Mastering WeChat - Five Steps to Engage Chinese Students

WeChat is essential for international recruitment or any kind of marketing targeting China. If you are new to WeChat, it is a cross-platform messaging app for mobiles with 768,000,000 monthly active users (primarily in China). WeChat is basically the INTERNET in China. People use it to message each other, share their life, pay for goods, get directions, order taxis, etc. It is no longer just an app, it is inextricably integrated into life here; so it is not hard to understand why WeChat has become the most important digital marketing tool available to international recruiters.

Via Cheetah Lab 2016

Via Cheetah Lab 2016

WeChat can open the door to a new stage of engaging prospective Chinese students and their parents. WeChat offers two platforms; one for individuals and another for corporations or organizations. If you are a regular China traveler, having a personal account will not only make your life easier, but it will also help you connect with the students you meet. If you don’t travel much but you are looking for more Chinese students, registering a WeChat official account to represent your institution is an essential step to build your brand in China. You can check out our guide to WeChat here.

Once you’ve downloaded WeChat or registered an official account, it’s time to start setting up your profile to maximize its effectiveness. The end goal is to use WeChat to achieve marketing goals, help in engaging more students, and expand your school’s brand awareness. As an active WeChat user myself and as a member of a team which specializes in social media and digital marketing in China, here are the Five Steps to Engage Chinese Students:

1. Make sure your personal account is all set up and active

  • Have a profile picture. No profile picture means that you seem like a bot or some sketchy internet scam.
  • Don’t leave your WeChat Moments empty. Like on Facebook, if someone adds you, it’s common to check out their profile. An empty page raises red flags. Having a record of “Moments” is the best proof you're the real deal.
  • Make sure your WeChat name has both your first name and your institution. You can also set your profile status, aka “What’s up” in WeChat, as your school name.

2. Organize prospective applicants into group chats

You can select different students and pull them into a group chat. This makes it easier for you to remember ”who’s from where” and it gives prospective students an opportunity to network with each other as well as alumni, or even professors. You can also set up online Q&A group chats that will easily attract hundreds of students to join your network or follow your school’s account.

3. Localize your content on the official account

Weekly content posting is crucial for any official account to maintain a close relationship followers as well to drive more followers. However, your content will need to resonate with the target audience - Chinese teenagers. Learn more about what Chinese students are interested in, don’t just copy your Facebook posts. For example, an article about on campus ESL programs may not be attractive to international students from Europe or Africa, but it is definitely something Chinese students would read. Additionally, interviews and videos about student life and success stories (preferably from Chinese students) are great for WeChat too. And make sure you use Mandarin Chinese for content in order to connect with a wider range of followers.

WeChat accounts managed by Sunrise.

WeChat accounts managed by Sunrise.

4. Utilize interactive design features when developing an official account

WeChat has the ability to create a multi-layer official accounts. You can create drop-down menus for categorized information, insert links to application portals, and even have prospective students fill out an application form on your WeChat official account. Institutions should see their official account as a mobile friendly homepage. You can also interact with students directly by replying to the comments followers left on published posts. What’s better is that you can integrate the “group chat” function inside an official account. Want to start a Q&A session? Post the QR code of a group chat in the official account to spread the word!

5. Actively promote the official account through in-person, print, and social channels

You can have a fantastic account but without marketing efforts, it will be difficult to grow your followers. Despite the fact that more than 70% of WeChat users follow official accounts, they won’t actively search for particular accounts to follow. Most followers are generated by social sharing. This requires two steps. Make your account or your post “visible” to target audience through ads, promotions, offline marketing, etc; and convince those who saw it to share it to their “Moments”. Good content is necessary but insufficient unless combined with professional marketing strategies.

Via Tencent WeChat Report 2015

Via Tencent WeChat Report 2015

We hope this article is helpful for your China marketing attempts.If you wish to learn more about WeChat, marketing in China, or how to engage Chinese students, feel free to leave a comment or email our International Partnership Director at: