Zhihu: A Prime Platform for B2B Marketing in China

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GAB Team

Understanding China’s social media landscape is critical for B2B marketers, and while platforms like WeChat are widely recognized, many overlook the potential of local platforms like Zhihu. Zhihu, a popular question-and-answer platform, offers unique opportunities for B2B marketing, particularly due to its large, engaged user base, emphasis on high-quality content, and features that foster knowledge sharing and discussion.

What is Zhihu?

Launched in 2011 and opened to the public in 2013, Zhihu is a user-generated community focused on sharing high-quality information. It’s a platform where users seek credible answers to a wide array of questions. Known for its trusted nature and strict personal profile verification system, Zhihu has become a go-to source for many Chinese people seeking information in their daily lives.

In its functionality, Zhihu is somewhat similar to the American website Quora, but it also incorporates elements of social networking. Here’s a detailed explanation:

  1. Platform Overview: Zhihu began in 2011 as a platform catering primarily to the Chinese-speaking community. It enables users to collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to answers submitted by other users.
  2. User Interaction: Users on Zhihu can ask and answer questions. Answers can be upvoted or downvoted by the community, similar to Reddit or Quora. This voting system helps to ensure that the most informative and high-quality answers are the most visible.
  3. Content Diversity: The range of topics covered on Zhihu is vast, including but not limited to technology, culture, education, professional advice, and daily life. The platform is known for its high-quality content and the professional background of many of its users.
  4. Social Networking Features: Zhihu also incorporates social networking features, allowing users to follow each other and view the questions and answers posted or interacted with by their connections.
  5. Monetization and Premium Content: Zhihu has also introduced paid content features, such as Zhihu Live, where experts host live talks and interactive sessions, and a subscription service with additional content.
  6. Cultural Impact in China: In China, Zhihu has a significant cultural impact. It is often seen as a more reliable and professional source of information compared to other social media platforms due to its focus on expertise and knowledge-sharing.
  7. Global Expansion: While its primary audience is Chinese-speaking users, Zhihu has been making efforts to expand its reach globally.

Zhihu, therefore, serves as a comprehensive platform for knowledge sharing and social interaction, tailored to a Chinese audience but growing in its global impact.

Who are Zhihu users?

Predominantly, Zhihu’s user base comprises well-educated young professionals between 25 to 35 years old, often residing in tier 1 cities. These users, who are generally high-income earners, are in search of detailed, high-quality content. About 70.6% use Zhihu for self-improvement and learning, while 65.5% use it for professional inquiries, making it an ideal audience for B2B marketers.

The typical audience for B2B brands, compared to B2C companies, often possesses higher levels of education in specific professional fields. This aligns well with Zhihu’s user demographic, making it an ideal platform for B2B companies to connect with their target audience.

Ideal B2B Brands for Zhihu Marketing

Brands like Audi, Siemens, Canva, AirBnB, and Alipay have already established a presence on Zhihu. The platform is particularly suitable for high-end consumer products that require detailed explanations, such as those in education, digital products, electrical appliances, healthcare, and skincare.

1. Technology and Software Companies

Opportunities on Zhihu

Technology and software companies find a natural fit on Zhihu, thanks to its user base of tech-savvy professionals and enthusiasts. This platform provides an ideal space to share insights, answer technical queries, and demonstrate thought leadership in the tech industry.

Engagement Strategies

  1. Sharing Expert Knowledge: Tech companies can leverage Zhihu by providing expert answers to complex technical questions. This positions them as authorities in their field and builds trust among potential clients.
  2. Hosting Q&A Sessions: Engaging with users through Q&A sessions or Zhihu Lives can be an effective way to discuss new technologies, industry trends, and best practices.
  3. Case Studies and Whitepapers: Publishing in-depth case studies or whitepapers on Zhihu can attract professionals interested in the specifics of technology and software solutions.

Benefits for B2B Marketing

  • Brand Visibility: Regular contributions and interactions on Zhihu enhance brand visibility among potential B2B clients.
  • Lead Generation: By engaging in detailed discussions, tech companies can generate high-quality leads from interested professionals.
  • Community Feedback: Zhihu’s interactive platform allows companies to gather feedback and insights directly from their target audience.

2. Professional Services Firms

Professional services firms, such as those in consulting, legal, and financial sectors, find Zhihu a conducive platform for showcasing their expertise. The platform’s educated user base appreciates detailed, authoritative content, which aligns well with the knowledge these firms can offer.

