Zhihu Marketing Guide (Done By Chinese Experts)

As a marketer operating in China you must know about WeChat, Weibo and Douyin, they are the current most popular apps and social network in China. But do you know about Zhihu (知乎) which is not a brand new platform on the market but which is definitely booming theses recent years.

ZHIHU MARKETING GUIDE (DONE BY EXPERTS)

How does this platform work? What are its advantages compare to the strong competition? How to leverage this new platform? 

What is Zhihu? 

Zhihu is a Chinese website launched in 2011. It is the Chinese version of the American website Quora. The main purpose of the platform is to allow user to ask question and get answers from the community using the website. Zhihu is pretty popular among Chinese netizens, in 2018, Zhihu registered users were more than 160 million (rise of more than 95% compared to 2017). 

Zhihu is a particular platform because it is very « intimate », it creates a dialogue between a group of person around the same topic, subject. It generates more trust between its users. Zhihu is not the only website to provide this kind of service, Baidu Zhidao and Soso Wenwen (among others) are also Q&A websites, but Zhihu is the one that appears to be the most reliable. So what gives Zhihu this credibility ? 

What’s the community like? 

Zhihu can be a very helpful platform for any users willing to follow its rules: respects users, do not link spam in posts and choose quality over quantity. 

If Zhihu is so appreciated and seen as a reliable network it is because its community is mainly composed of an educated individuals. According to CNNIC, in 2017 nearly 74% of Zhihu’s users hold a bachelor degree or above, moreover 1,6% have a doctoral degree or above. Meaning that the main consumer base of Zhihu are educated, highly engaged users. Moreover 61,5% of users are between 25 and 35 years old, which make the audience more mature. Also, according to sohu.com 30% of the users earn more than 10,000 RMB/month. So users are not only educated, they also have a good purchasing power that make them good target for marketers.

According to an IClick Zhihu Research, New knowledge and rules: following topics that are of interest and professional expertise are the 3 first things that Zhihu users are looking for (respectively 71%, 68% and 66% of users).

Users are objective and rational thinker, they will weight up pros and cons before making decisions, Zhihu users are mainly critical thinkers. The average spent time on Zhihu is about 40 minutes ! Users are more able to focus on a specific topic, to read a paper they interested about. So the way to operate and market your product/service must be radically different from the way you do it on platform like Weibo, WeChat, Douyin and so on.

Why is Zhihu a good tool for digital marketing in china ?

First reason would be the one we just stated: the community. And this community interact with knowledge, information and personal experience that could influence the decision making process before purchasing.

The second reason, Zhihu is an effective tool to improve your Search Engine Optimization. Because Zhihu has a high domain authority over Baidu, it means that at least one page of its website will be displayed on Baidu SERP. Thus, by developing your strategy and raising brand awareness on Zhihu, you increase your chances to get displayed on Baidu SERP and to increase your visibility. No matter what the date of publication is, because of its strong authority, if your content is relevant for the research, it will be displayed. Zhihu provides effective long term promotion.

Third, it goes with the second, but it can allow you to improve your Search Engine Marketing because Zhihu is all about informing people, sharing news and knowledge and therefore allow you to link external website while answering a question or writing a paper.

You have many different ways to elaborate marketing campaigns on Zhihu but it mainly relies on Knowledge marketing strategies.(source)

Long term trust 

You create a deep and meaningful relationship with your clients by exchanging knowledge about something you’re an expert in but you can also learn from your client, its opinion, its point of view on the topics. Plus, with the voting feature, your content (if relevant) will be able to attract users for a very long time. Over time, you will gain in credibility and trust from users.

Invest in professional content creator

Because content is the most important thing on the platform, you better be sure about the person in charge of posting your content, it must be well structure, informative, educational content. Sources must be reliable. 

Specific features 

These are the specific aspects that make Zhihu different than other platforms but also the tool that you can leverage for an effective digital marketing campaign.

