WeChat beyond Big Data – A must for China!

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WeChat is often associated with big data, including the mobile app’s close to 700 million user base.  But as an indispensable part of a brand’s marketing mix in China, it is important to look beyond big data to understand how to use WeChat as a platform for consumer engagement.

There is often great excitement when new data comes out about WeChat, the paucity of meaningful data on the China’s go-to marketing channel means all information is deemed ‘good’ information.

But the reality, to date, is that the most meaningful data on WeChat is coming from the platform’s owner Tencent.  Their release of data is naturally directed at their goal of further monetizing WeChat.  So this data is one-dimensional at best.

Beyond official data and other sources of independent data, it is questionable whether this helps marketers to use WeChat as an effective tool of consumer engagement and driver of purchase intent.

The issue with ‘data’ is that it can lead to brand procrastination, data often becomes an excuse not to take action in the market, particularly one as complex as China.

In some ways, having data, is similar to having a weight problem and assuming looking endlessly at the scales will somehow create a positive change.

At Resonance China, we value the context data can provide, and offer data on brand and competitor performance to our clients on WeChat – but never in isolation. We are committed to going beyond big data to create a powerful result for brands in China.

Going beyond big data, to creating optimal WeChat campaigns

While this post will not reveal all our secrets.  Here is how we go beyond big data to ensure our clients use WeChat to create a genuine consumer engagement that ultimately creates advocacy for the brand.

Understanding the specific WeChat behaviour and psychology of target consumers.

Unlike other Chinese platforms such as Weibo and QQZone, WeChat has a very broad demographic stretching across different age groups.  Even within age groups, such as the post-80s and post-90s, behaviours and daily usage of WeChat varies greatly.

Looking at data in insolation, means you may assume a uniformity of usage that simply does not exist on the platform.  For this reason, we have create WeChat Day-in-the-Life™ – a methodology that identifies the specific behaviour and psychology of your target consumer on WeChat – generally, and most importantly, how they use it to engage with your specific category.

Harnessing WeChat as Digital Story Telling – how to ‘WeChat Up’ your local consumers

Often I get the sense that brands in China think I ‘need to be on WeChat’, without thinking clearly about content as a key factor in creating purchase intent and brand advocacy.    Currently brand communication on WeChat is more uniform than traditional media (shocked?).  Yes, the content is almost always presented in the same structure and format – the same as if all print ads in magazines used the same font, formatting and picture scales.

In this somewhat bizarre reality of WeChat marketing, digital story telling has a heroic role to play.   As WeChat is an essential way that Chinese consumer become aware and engage more fully with brands, it is essential that brands create a differentiated narrative on the platform.

This involves thinking about audience tonality, story structures and message sequencing.   A key to success is understanding the specific narrative or story-telling style of target consumers.  Brands that have been most successful on WeChat have embraced local story telling.

For example brands focussed on Chinese millennials need to understand the particular post-modernism that informs their online culture – deeply influenced by mo lei tau, a specific form of story telling and communication that spread out of Hong Kong from 2006.

Without going to too deep, we look at these story-telling styles very closely, so our clients are communicating to their consumers on WeChat as ‘one of the gang’, not as some ‘try hard’ outsider.

As part of SMART, which guides and inspires our digital campaigns, Resonance China has developed Digital Story Arch™ – a process that connects content creation on WeChat directly with the stories/communication style that local consumers expect to see, and want to connect with.

Data is a great starting point, but clear consumer-centered strategy is ultimately drive a great WeChat engagement – a key part of your brand story in China, not just a piece of digital maintenance.

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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