With over 1 billion monthly active users, WeChat is China’s number one social media app and the go-to digital platform for businesses to engage with Chinese customers. Some call it a super-app – other than a messaging application, WeChat serves a myriad of functions, ranging from electronic payment on e-commerce websites and brick and mortar stores, restaurant reservation and even cab calling, all in the same app. Businesses have more opportunities than ever to engage with their target audience – but first, they must set up their own Official Accounts (OA).
Choosing the right type of WeChat Official Account
WeChat OAs are similar to Facebook pages, in the way that both are social accounts through which multimedia content can be disseminated to followers, only that WeChat provides various utilities such as e-payment (WeChat Pay) and web app (Mini Programs), which are unmatched by Facebook at the moment.
WeChat OAs can be divided into two major categories: Subscription Account and Service Account. The biggest distinction between the two types of accounts is the frequency that messages can be published.
Enjoys the benefit of broadcasting up to eight individual messages daily.
There is a quota of 4 broadcasts per month. However, a maximum number of 8 messages can be blasted in each broadcast, resulting in 32 messages at most per month.
Upon learning the difference in broadcast frequency, many enterprises may be in favour of the Subscription Account – after all, the more messages the better, right?
What escaped their attention are features less noticeable, yet equally important. Two of these features are “QR Code Tracking” and “Message Broadcast by Group”, which are exclusive to the Service Account.
QR Code Tracking – Capable of tracking where fans come from as they scan QR code in promotional materials. This function helps businesses to measure traffic from different promotional channels, various versions of ad creative, geographical locations and more.
Message Broadcast by Group – The WeChat OA administrator can tag followers into groups based on their demographics, and then broadcast personalized messages to each group.
These advanced features, however, only come with the Service Account. That is why choosing the right OA type is crucial, as the decision determines the broadcast frequency, function and data availability, and ultimately the channel strategy of the business. Of course, each type of account has its own strengths – the Subscription Account is often preferred by media outlets where broadcast frequency is of the highest priority, while the wide range of functions that the Service Account offers makes it appealing to many brands.
WeChat OA registration is a virtually irreversible process – once registered, the type of account cannot be altered easily. Therefore, businesses are highly recommended to seek professional advice before deciding which type of account to open, in order to avoid spending extra effort and time.
Focusing on two of WeChat’s most unique features “Message Broadcast by Group” and “QR Code Tracking”, we will elaborate on how WeChat breaks new ground in the social media world.
Message Broadcast by Group – Bringing relevance to social conversations
More and more businesses wish to establish WeChat OAs in order to reach audience in Asia Pacific. The biggest challenge they face is that language preference differs across the region. Below are two real cases of how brands take on different approaches to tackle this multi-language problem:
Broadcast multiple articles at a time in different languages, allowing the reader to pick the article in their preferred language.
Brand B takes a more personalized approach. Upon following their OA, followers are invited to enter specific keywords – TC for Traditional Chinese, SC for Simplified Chinese and EN for English.
Next, Brand B uses a third-party platform to automatically recognize the keywords and place tags on followers according to their language preferences. Subsequently, they utilize WeChat’s “Message Broadcast by Group” function to blast messages in various languages to these groups respectively.
Brand B’s solution seems more conducive to a higher click-through rate, as they talk to their followers in their preferred language, taking away the friction of having to make a selection every time.
Language is merely one of the many dimensions that marketers can use to divide followers for a more personalized and therefore relevant experience. Geographical location, gender, membership status and consumption behaviour are just some of the possibilities.
QR Code Tracking – Introducing data transparency to WeChat
The powerful WeChat OA isn’t without its limitations – one of which is that
its native platform can only provide aggregated data, meaning that traffic data cannot be tracked down to the level of an individual. It goes without saying that data transparency is therefore highly sought after in the world of WeChat marketing, especially for businesses that wish to gain deeper insights into their marketing initiatives.
In this case, the QR code tracking function of Service Account has proved to be helpful. In China, QR codes have become an indispensable part of modern life, thanks to the popularity of WeChat. The general public is accustomed to using the QR code to proceed to “the next step”, whether it’s visiting an external link or making payment.
The parametric QR code, however, is a special type that acts more than just a gateway. It records the identity of the person that scanned the code and also the time when scanning took place. It can track user behavior down to the individual level, without collecting intrusive personal information such as real name, phone number and more.
Data transparency is made possible through the implementation of parametric QR codes on WeChat, inserted in every business touch point. For example, when WeChat users start following an OA, visit an online store, register for an event and more.
This can be illustrated with a real example:
Agency B has just been engaged to replace Agency A for the management of a certain WeChat OA. Right after publishing their first message, Agency B notices that 108 people have unfollowed. A common misconception is to instantly find fault in Agency B. With the QR code tracking function, however, the company will be able to investigate further into the matter. What led to the following of these 108 “unfollowers” in the first place? With QR code tracking, Agency B is able to pinpoint those events and compile the relevant data accordingly:
|Date of following the OA
|No. of followers
|3 Feb 2018
|25 May 2018
|Moments ad placement (朋友圈廣告)
|1 June 2018
|In-house event team conducted on-site giveaway
|5 June 2018
|KOL campaign organized by Agency A
As shown in the table above, 60 out of the 108 people (over 55%) that unfollowed had been drawn by a KOL campaign organized by Agency A, while 35 of them (32.4%) were attracted by a giveaway campaign delivered by the client’s marketing department. This suggest that the quality of Agency B’s work may not be the sole reason, if any, for the drop in followers. A careful analysis of these data would suggest that the level of brand loyalty and quality of fans attracted by Agency A or the client could be equally crucial in follower retention.
With WeChat’s QR code tracking function, data transparency can be hugely enhanced, making KPI setting and measurement of campaign effectiveness much easier.
Machine Learning and Automation – The future for WeChat marketing
It is inevitable that different followers behave differently. Some are more willing to listen to your brand’s story, while the others are more attracted towards perks and giveaway. Some are more inelastic when it comes to price adjustment, others flee when the discount period is over. Businesses are struggling to find better ways in identifying different user groups on social media, and subsequently devising dedicated marketing and sales strategies to capture their needs.
While other platforms are falling behind, WeChat is leading the way in demographic segmentation and personalized user journey, as pointed out in the examples above.
But as followers grow and the amount of data accumulates, it becomes increasingly challenging for the human administrator to analyze and categorize each user manually. Moreover, as user behavior becomes more complex, the segmentation of followers will become less of a straight-forward exercise. Businesses will need help in spotting follower behaviour patterns. This is where tagging automation comes into play.
As of today, WeChat is already compatible with third party tools that make use of machine learning algorithm to identity follower behaviour patterns. By simply setting a few conditions, the tool can automatically single out followers based on their behaviour, then places tags on them for further action. Tagging automation allows marketers to spend more time on decision making instead of processing complicated statistics and information.
Nowadays, businesses don’t just look for more followers on social media channels – they are also constantly seeking relevant audience that can be converted to loyal customers. Otherwise, no matter how big a social following is, it will always remain as a number.
Fortunately for companies that are eyeing the Greater China market, WeChat has made things easier – it has provided the basic infrastructure for marketers to perform follower segmentation and create personalized user experience, offering them countless possibilities to interact with their audience. As WeChat marketing automation has become a reality, we are excited about what will come next.