Forget Facebook. Among Chinese people, WeChat is the number #1 social messaging and lifestyle app.  On WeChat, you can call taxis, play games, pay utility bills, send and receive money, chat with friends, make voice and video calls, split lunch bills, shop, book hotels and make online payments.

Part of this is because Facebook, Twitter and Google are blocked in China. So if you are looking to reach potential customers in China – or communicate to local Chinese here in Canada – WeChat is still an essential tool to add to your marketing arsenal. Here is how to get started:

1. Download the App

WeChat is available free of charge in the App store and you don’t need to read Chinese to sign up. You may be surprised to learn that most items in WeChat can be quickly translated into the language of your choice with one tap. The translation may not be perfect, but you will be able to get the basic idea of what is happening.

2. Choose Between an Individual vs. Official Account

With an Individual WeChat account, you can instant message, send pictures and links and call your contacts. Since WeChat is a closed network, you can only see the likes and comments of people who are in your contacts. On the topic of contacts, however, in North America people tend to compartmentalize their social media. They most often use Facebook and Instagram to connect with friends, and LinkedIn to connect with business associates. On WeChat, people connect with both their personal and business contacts.

An Official WeChat account connects your business with prospective Chinese clients, while helping you inform them of your offers and grow your target audience. However, setting up an Official Account is more complicated. You will need to submit paperwork, pay a US$99 fee to Tencent, and it takes up to three months to get it set up. There is also a lot of back and forth and follow up required, in Chinese. This can be particularly challenging for companies located outside of China, so most people engage the services of an agency (such as ourselves!) to assist them.

3. Promote Your Account

Just as with any other social media channel, your success on the platform and ability to reach new customers is dependent on the number of people following you. In order to gain new followers, you will need a solid content strategy and will need to frequently post fresh, interesting content that makes people want to engage with you. A media ad buy will help get your content in front of more viewers. Using campaigns that involve Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)  — the equivalent of Western influencers — can also go a long way. Just as with English marketing, a combination of paid, owned and earned media is essential to thriving on these channels.

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LAT manages WeChat accounts for a number of companies in Canada. We also offer online, live WeChat training to help get you acquainted with this important tool. Contact us and we’ll be happy to get you started on WeChat marketing with a free 30-minute phone consultation.