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WeChat Advertising 101: Is It Right for You?

We’ve all got text on our phones, and many of us even have unlimited text plans. And in spite of this, messaging apps have been on the rise.

Apps like Signal, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct, and WhatsApp have all skyrocketed in popularity, with many having at least a billion monthly users sending messages one-on-one and to groups of friends and family.

The increase in messaging apps, of course, means more opportunities for businesses and marketers to reach their target audience in ways that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to with conventional texting. In-app ads give you the chance to purchase private ads so that you can show relevant messages to users in your audience even if they’ve never heard of you.


WeChat advertising is one of those valuable opportunities, and in this post, you’ll learn more about the ad platform, how it works, and whether or not you should consider investing.

What Is WeChat?

WeChat is a messaging app created by the Chinese developer Tencent that has gained international popularity. It has a billion users worldwide, putting it directly behind the number of users Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp have.  

WeChat, of course, offers more than just messaging even though that is the central focus of the app. It offers “mini-programs,” which are essentially like apps within WeChat that allow users in select locations to make payments like Apple Pay or even reserve a room at a hotel. Businesses can release mini-apps that allow customers to take actions like this, and even send promotional messages to users within the app as a result.

Users can choose to follow official accounts that have been verified, somewhat similar to other platforms.

You can follow official accounts on WeChat

There are also games that users can play within the app, which made up for around 32% of the company’s revenue in 2018.

WeChat Advertising: How Does It Work?

Tencent hasn’t historically been big on advertising on the platform, but about two years ago that started to change.

If you want to advertise on the platform, you need to go through Tencent by applying. Chinese advertisers can apply directly here, while businesses and marketers in foreign locations will need to register for the ad platform here.

How to get started with WeChat advertising

 

Once your account is set up, you should be able to submit your ads through the ads manager account, but unfortunately every time we logged in (and from multiple browsers over a period of several days) we couldn’t get the dashboard to load. Whether this is an ongoing issue or a temporary glitch, we’re not sure.

Traditionally, once you’re in the ads manager, you’ll have multiple choices about what types of ad campaigns you’d like to run. Create the ad campaigns, upload them to the system, and then wait for approval.

 

How Much Does WeChat Advertising Cost?

When you’re considering how WeChat advertising fits into your budget, it’s going to be important not only to consider the average price-per-action of your ads, but also total budget you have available. Unlike most other PPC ad platforms, WeChat does have a minimum budget that all advertisers must spend in order to market through their ad system.

The minimum entry price for both foreign companies and Chinese campaigns for Moment Advertising is 50,000 RMB, which converts into 10,542.50 Australian dollars. This is, of course, a giant chunk of cash for a platform that you haven’t used before and aren’t 100% sure that will work for you.

WeChat Overseas advertising also costs 50,000 RMB for advertisers in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and Australia. Advertisers in New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, and Canada are a little luckier, with a minimum entry of 10,000 RMB (or 2,090 Australian dollars).

The average cost per thousand impressions (CPM) ranges based on the city you’re advertising in and the type of ad you’re running, but it averages around 150 RMP, or $36 AUD. This is higher than most other platforms; Facebook’s CPM averages around $7.

WeChat Advertising Options

Interested in still checking out the platform as a potential site for your ad campaigns?

There are three different types of ad campaigns that you can choose from on WeChat. Let’s take a close look at each one.

WeChat Moments

WeChat moments are pretty much their version of conventional Facebook feed ads. They’ll show up in user’s social feed, looking seamless and relatively unobstrusive (though they’ll have that classic “Sponsored tag”).

Advertisers get to choose up to six images or a 6-15 second video as their visual component, they can add in text of up to 40 characters, and either an external link that’s relevant to the ad or CTA that sends people to your account. They recently rolled out a new ad format that allows you to advertise two different links, so you could use one to send interested traffic to your account and one to send users to your site.

Targeting options here are similar to Facebook’s. You can target based on gender, location, marital status, age, education level, and more. You can even target users based on their WeChat behavior like whether or not they’re following your account or are currently using your app.

WeChat moment ads are exceptional in terms of building brand awareness and engaging your audience visually, just like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest’s Ads can be. Reaching your audience in their feeds where they’re already looking is an advantage, so it makes sense that this is a popular choice for advertisers.

And more good news: if a user clicks on your moments ad, it can actually set off a semi-viral affect, because the platform will show the ad to other similar users, too. This can quickly help you expand your reach quickly.

