Prada worked with many KOLs and celebrities and chose Xiaohongshu’s classic graphic method to interact with users on that platform.
On Weibo, the brand focused on uploading pictures and text and then published videos as a GIF. The copywriting is the same as the WeChat Channel.
Prada did not invest in Kuaishou at this time because its audience did not fit its brand positioning.
Brand Concept on WeChat Channels
During the campaign, Prada released 25 promotional short videos on its WeChat Channels. The short videos are all commercials that have been professionally filmed, edited, and produced.
This shows how Channels is an official base for brand concepts, similar to a brand’s Instagram. And the value of WeChat Channels for fashion luxury brands. By bringing not only traffic but, more importantly, establishing a brand image. All within the overall support of WeChat ecology. On WeChat Channels, the consumer journey leads fans to Prada’s e-commerce WeChat site.
On Channels, Prada focused their marketing on generating awareness and direct engagement with the users. The content is more official and covered multiple aspects of the products and the brand image. Prada geared copy and content for the other platforms towards those audiences and engagement patterns.
WeChat’s Channels platform is similar to Instagram. Channels offers the chance to grow using organic sharing and leveraging audience engagement.