Recently, many WeChat users received invitations to start creating short-videos on WeChat’s new Channels feature. We had written an article “WeChat Channels: will the new feature disrupt short-video incumbents“ , but since then, one of PARKLU’s writers, who is also a WeChat KOL, Grace Tao has been testing the waters. In this piece, she shares her personal experience with the platform, and provides tips for WeChat Channels marketing.
In a one-month period, Grace published a total of 41 posts with short-videos and photos. The posts attracted more than 1,100 new followers to her account. Her most popular video received 353,000 views and attention from the official Tencent account. She herself liked 2,016 posts and shared content 171 times.
What makes good WeChat Channel content?
Before we tap into WeChat Channels marketing tips, “what’s working” is the burning question for all content creators.
What content can be uploaded to the platform: Videos cannot be longer than 60 seconds, or users can upload nine photos and write a maximum of 1,000 words in a post. Square photos and videos can be uploaded as-is, but if the content is horizontal, the recommended width:height is 16:9. If the video or photo was shot on a vertical screen, the recommended width:height is 3:3.5.
What’s performing well, based on Grace’s experience: Apart from posts published by local media, celebrities, and influential top-tier KOLs like Viya, which are usually able to attract more than 1,000 likes regardless of the content. Short music videos is one content category that’s doing particularly well. For example, videos posted by accounts like Ji Keyi, Dai Yutong, and Xiao Aqi have thousands of likes on average. In generally, positive, fun, and uplifting content that inspires users is performing very well. Informative content and very targeted tutorials are also rising to the top. Some of the most popular themes include cooking at home, product reviews, and studying English. Authentic and useful content is more likely to gain exposure and drive engagement.
It’s worth noting, the types of short-videos that generally get a great reception on Douyin are not necessarily doing as well on WeChat Channels. But more on that below.
How does the algorithm work?
What makes WeChat Channels so unique in the WeChat ecosystem is that it’s an open channel, where users can be pushed posts by any publisher. This is a similar most other social media platforms like Douyin or Weibo.
Grace’s feed includes content published by officially verified accounts, such as leading news media, celebrities, and top-tier KOLs, as well as her WeChat friends. Her feed also includes content that her friends have interacted with, in addition to seemingly random content. At this time, the algorithm seems to push haphazardly, lacking the sophisticated recommendation engine that users experienced on platforms like Douyin.
WeChat Channels marketing tips for brands
KOLs and brands that have WeChat Public Accounts are in luck because they can link from their WeChat Channels posts to Public Accounts. This is great for driving traffic to a public accounts, especially given that public account views are generally regarded as private traffic. So, brands can collaborate with WeChat Channels’ bloggers and imbed a link to direct traffic to a WeChat Public Account.
In a statement from Uncle Akiba, he claimed that that one of his WeChat Channel videos garnered 136,000 views and drove 10,000+ views to a Public Account post linked below the video. And, more than 1,000 new fans added his Public Account, with 400+ becoming new paid subscribers.
Given some of the challenges and high-costs of collaborating with WeChat KOLs, WeChat Channels marketing could be one of the most cost-effective promotion tactics currently available. Grace says some brands have already begun using WeChat Channel KOLs as part of their primary promotional strategy.
Major differences between WeChat Channels and Douyin
In terms of function and content, WeChat Channels and Douyin are actually quite different. When creating a video on Douyin, users can add a variety of special effects, filters, music, voice alterations and other fun tools. In this sense, Douyin serves as a full video production app. This is not the case for WeChat Channels—it currently has very simple editing features for videos and photos. At the Tencent employee conference in 2018, WeChat head Zhang Xiaolong said: “Most products are deceiving users, employing various filters and repeating the motto ‘Record a good life’, but life is not always good.” WeChat Channels’ positioning is “sharing life and the world with more people”, without beautifying filters, aiming for a more “real” and authentic experience.
On WeChat Channels, there are no hashtag challenges like there are on Douyin. The side effect of not having hashtag challenges is that Channels lacks viral topics that creators and viewers communally engage. WeChat Channels seems to be taking a more purest approach to short-video, which has yet to time tested.
Although at present, the number of Grace’s Public WeChat account is not particularly large, it was easy to see that most of the engagements on her videos didn’t come from her actual followers. For for most Channels’ posts, views are about 20 percent less than her total number of followers.
One of Grace’s fans complained: “I followed your WeChat Channel, but how come it didn’t see the update this in my feed—why can’t I see your content when I open the app?”
Most social media platforms like Douyin have a “Follow” section where users can see content posted by the accounts they follow. Because of Channels lack of a Follow section, fans can only manually check to see if their favorite KOLs have updated their feeds.
WeChat’s super app functionalities and massive user-base give it so many advantages over other short-video platforms. WeChat Channels feels like it has a real chance to stand out, even amongst entrenched competitors. But to really contend, Grace feels that Channels first needs to tie its ecosystem of functions together more seamlessly and take notes from other leaders in the space.