Engagement Strategies

  1. Thought Leadership Articles: Writing in-depth articles on industry trends, regulatory changes, and best practices helps establish firms as thought leaders.
  2. Interactive Q&A Sessions: Participating in Q&A sessions allows these firms to directly address user queries, demonstrating their expertise and approachability.
  3. Industry Analysis and Insights: Sharing nuanced industry analysis and insights can attract a professional audience interested in deep, analytical content.

Benefits for B2B Marketing

  • Reputation Building: Consistently offering high-quality, informative content helps in building a strong professional reputation.
  • Networking with Professionals: Zhihu’s platform allows for networking with other industry professionals, creating opportunities for collaborations and partnerships.
  • Market Insight: Interaction with a diverse user base offers valuable insights into market needs and trends, aiding in strategic planning.

3. Educational and Training Providers

Educational and training providers find a highly receptive audience on Zhihu. With its user base keen on self-improvement and professional development, these providers can effectively engage and educate, thereby enhancing their visibility and credibility.

Engagement Strategies

  1. Educational Content Sharing: Posting well-researched articles or answering questions related to education and training can demonstrate expertise and attract learners.
  2. Webinars and Online Courses Promotion: Zhihu can be used to promote webinars, workshops, and online courses, tapping into the platform’s vast user base interested in learning.
  3. Student and Professional Testimonials: Sharing success stories and testimonials can build trust and showcase the real-world impact of their offerings.

Benefits for B2B Marketing

  • Brand Awareness: Regular engagement increases brand visibility among potential students and professional clients.
  • Lead Generation: Providing valuable educational content can generate leads among those seeking further education or training.
  • Community Building: By consistently offering valuable information, educational providers can build a community of loyal followers and potential advocates.

4. Healthcare and Biotech Industries

The healthcare and biotech industries find a highly engaged and informed audience on Zhihu. This platform is ideal for sharing expert insights, discussing scientific advancements, and providing health-related advice, appealing to the health-conscious and scientifically literate user base.

Engagement Strategies

  1. Sharing Medical and Scientific Expertise: Professionals can answer health and science-related queries, sharing their expertise and latest research findings.
  2. Discussing Industry Trends and Innovations: Posting about recent advancements, industry trends, and innovations in healthcare and biotechnology can attract a niche audience interested in these fields.
  3. Patient Education and Awareness: Providing valuable information on disease prevention, treatment options, and health tips can help in educating the public and building trust.

Benefits for B2B Marketing

  • Establishing Authority: Regular, knowledgeable contributions help in establishing the brand as an authority in the healthcare and biotech sectors.
  • Targeted Outreach: Zhihu allows for targeted outreach to users specifically interested in health and science, making it a valuable platform for niche marketing.
  • Community Engagement: Engaging with the community on health topics can lead to a loyal following and enhanced brand reputation.

5. Manufacturing and Industrial Companies

Manufacturing and industrial companies can greatly benefit from the engaged, professional audience on Zhihu. This platform offers an opportunity to showcase their innovations, technical expertise, and industry leadership to a relevant audience.

Engagement Strategies

  1. Highlighting Technological Innovations: Sharing insights about new manufacturing technologies, processes, and materials can captivate an audience interested in industrial advancements.
  2. Expert Discussions and Q&A: Engaging in discussions or hosting Q&A sessions about industry challenges, solutions, and trends can position these companies as thought leaders.
  3. Case Studies and Success Stories: Posting detailed case studies or success stories demonstrates the real-world applications and effectiveness of their products or services.

Benefits for B2B Marketing

  • Brand Recognition: Active participation on Zhihu helps in building brand recognition within the industry.
  • Networking with Industry Professionals: The platform provides opportunities to connect with other industry professionals, potential clients, and partners.
  • Market Insight and Feedback: Interactions on Zhihu can offer valuable market insights and direct feedback from peers and potential customers.

Zhihu, with its diverse and professional user base, presents a rich landscape for B2B marketing across various industries. From technology and software companies to professional services, educational providers, healthcare, biotech, manufacturing, and industrial sectors, the platform offers unique opportunities to engage with a targeted audience.

The key to success on Zhihu lies in understanding its community and leveraging its preference for in-depth, authoritative content. Brands that focus on sharing expertise, engaging in meaningful discussions, and building thought leadership can significantly enhance their visibility and credibility.

This strategic approach to content and community engagement on Zhihu can lead to strengthened brand recognition, valuable networking opportunities, and insightful market feedback, making it an indispensable tool in the arsenal of B2B marketing.

Advantages of Zhihu for B2B marketing

1. Visibility and Brand Awareness

Engaging regularly on Zhihu can significantly boost a brand’s visibility and build trust with potential customers.

Zhihu’s platform, distinct from other Chinese platforms, allows for in-depth answers that delve beyond basic textbook information, creating a lasting impact on the audience. This depth of content elevates brand presence and credibility in a crowded digital landscape.

