WeChat, China’s largest social media network, continues to evolve from its humble origins as a messaging app to become an indispensible life tool for nearly 846 million people in mainland China.
And it’s showing no signs of slowing down for 2017.
For B2B marketers, this presents a whole host of new opportunities to engage with customers on the platform that is increasingly expanding its functionality.
Here’s a rundown of just a few things to look out for next year:
Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, has recently been testing a pay to read feature – accounts post a preview of an article, and then interested readers can pay a fee of up to RMB 200 to read the whole thing.
For B2B, this is a game-changer. Let’s face it - a lot of B2B marketing content is pretty niche (The advantages of natural probiotics in animal feed supplements, anyone?). To produce something good quality takes time, effort and specialist knowledge. Putting up a paywall makes this content more enticing because it places value on it, especially if a brand has a reputation for excellence in a particular field.
It’s unknown what percentage of the subscription fees Tencent will take, but in the WeChat ecosystem, where millions of pieces of free content about every topic under the sun are competing for your target persona’s attention every day, having a space to come to for quality content will be seen by many as blessed relief.
It’s a rare thing that WeChat looks over the Pacific to Facebook for an idea (mostly, it’s the other way around), but the Western giant’s live streaming feature is gaining fans and traction, and Tencent wants a slice of that pie here in China.
Live streaming exists in China, of course, but it’s mostly done through apps like Inke or Douyu. It is understood that WeChat will complement, rather than try to replace, these apps. For the B2C sector, it’s an obvious winner. On Double 11 this year hundreds of brands live streamed as part of their promotional push.
For B2B though, it’s an opportunity to get really creative and borrow some ideas from the B2C playbook. Could your brand do a live stream product demonstration or test? Or go live from a customer event or do an interview about your latest innovations. Sure, live is a risk, but this is 2017 people. The world is happening now! Not after 20 rounds of draft and approval…
When is an app not an app? When it’s a WeChat mini-app. Clear? No, me neither.
So, this is a feature that has existed for some months now. Basically, you can build an app within WeChat that exists only in WeChat, because Tencent wrote its own framework for it. People don’t have to download a mini-app onto their phone, so it doesn’t take up space, and it has many features of a service account.
This means you can make purchases, arrange a service and so on. So far, so B2C beneficial.
For B2B, making the best use of this feature will be more challenging. As they evolve, mini-apps may develop more features and functionalities, so watch this space.
Speaking of service accounts…
This blog doesn’t normally deal in rumour, but this one just won’t go away. Word is Tencent wants to do away with service accounts, those ones where brands only get four pushes a month, but they reach the user in the same way a message from a friend would, unlike subscription accounts, which all go into that neat little folder in your messages home screen.
This is supposedly to improve the user experience, and eliminate the feeling of being ‘spammed’ by lots of different accounts some users have complained about.
It’s a case of wait and see on this one, and perhaps giving it some thought if you’re thinking about which type of account you want to have for your brand.
These have actually been around since the start of 2015, but you may be noticing a few more than in the past sneaking onto your moments feed.
In the beginning, they weren’t very targeted. Car manufacturers, for example, paid to put the advert into the ecosystem. Good for exposure, an annoyance for 99.99% of users with no interest in buying the product.
Things are about to change. In the autumn, moment ads for local businesses were introduced. This means you no longer need the big, multinational company worldwide-recognized brand budget to get involved in this kind of advertising. For the B2B sector, as Tencent’s targeting technology evolves, marketers will be better able to create moments adverts that reach and resonate with the target audience.
How much of this will come true? I’ll take a look back this time next year and we’ll see. One thing is for sure though, there’s no going back for China and the WeChat revolution.