Zhihu Practical Marketing Guide (Done By Chinese Experts)

As a marketer operating in China, you must know about WeChat, Weibo, and Douyin – they are currently the most popular apps and social networks in China. But do you know about Zhihu (知 乎)? The website is not a brand-new platform on the market but has definitely been booming in recent years.

How does Zhihu work? What are its advantages compared to the strong competition? Furthermore, how can marketers leverage this platform?

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What is Zhihu 知 乎? 

Zhihu 知 乎 is a Chinese knowledge-sharing platform that was launched in 2011. It is the Chinese equivalent of the American question and answer site, Quora. The main purpose of the platform is to allow registered users to ask questions and get answers from the community using the website.

Zhihu is extremely popular among Chinese netizens. In 2020, there were more than 400 million registered Zhihu users.

zhihu data

Zhihu is a particular platform because it is very intimate, and it creates a dialogue between a group of people around a certain topic or subject. Therefore, 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 most of the community finds to be the most reliable and where user users have somewhat higher expectations. So what gives Zhihu this credibility?

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

Zhihu Popularity among Chinese Netizens who seek professional knowledge

Zhihu is so greatly appreciated and seen as such a reliable network because its community is mainly composed of educated individuals looking for high-quality content and reliable information.

At launch, the mainland China Q&A was only inviting specific users (professional profile) in order to ensure high-quality content, which is still a core value to this day. Zhihu started open registration 2 years later.

Who are Zhihu Users?

According to CNNIC, in 2017 nearly 74% of Zhihu’s users hold a bachelor’s degree or above, moreover 1.6% have a doctoral degree or above and live in first-tier cities. Meaning that the main user base of Zhihu is well-educated, highly engaged users.

After using the app for a bit and answering questions, Registered users get topic-related recommendations based on their search history

Moreover, 61.5% of users are between 25 and 35 years old, which makes the audience more mature. Also, according to sohu.com 30% of the users earn more than 10,000 RMB/month. So Zhihu users are not only educated, but they also have a good purchasing power that makes them a good target for marketers.

Zhihu users tend to be mainly critical thinkers. The average spent time on Zhihu is about 40 minutes/day for active users. Users are more able to focus on a specific topic and are willing to read a post they are interested in. Therefore, the way to operate and market your product/service on Zhihu must be radically different from the way you do it on platforms like Weibo, WeChat, Douyin, and so on.

Why is Zhihu a powerful tool for digital marketing in China?

The first reason would be one that was stated previously: the community. The Zhihu community interacts with professional knowledge, information, and personal experience that could influence the decision-making process of any given consumer before purchasing.

Search results boost on Chinese search engine?

The second reason is that Zhihu is an effective tool to improve your Search Engine Optimization. Because Zhihu has a high domain authority on Baidu, it means that typically at least one Zhihu page will be displayed on a Baidu search engine result page (SERP).

Search results on popular search engine Baidu

Thus, by developing your strategy and raising brand awareness on Zhihu, you increase your chances to get displayed on Baidu SERP and increase your visibility. No matter what the date of publication is, because of its strong authority, if your content is relevant to the research, it will be displayed. Zhihu provides effective long-term promotion.

Third, Zhihu can allow you to improve your Search Engine Marketing because Zhihu, in essence, is all about informing people, sharing news, and learning new things. Therefore, it can allow you to link to external websites while answering a question or writing a paper.

You have many different ways to elaborate marketing campaigns on Zhihu but there are also many established and dependable marketing strategies.

Develop your brand Zhihu dedicated page and build 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 target market and their point of view on certain topics. Plus, with the voting feature, your content (if relevant) will be able to attract users for a very long time. Over time, this is a great way to gain credibility and trust from users.

Invest in a professional content creator for Zhihu

Because valuable content is the most important thing on the platform, you better be sure about the person in charge of posting your content. Content must be well-structured, informative, and educational. Sources must also be reliable.

Build Strong Zhihu Users (key opinion leaders) Profile

You could and should have a business account on Zhihu for your brands, but building several strong user profiles mirroring Kol’s (Key opinion leaders) marketing on the platforms will give you a massive advantage for your undercover marketing campaign.

If you have your own user profiles, you can use them to build organic content around your branded content and for online reputation management. With these profiles share professional knowledge, technical details, and positive reviews…. and make it seems like they are peer reviews.

Not only this will help raise brand awareness and credibility (users’ posts are seen as more useful and trustworthy answers than brand posts) but also their posts have a strong chance to rank on popular search engines.