  • Zhihu column (知乎专栏): launched in 2013, this feature allow users to write article on specific topics without having to answer a question in particular. What you can do with it ? Create in depth articles about your company’s industry/business. Take the opportunity of having curious and educated users that will find interesting unusual content while on other platform, users might find the same content not interesting and will not be willing to read the whole thing, or will appreciate more some entertaining and fun content.
  • Zhihu bookstore (知乎书店): the bookstore is a data base which is collection all the best Q&A and compile them to create what they call the Zhihu Zhoukan (知乎周刊 which means « Zhihu Weekly ») which is an online magazine. What can you do with it ? As a brand you can basically sponsor the magazine, and contribute to enrich its content by adding your own texts, pictures etc.
  • Zhihu Roundtable (知乎圆桌): the main purpose of this service is to gather people that are specialist in a given topic and ask them to talk about this subject or to answer particular questions (tricky questions). 
  • Zhihu « 值乎 » is a service that allows answers to be given by voice messages. Also these voice messages can be bought if people find its content interesting (the recorder chooses the price of the record).
  • Zhihu live (知乎Live) We all know that live videos or getting more and more popular in China, this trend is exponentially growing, well, Zhihu took advantage of this trend by launching its own version of it in May 2016. This is quite similar to university lectures. Indeed, lecturer prepare a class that is an hour long with half presentation and half question and answer session. If users want to attend they must register on the platform. Also an important point: you have to pay to attend the class (cost is from around 20 RMB to 100 RMB). Again Zhihu lives is the perfect way to share knowledge and interact with users with real time chatting tool. Topics of the lecture can be general or specialized in your business and products.
  • Zhihu tip service: author of essays can get tips from reader if these think that the content was good, reliable, and educational. This functionality work with WeChat Wallet. This is a good way to motivate writers to write more quality content.

Create an organization account

Create an organization account can be useful if you want your company to gain authority on the platform. However is your brand is new or not well known at all on the Chinese Market, creating a brand account might not be essential.

Question & Answers Marketing Campaign for your brand

Q&A campaigns are the most obvious type of campaign you can do to make your brand gain visibility on Zhihu. Once your account is created, you custom the page of your brand, write a quick introduction about what your business do, what it offers, but most importantly : how are you an expert in your field and how you represent your industry. What makes you credible ? It gives the user the opportunity to get to know your business. 

The second step is to search for relevant questions concerning your business and add your touch in the answers, these questions can be about your industry, products, services, or news in the field; basically anything that is related to your content. But it can also be questions related with jobs (experience, tasks, …). 

Trust in China

But the relationship between the company and the user isn’t one way, meaning that the company can incite users to ask their question, in order to generate content with which the company can interact. For example, the company can just talk about their latest product/service asking for feedbacks (this is a formal way to interact with the users) but some company are willing to interact about more personal stories with users and turn it into some meaningful content for users. A very good example of this would be the lenses company Acuvue, they asked about embarrassing moments for people wearing lenses, and for each users the brand took the time to answer with some value informations and advices concerning eye care.

KOLs campaigns

KOL campaigns can be used on basically every Chinese social network. It is almost always effective and quickly brings results. In the case of Zhihu, the objectif isn’t to work with random popular KOL. But to work with relevant people, people that will give you credibility for what they say and what they do. These KOL can be someone with a key position in your company : CEO, Product Manager, or you can invite some specialist of your field to work with your company.

Is Zhihu fitting your needs ? 

Because of its very particular community, Zhihu does not suit every type of companies. 

If your company provides specific law related services (Lawyer, Insurance companies, Human Resources,…) or in very corporate business like market studies, development, then Zhihu might be a good platform for your company. All of these business are very specific and might raise a lot of questions in the users mind. And research can just be a good way to interact with users about news, recent discoveries or events and ask users about their opinion to engage them.

Zhihu is also a great platform for IT companies. Because technology is very specific but also because there is a strong community of Chinese people very interested in the IT market. 

Healthcare and Sports and other hobbies type of sectors among other : artistic fields, cinema, readings etc. Because people are passionate about these topics they will probably have a lot to say, they will enjoy debating with other users.

conclusion

Zhihu is a very unique website that allow people to exchange meaningful knowledge and where they can find a community of mutual aid. This can bring lots of opportunities for company because the website is still pretty « free » of ads, and companies that are on Zhihu to raise awareness around their brand are still seen as authentic business. Users and companies on the Zhihu seems to share the same values that’s what makes them both closer.

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