WeChat Banner Ads

WeChat banner ads are just like banner ads you’ll see on other PPC platforms, including Facebook’s Audience Network and Google Ads. Banner Ads are often seen at the bottom of a message written by an official account.

There are two different types of WeChat banner ads that advertisers can choose from.

The first is standard banner ads, which was first launched in 2014. Advertisers can have their ads appear at the bottom of a wechat article written by an official account, and the ad includes the accounts name and headline. The ads can take users to a landing page with more information or to an official account to encourage users to follow them. Other options include pushes to download a new app or redeem a coupon.

The second option is KOL banner ads. Key Opinion Leaders (or “KOLs”) are essentially China’s version of social influencers and they’re a hugely important part of social media usage there. These banner ads were released in 2016, and it gives advertisers some new flexibility. The advertiser and influencer will agree on a cost paid per view by the advertiser. These ads are much larger, and use internal landing pages within the app for more information. KOL banner ads are much more expensive, though cost is based on performance and varies based on the individual influencer you’re working with.

Key Opinion Leaders

KOLs carry an enormous amount of influence, and brands can work with KOLs to post advertisements on the influencer’s account to boost publicity and brand awareness. The KOL is typically paid either a flat fee or a performance-based fee.

KOLs are often seen as trusted individuals within their communities, so their endorsements can carry an enormous amount of weight. And as a huge bonus to advertisers, advertising campaigns through KOLs aren’t subject to nearly as many restrictions as other types of ads that would be purchased directly through Tencent’s ad program. Since Tencent isn’t afraid to go heavy on the restrictions (and we thought Facebook could be bad before now!), that extra flexibility is a fantastic opportunity.

It’s essential to choose the right KOL when you go this route, because the wrong one could have a negative impact on your brand instead of a positive one. Ensure that you’re choosing someone who is a good fit for your brand, and vice versa.

Instagram Algorithm

Who Should Use WeChat Advertising?

WeChat has a widespread audience all over the world, but it’s clear that the biggest audience is users based in China. It’s why most of the screenshots for this post are in Chinese.

It’s a popular messaging app in China (accounting for 34% of mobile traffic data in China), but it’s also the most popular messaging app in India, too. If your audience is here, take advantage of the advertising platform. It's estimated that only about 100 million of the app's audience is actually outside of China. 
The app has slowly been growing in popularity in English-speaking and Western countries, though there have been concerns expressed over “censorship issues” as the app removes content that’s deemed offensive. Examples of censored topics include #metoo, an assault allegation against a professor at Peking University, and the US-China trade war. Users in many countries without strict censorship cultures will typically rely on other messaging apps instead.

It’s also going to be important to note that some advertisers won’t have the option to use this ad platform depending on their industry.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 1.21.18 AM

Image source: PMG 

 

The following industries have restrictions placed upon them:

  • Clothing and accessories; brands with “certain reputations” are allowed
  • Skincare and cosmetics companies are only allowed with imported a cosmetics hygiene permit
  • Government, which need Chinese government approval before they can even open an ad account
  • Universities, which must be approved by the Ministry of Education
  • Banks, but only with Chinese entities and credentials
  • Real estate, but only as Chinese entities; investment immigration is not acceptable

And these businesses in these industries aren’t currently able to use the ad platform at all:

  • Business services
  • Cigarettes
  • Healthcare
  • Websites or media

These are obviously a ton of restrictions on the platform that are hard to overlook, and you can guess that most of the “some” industries will be difficult to get approval in. B2B businesses also need to count themselves out; this is pretty much exclusively a B2C platform by necessity.

Conclusion

WeChat’s native ads won’t be the right choice for everyone due to its current high barrier of entry. The required financial investment to start advertising may be more than a lot of growing brands are willing or able to pay, especially when apps with more users come at a relatively low cost and have no minimum ad spend requirement.

That being said, if you have the budget and your audience is using the platform, it could be an option worth testing. In the meantime, there's a good chance that you'll have better luck running more campaigns at a better cost on alternative platforms like Facebook's Messenger, especially now that we've just gotten the exciting news that WhatsApp Ads likely aren't too far away. In general, platforms that don't require huge buy-ins with no guarantee of payoff are going to be a safer bet, particularly if they've got lower-on-average CPMs and ad costs.

Unless you're confident that large enough portions of your audience are on WeChat that you could see a high return on investment for that big minimum number, we recommend starting with Facebook's Messenger Ads and even LinkedIn's Sponsored Inbox Ads for B2B businesses if you like the message-specific parts of the WeChat platform, or just opting for conventional social media feeds and Stories Ads if you like the Moments options. 

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