2. Cost Efficiency

Creating long-form content on Zhihu is a cost-efficient strategy, especially when compared to the resource-intensive nature of producing continuous short video content, which is a common trend on other platforms. Zhihu’s user base, known for investing time to read and appreciate detailed content, offers a receptive environment for such in-depth material.

3. Brand Awareness and Authority

Through answering questions and writing articles, brands can not only increase their awareness among consumers and peers but also establish authority in their area of specialization. Additionally, Zhihu serves as an excellent resource for market research, particularly valuable for new brands.

Common queries on Zhihu cover a wide range of topics, from professional experiences and product/service evaluations to opinions on current events. Addressing these questions allows brands to build rapport with users and enhance their reputation.

Furthermore, inviting internal experts or industry Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to answer questions can effectively showcase a brand’s expertise, bridging connections with both industry experts and general users.

4. Search Engine Authority

Content on Zhihu often ranks high on major search engines like Baidu and Sogou, underlining the platform’s credibility. This high ranking is also evident within the WeChat search function.

The quality of content on Zhihu contributes to higher credibility, positively influencing the ranking algorithms of search engines like Baidu, Sogou, Qihoo, and WeChat. This leads to enhanced organic search rankings and increased website traffic, a critical factor in digital marketing success.

5. Trust Building and Soft Selling

Zhihu proves effective for soft selling strategies through third-party mentions and subtle promotions. This approach aids in long-term trust building and influence, aligning with the evolving consumer preferences for authenticity and value-driven content.

Zhihu Marketing Strategies for Companies

1. Active Presence

Regular participation on Zhihu is vital for increasing visibility and building brand awareness and trust with potential customers. An active presence helps in consistently engaging with the audience and keeping the brand at the forefront of relevant discussions.

2. Content Creation

Companies venturing into Zhihu should prioritize creating detailed, engaging content that resonates with its audience. This includes sharing compelling brand stories, narratives on product development, and other insightful content.

Utilizing Zhihu Column allows for publishing articles that demonstrate deep, professional knowledge. Given Zhihu’s well-educated user base, content here often garners higher engagement than on more generalized platforms like WeChat.

3. Q&A Engagement

Engaging in Zhihu’s Q&A section is essential for establishing thought leadership. Brands can answer queries related to their products or services, thus positioning themselves as trusted resources. This strategy is effective across various sectors, evidenced by active engagement in niches like logistics. Smaller brands can also leverage this aspect to build their reputation.

4. Display Ads and Native Ads

Zhihu supports diverse advertising formats, such as image ads and sponsored content, which integrate smoothly with its content. These ads can subtly link products or services within forum discussions, enhancing brand visibility without disrupting user experience.

5. Community Interaction

Engaging actively with the Zhihu community through comments, likes, and participation in discussions is key to fostering positive relationships. This interaction not only enhances brand presence but also drives word-of-mouth promotion, a powerful tool in digital marketing.

6. Influencer Collaboration

Partnering with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) on Zhihu can significantly boost a brand’s image and credibility. It’s crucial to collaborate with influencers who are influential in their specific niches, rather than just those with large followings typical on other platforms.

7. Leveraging Zhihu Live

Introduced in May 2016, “Zhihu Live” is an innovative feature for online presentations on specialized topics, enabling in-depth knowledge sharing and direct user interaction.

Brands can utilize this platform for live sessions, where they can interact with attendees and respond to questions in real-time. These live sessions, some of which are sponsored by well-known brands, offer broader visibility and engagement opportunities.

Zhihu Live
An AI specialist conducts a regular live presentation in a virtual chat room setting.

Successful B2B Marketing Example: Audi

Audi utilized Zhihu’s platform to explain why it’s known as “The Headlight Company” in China. Their detailed response on the history and evolution of their headlights since the 1990s garnered significant engagement, including over 5,400 likes and nearly 600 comments. This strategy enhanced Audi’s visibility and engagement on Zhihu.

Zhihu, with its educated and professional user base, is an exceptional platform for B2B marketing in China. A focus on high-quality, relevant content, community engagement, influencer collaboration, and strategic use of Zhihu’s features can significantly enhance a brand’s visibility and credibility in the Chinese market. This approach, as demonstrated by successful campaigns like Audi’s, underscores the potential of Zhihu in B2B marketing.

Interested in launching your Zhihu Marketing campaign? At Gab China, we specialize in enhancing your online presence and building credibility on the Zhihu platform. Contact us to discover how we can elevate your brand’s profile and strategy on Zhihu. Reach out for more details and to start your journey with us.

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