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WeChat Channels: an essential tool for Western brands in China

By Michaela Zhu | Marketing executive

Emerging Communications

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The Drum Network article

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May 30, 2022 | 6 min read

WeChat Channels is the latest feature unveiled by WeChat, taking the Chinese marketing world by storm. Since launch in January 2022, it has gained an impressive 200 million daily active users. Michaela Zhu of agency Emerging Communications looks at how Channels has chan Chinese social media strategy.

WeChat Channels offers both short and long-form image and video content. At a surface level, it’s similar to platforms already used internationally and by Chinese social media users like Douyin and TikTok. What sets it apart is full integration inthe powerful WeChat ecosystem.

WeChat Channels features four unique video-based feeds based on users' followed accounts; friends’ liked content; trending videos; and geo-localized content. It has the power to connect consumers, user-generated content and brands like never before.

Emerging Communications on how to utilize WeChat channels.

Emerging Communications on how to utilize WeChat channels.

'Social recommendations' account for over 50% of WeChat’s discoverability algorithm. Brands building a chain of social relationships (via Moments, Shares, Likes and Group Chat interactions… you name it) are likely to do extremely well on WeChat Channels. It’s all about high-quality content that genuinely resonates with Chinese consumers.

With videos from official accounts no longer exclusively accessible by friends and followers, it’s opened a direct pathway to WeChat’s 1.2 billion (and growing) users.

How brands can benefit from WeChat Channels

If you’re looking for content marketing opportunities in China, this is a social media trend that can’t be ignored.

On Channels, video reigns supreme. Graphics and text are rapidly making way for video content, welcomed by users as a more direct, intuitive and time-saving content-form.

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It also has great commercial integrations: brands can link WeChat mini shops with WeChat Channels and official accounts, driving traffic and linking to your website or large shopping platforms with each post.

And as one of the most popular Chinese social media trends, WeChat Channels allows for easy livestreaming with added commerce tools.

To illustrate the astounding effectiveness of WeChat Channels for Western brands, consider the Irish pop group Westlife. Initially popular in the 1990s, they broadcast a live concert (even performing one song in Chinese) for WeChat music fans in December 2021.

Watched by over 229 million viewers, the concert received more than 160 million likes. It kick-started Westlife’s resurgence across China, supported by a Q&A session further enhancing direct communication with fans.

Livestreaming with WeChat Video: building brand awareness

No country in the world has a livestreaming culture as diverse and important as China. It features across almost all social media platforms, from Xiaohongshu to Bilibili, Weibo and of course WeChat Channels.

It’s an indispensable method of targeting Chinese generation Z audiences, with market growth predicted to reach 4.9tn yuan by 2023. Livestreaming via WeChat Channels helps raise brand awareness, especially if content generates a social buzz with plenty of likes, comments and shares.

It also encourages direct interactions with Chinese consumers via 'brand live broadcast rooms' and product displays. With WeChat’s distinctive social algorithms, livestreamed broadcasts appear to friends of active participants, building exposure and widening your circle of potential new followers.

As well as brand awareness, WeChat Channels allows brands to offer coupons, 'red envelopes' or time-limited discounts during livestreams; accessible only to those in the live broadcast room.

WeChat Channels: a new market for luxury brands?

Luxury brands are rapidly recognizing the importance of WeChat Channels for attracting China’s young, high-net-worth audiences. Louis Vuitton was the first luxury brand to appear on the feature, with Burberry, Prada and Chanel following suit.

It’s clearly paying off. The French fashion house Estée Lauder achieved over 600% increase in monthly sales (compared with the previous year) through their WeChat room. In one day, the brand achieved over $219 million in sales just from livestreaming.

Of these sales, over $52 million came from a single influencer, demonstrating the importance of collaborating with the right streamers and key opinion leaders (KOLs).

With events taking place during China’s 6.18 shopping bonanza, Estée Lauder leveraged WeChat Channels integrations across the entire WeChat ecosystem. They linked customers across WeChat Groups, WeCom Connections, Mini Programs and subscribers to the official Estée Lauder account.

Instead of spreading resources across multiple platforms and diverting audience attention, brands are capitalizing on the ability to consolidate their activities on a single social interface. With WeChat’s famed ability to drive conversions, it’s a trend to watch incredibly closely.

If you’re getting to grips with Chinese social media trends, download our guide to understanding Chinese generation Z and check out our advice planning influencer campaigns. Whether you’re working with new features such as WeChat Channels, or other social media platforms and KOLs, understanding your audience’s motivations and aspirations is key to unlocking marketing opportunities in China.

Modern Marketing Agency

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Our mission is to fuel the growth of world-leading brands by building profitable relationships with Chinese audiences globally. Our unique insights into Chinese consumers, social themes, market trends and digital landscapes drive potent campaigns that successfully target, engage and sell.

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