Specific features and interactive function of Zhihu 

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

  • Zhihu Column (知乎专栏): launched in 2013, Zhihu column allows registered users to write long articles on specific topics without having to answer a question in particular. So what can marketers do with this feature? This is used to create in-depth articles about a company’s industry/business. Take the opportunity of the curious and educated Zhihu community that will engage in interesting, unusual content. On other platforms, users might find the same content not interesting and will not be willing to read long-form texts and articles.
  • Zhihu Bookstore (知乎书店): The Zhihu bookstore is a database of the best answers compiled by topics and themes in an online magazine called Zhihu Weekly magazine (知乎周刊). This content is then compiled to create what they call the Zhihu Zhoukan (知乎周刊 which means «Zhihu Weekly ») which acts as an online magazine. What can you do with it? As a brand, you can basically sponsor the magazine, and contribute to enriching 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 specialists in a given topic and ask them to talk about this subject or to answer in-depth questions. A modern twist on traditional offline panel talks.
  • Zhihu University: paid educational content such as courses, books, formation, and so on.
  • Zhihu « 值乎 » is a service that allows answers to be given by voice messages. These voice messages can be purchased if people find their content interesting (the recorder chooses the price of the recording).
  • Zhihu Live (知乎Live): Live videos are getting more and more popular in China, and the trend is exponentially growing. Zhihu has taken advantage of this trend by investing more resources into its own version of it, which was initially launched in 2016.

Videos on Zhihu live are quite similar to university lectures. Indeed, a lecturer prepares a class that is an hour-long with half presentation and half question and answer session.

Chinese Social media & forums:Zhihu-live
Zhihu live

If users want to attend, they must register on the platform. Also, an important point: you have to pay to attend the class (the cost is from around 20 RMB to 100 RMB – a relatively small fee to pay for users for self-improvement). Again, Zhihu Live is the perfect way to share knowledge and interact with more users in the real-time chatting tool. Topics of the lecture can be general or specialized to your business and products.

  • Zhihu Tip Service: Authors of essays can get monetary tips from readers if they think that their content was good, reliable, and/or educational. This functionality works seamlessly with the ubiquitous form of payment in China, WeChat Wallet. This has been a great method for Zhihu to motivate writers to write more quality content.

Create an organization account on Zhihu

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

Zhihu Q&A 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 can customize the page of your brand, write a quick introduction about what your business does, what it offers, and most importantly, how are you an expert in your field and how you represent your industry.

What makes you credible? These campaigns give users the opportunity to get to know your business.

The second step is to search for relevant questions concerning your business and answer them with professional insight. These questions can be about your industry, products, services, or news in the field; basically, anything that is related to your content.

Paid Advertising on Zhihu

A targeted and niche audience makes Zhihu a great channel for paid advertising. The knowledge-sharing platform is great for organic views, but paid ads will help you reach more users. To run paid ads on Zhihu, organizations have to set up their official accounts.

Here are the most popular forms of Zhihu paid ads

  • Open-screen ads
  • Pop-up ads on the main page
  • Banner ads on the main page
  • Trending topics text/card ads
  • News Feed banner/video ads – usually the third spot in the user’s news feed
  • Ads on the page of chosen question/answer

Build trust in China through Zhihu

The relationship between a company and its users on Zhihu isn’t one way, meaning that the company can incite users to ask their questions which in turn generates content with which the company can interact. For example, a company can just talk about their latest product/service and ask for feedback (this is a formal way to interact with the users) but some companies are willing to go even further to interact with users and turn it into some meaningful content for users.

A very good example of this would be the contact lens company, Acuvue. They asked users to share embarrassing moments or challenges for people wearing lenses. For each user, the brand took the time to answer with a personalized response with valuable information and advice concerning eye care.

KOL 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 object isn’t to work with a random popular KOL, but to work with relevant people – people that will give you credibility for what they say and what they do.

These KOLs can be someone with a key position in your company (i.e. CEO, Product Manager) or you can invite a specialist in a target field to work with your company.

How does Zhihu fit your needs?

Because of its very particular community, Zhihu does not suit the needs of every type of company.

If your company provides specific industry-related services (i.e. law firms, insurance companies, human resources,…) or in very corporate business like market research and development, then Zhihu might be a good platform for your company. All of these businesses are very specific and might raise a lot of questions in the user’s mind.  Using Zhihu can just be a good way to interact with users about news, recent discoveries, or events and ask users about their opinions to engage them.

Hot discussions Zhihu. Popular discussions with a high rating are put on a trending list available from the home page of the site and get more visibility

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, sports, and other hobbies such as art, cinema, and reading are all prominent topics on Zhihu. Because people are passionate about these topics, they will probably have a lot to say and will enjoy debating with other users.

Conclusion on our Zhihu Guide for Business

Zhihu is a very unique website that allows people to exchange meaningful knowledge and is a place where they can find a sense of community. This can bring lots of opportunities for companies. Companies that are on Zhihu are able to raise awareness around their brand in an authentic way. When done correctly, Zhihu marketing allows companies to build a relationship with their target market.

Want to get started with Zhihu marketing?

Contact us for a free call, we will be happy to hear about your project in China.

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