If you’re looking to build awareness and drive engagement in China, WeChat is an essential weapon in your arsenal. The aim of the game is to acquire as many followers as possible, as quickly as possible. But this is much easier said than done. While many might expect WeChat to work similarly to more familiar platforms like Facebook, it is in fact much harder to gain followers on WeChat. On Facebook, for example, content can be viewed by your target audience even if they don’t follow you directly, whereas with WeChat, only your followers will see your content. Certain industries can also have added limitations imposed on them – health supplement companies, for example, are prohibited from purchasing ads on WeChat.
Many brands’ solution to the problem is to throw money at it, investing in high-impact (and expensive) KOLs and purchasing as many ads as possible. But what if you only have a modest budget at your disposal? How do you grow your WeChat followers without blowing out your costs?
By being savvy with your resources and strategies, it is possible to grow your WeChat followers quickly and relatively cheaply. (I should note, however, that this does not mean you don’t have to spend money. If you’re serious about entering the Chinese market, it is essential you have at least a moderate budget to work with it.)
So, without further ado, here are 7 sure-fire ways to grow your WeChat followers fast, and without breaking the bank.
1. Optimise your content for WeChat
The last thing you want is to invest a lot of effort into gaining followers, only to have them promptly unfollow you when they realise there is no interesting, engaging or useful content for them. The first step, therefore, is ensuring there is appealing content for your target audience on your WeChat official account.
Thankfully, you don’t need to start from scratch. Instead, optimise your existing content for WeChat, ensuring it’s relevant, appropriately laid out, not too long, and mobile-friendly.
Be sure not to be too pushy or sales-y – nothing turns readers off faster than highly promotional content. Instead, make sure content addresses readers’ pain points, thereby generating trust with your followers and helping them move to next stage of the sales funnel.
Interactive content also tends to have a high reading rate – for example, you could ask users to submit photos based around a certain theme, and perhaps even award the best entries. Content like this does require more work on the part of the brand, but the engagement it produces makes the effort worthwhile.
2. Invest in WeChat ads
While you may not have the budget to run several rounds of WeChat ads, you should at least be able to afford to run one or two rounds – and this investment is well worth it. WeChat ads have an excellent user experience, and include a direct link to your WeChat page, making them an effective way of directing potential followers to your account.
3. Recruit KOLs from your existing customer base
Key opinion leaders (KOLs) can be tricky. An endorsement from a high-quality KOL can be a very effective way to drive brand awareness, but in order to appear more authentic, these sorts of KOLs often won’t include direct links to your WeChat account in their posts. This can make it difficult to gain followers, as readers are not being funnelled directly to your account. Plus, you can expect to pay a significant sum for the KOL’s services.
A low-quality KOL, on the other hand, might be far more affordable and more willing to include direct links to your account – but you then run the risk of hurting your brand image.
But there is another solution – your very own home-grown KOLs. Turn your most loyal customers into your most vocal advocates, enticing them to become spokespeople with discounts and special offers. Not only is this highly cost-effective, but it’s also much more authentic – after all, who better to spruik your product than people who already love it!
4. Host an offline event
The Chinese market responds particularly well to offline events, such as product releases, trade shows or conferences – events give people a chance to socialise and network, allowing them to foster relationships, which are particularly important to the culture. Events can be such a drawcard that people are willing to attend them even if they may not be particularly interested in the product being promoted.
Be sure to advertise the event on your WeChat account, and get employees to share posts about the event on their personal WeChat accounts to spread the word further.
5. Entice new followers with incentives
Give WeChat users a reason to click the ‘follow’ button with an added incentive – for example, the first 50 users who scan a specified QR code to follow an account could be put into a lucky draw to win a special prize. This strategy could also work well in conjunction with an offline event.
This is a great way of boosting followers and spreading awareness, but do be mindful that followers gained this way may not be particularly relevant.
6. Partner with another brand
Co-branding with a complementary (but not directly competitive) brand can be an excellent way to share resources and gain highly relevant followers, in a mutually beneficial arrangement. Again, this strategy pairs exceptionally well with other strategies – for example, you could co-host an event, or run a lucky draw whose prizes consist of products from both companies.
7. Don’t forget QR codes!
Whichever strategy you decide to use, it’s important to ensure QR codes that direct users to your WeChat account are placed on every piece of collateral – on ads, on posts (including KOL posts, if possible) and on websites. And don’t forget offline too – QR codes should also be placed on product packaging, used on any print advertising and be featured in events and stores. Be particularly mindful about where QR codes are placed in events and stores, ensuring they are visually prominent and located in several places throughout, so it’s easy for users to scan them.
While optimising your WeChat content and making good use of QR codes is absolutely essential, the other five strategies may have differing levels of success, depending on your industry and target audience. Be sure to test each one out to gauge their effectiveness, and measure your results so you can double down on those strategies that work best.
And don’t be afraid to try a few (or even all of them!) in tandem, as these strategies often work best in combination. Remember, it’s about gaining followers as fast as possible!