China’s top mobile messaging app WeChat now has 963 million users, but its 1:1 functionality means that it remains difficult to get content to go viral on the platform. As Tencent tries to change this with new features, rumors are swirling on Chinese media that a news feed format is in store for subscription accounts.
WeChat currently only offers its Moments news feed exclusively to private individuals sharing with friends, a closed format that has been a headache for brands trying to scale up readership of their posts on official accounts. L2’s Digital IQ Index: CPG China finds that the app lacks the scale of Weibo, as only 0.3% of posts on brands’ official WeChat accounts were viewed 100,000 or more times, and 1.3% achieved 50,000 to 100,000 views.
WeChat has responded to its lack of scale by introducing multiple new features to increase users’ post consumption. It has launched more powerful advertising opportunities, such as animated Moments ads that can expand to a full-screen video. In addition, the platform unveiled a search feature in May, along with a function that allows users to see which articles their friends have read.
As these changes have been introduced, readership of content on official accounts has increased. The percentage of Index CPG brand posts receiving less than 5,000 views declined from 81.6% in 2016 to 66.6% in 2017.
A recent article in Chinese media outlet Hunwater reported that more changes may be on the way, stating that content posted by WeChat subscription accounts may soon start showing up news feed-style. According to the speculation, which has not been confirmed by WeChat, the content will appear directly in the user’s feed. This would be significantly different from the current system in which subscription accounts show up in a folder of the user’s contact list, requiring them to click each individual account to access its posts.
WeChat’s main value for brands at the moment lies in its CRM functionality, which includes features such as customer service communication, loyalty programs, and authenticity verification. As many as 64% of personal care brands tracked by L2 and 45% of home care brands have adopted auto-reply chat messages for customer inquiries, while 41% of personal care brands and 24% of home care brands offer a WeChat loyalty program. In addition, CPG brands are taking advantage of WeChat’s e-commerce options through its JD.com partnership, with 80% of personal care brands connecting to JD.com shops.