With over 750 million monthly active users, WeChat is indispensable for any company that’s serious about growing its presence in China. However, while WeChat official accounts are relatively cheap marketing tools, they have one major weakness: Tencent likes to keep a lot of data to itself.
“WeChat is a private platform,” says Alexis Bonhomme, the co-founder of CuriosityChina, a digital marketing and tech company based in Beijing. “It’s very difficult for digital professional marketers [and] PR person to understand […] what works well on the WeChat platform.”
On Monday, CuriosityChina launched CURIO EYE, an application that lets users compare official accounts across WeChat’s platform and analyze high performing posts and keywords. Users can add official accounts to their CURIO EYE “monitor” to track individual data points, such as the account’s average page views per post. Industry-wide data is also available. According to Mr. Bonhomme, CURIO EYE includes the top 1,000 accounts for cosmetics, e-commerce, food and beverage (F&B), fashion, media, and other industries.
“You need to follow the account first and to follow the account […] you need to find it,” says Mr. Bonhomme, explaining the manual process of monitoring official accounts. “And sometimes it’s a pain […] to find the account because you don’t know what kind of WeChat ID it is [and] you don’t know the name.”
By automatically pulling data from official accounts, CURIO EYE can aggregate, compare, and analyze public data from different WeChat accounts. Top posts for different accounts, industry verticals, and keywords are calculated using the number of likes and page views of posts, as well as their conversion rate.
For example, on CURIO EYE, Gucci, Dior, and Louis Vuitton are listed as the top three luxury fashion accounts on WeChat, in terms of number of followers. In the past thirty days, Louis Vuitton’s article about its City Steamer handbag garnered the most attention out of all luxury fashion posts: 29,945 page views and 111 likes.
“When you are out of mainland China, […] you know WeChat is super important, you know you need to be there, […] but you don’t know what works,” says Mr. Bonhomme. “You don’t know how to look for the account, you don’t know what kind of content works the best.”
CURIO EYE is not a unique solution, but it’s one that international companies, especially those that are based outside of mainland China, might not want to invest in on their own. Though WeChat does provide an API and technical documentation, it’s only available in Chinese. Likewise, similar tools like DataStory (数说故事), Robin8’s KOL search engine, and New Rank (新榜服务), are only offered in Chinese.
Though the majority of Tencent’s revenue still comes from value-added services, such as virtual weapons in its gaming business, the tech company is trying to expand its online advertising business. According to Tencent’s Q1 2016 earnings report, online advertising made up 15% of the company’s overall revenue, up 9% from the same period three years ago. Last year, Tencent started displaying ads in WeChat users’ Moments newsfeed and has refined targeting tools for WeChat marketers.
Given that 94% of WeChat users log in at least once a day and about half use it for more than an hour everyday, it’s no surprise that marketing agencies have risen to meet the WeChat needs of both international and domestic brands (link in Chinese). In addition to CuriosityChina, other agencies with WeChat marketing and consulting services include WalktheChat and China Channel.