Tencent launched the biggest update to the WeChat app since 2014 with version 7.0 on December 21st, 2018. With several new features, a new UI, and logo, marketers across the world are excited to test what’s possible with this new version! Read on for a complete overview of what changed for Marketing on WeChat for 2019!
A New Look: UI Changes for an enhanced User Experience.
As an instant messaging tool used by more than 1 billion people and often called the Chinese Facebook any changes to the WeChat app are bound to cause some reaction. The most noticeable change in the update of the WeChat app was a complete overhaul of the UI users had become so familiar with. There was also a slight change in the logo, which you would probably only notice if you were a very frequent user.
For the UI, you can see below that it’s become much lighter with a lot more white. Almost any trace of darker colors has been removed outside of the text. Icons and images have all been simplified and flattened a bit making the app look more modern in my own opinion.
It certainly caused a reaction, as the hashtag #微信大改版 (which translates to WeChat Update) had over 6.4 million viewers as of February 27th, 2019. In terms of the reaction to the update, they’ve been quite mixed. With some loving it and others hating it. You can see a comparison below.
Now let’s move on to the features marketers can use to promote their brands.
WeChat’s Top Stories Receives a Boost
This is likely the biggest addition for marketing on WeChat ecosystem. Top Stories was a feature added in early 2017. The feature was meant to create a place where users could to read content personalized for them.
The feature uses an algorithm based on a variety of factors to recommend content to the user, including followed official accounts, shared articles from friends, content quality, and current events. It was launched alongside WeChat search meaning they likely use a similar algorithm. Unfortunately for marketers, Tencent has been tight-lipped about exactly what contributes to a post ranking at the top of a user’s top stories or WeChat search.
All this means that top stories haven’t been an incredibly useful feature for many companies. However, with the launch of WeChat 7.0, Top Stories is about to become a lot more important for marketers.
A Fundamental Shift in How “Likes” Work
WeChat has completely revised the like function by making it a definitive link between content posted by official accounts and top stories. While it’s still unknown how the WeChat algorithm delivers content into top stories, there is now one definitive way for getting your content featured there, the “like” button.
In the new version of WeChat, top stories have been divided into 2 sections. In the English version of the app the sections are called “Wow” and “Top”. The way these sections are populated is what differentiates them. Articles in the “Wow” category are articles that your friends have liked. This makes article likes much more valuable for marketing on WeChat.
This feature makes it much easier for users to share content. Traditionally sharing an article would place the article into a WeChat users’s Moments, a part of the app similar to the Facebook newsfeed. Sharing an article carries a bit more weight than liking an article as it’s essentially an endorsement of the article from the user. It also allows a user’s friends to comment and interact with the article on moments, presenting an opportunity for users to receive feedback on their post.
Sharing an article can result in negative feedback from a user’s WeChat contacts. With top stories, there is no way to publicly comment on a user liking an article, resulting in less societal pressure from other users and making the process less involved. This means content will be able to spread further without relying on users to fully endorse their article and share it on their WeChat Moments.
As marketers familiar with WeChat all know, WeChat is a very closed social media platform, in that without shares, content posted by official accounts can only reach followers of the account. While not as powerful as a share, the “Wow” feature presents another opportunity for content to spread outside of an official account’s follower base.
How to take advantage of the new “Wow” feature
Any feature that has a chance of increasing an account’s visibility organically is a boon for marketers using WeChat to promote their business. Growing an account’s following organically can be very difficult without support from influencers, media, advertising, or other channels.
However, marketers need to be wary, as WeChat policy still states that marketers cannot solicit likes or shares by offering promotions, discounts, or any other benefits. To take advantage of this feature, marketers will need to create high-quality content worthy of likes or shares to expand the reach of their posts.
While this feature likely won’t change the strategies of many marketers on WeChat. Creating quality content has always been one of the best methods for attracting and retaining a follower base on WeChat. However, marketers should be aware of this feature and make likes on their content one of the key metrics for measuring the success of their content strategy.
Let’s move on to the next new feature, WeChat Time Capsule.
Marketing on WeChat: Time Capsule
With the ever-increasing popularity of short video in China, WeChat’s added a new feature to capture this trend. Like Facebook’s or Instagram’s stories feature, WeChat time capsule allows users to create short videos that “self-destruct” after 24 hours.
It’s clear to see that Tencent created this function to compete with the rising popularity of its competitor Bytedance’s app Tik Tok, known in China as Douyin.
If you’re a user of Instagram’s or Facebook’s stories, you’ll likely be familiar with this type of feature. Users can create 15-second videos if they are filmed live and 10-second videos if they are uploaded that disappear after 24 hours. If you wanted to share a video on WeChat in the past you had to share it via direct message, a group chat, or posting on your WeChat Moments. This feature adds a new way to share short videos. The feature also allows users to add a range of filters, emojis, music, effects, and location tags, making it a bit more fun than posting a standard video.
How to Take Advantage of WeChat Time Capsule
Currently, this feature is only open to WeChat personal accounts. Businesses won’t be able to take advantage of this feature just yet, but it’s something that they should definitely be keeping an eye on.
Since WeChat currently only offers two places to place advertisements, banner ads that appear under WeChat articles and WeChat moments advertisements. Many believe that the addition of this feature could signal the addition of a new ad format on the platform. This development could signal a big shift in digital marketing in China.
Some businesses in China have begun experimenting with the feature by having employees & customer service staff share business-related content on their own personal time capsule’s. However, we won’t be able to get a good read on how effective this channel will be until we’ve had some time see how users interact with it.
The Removal of WeChat Article Summaries
There is one other small change that marketers should be wary of for operating their official accounts.
This is an update that most users are likely not a fan of. In the previous version of WeChat when users entered an official account they were able to see articles with a title image and summary. The summary portion of the article has been removed in WeChat 7.0. Many marketers and bloggers worry that this can negatively affect click-through rates, and means that far greater emphasis needs to be placed on creating compelling titles to draw in users.
It’s believed this was changed to allow users to see more articles at a glance. However, the reduced size of the posts and lack of summaries might make things difficult for marketers without strong visuals and interesting titles for their articles.
In response to this Zhang Jun, public relations director of Tencent responded that this was intended to allow users to see more of what each official account has to offer. By seeing more articles at once, rather than just one large article with a summary, he believes that the total number of readers of official accounts will be increased. He did admit that the lack of a summary would make the latest article published slightly less attractive and potentially reduce readership of the article, but that this would be offset by users clicking into previously posted articles
A lot changed in this version of WeChat and a lot more changes are likely soon to come. Is Marketing on WeChat easier now? Marketers should keep their ears to the ground and be ready for some major shifts in how to use the platform for business!