While a WeChat Official Account is a must-have for any brand in China, it’s also no secret that, as the number of Official Accounts on the platform has grown, open rates and user engagement for articles have gone down. The first solution most brands propose is to create better content. And while creating high-quality article content is indeed crucial, that alone may not be enough to generate user stickiness and keep readers returning.
So, what else can brands do? One good trick is to simply start making better use of your broadcast articles’ comments section. Many brand account managers tend to overlook the power of interacting with readers in the comments section, yet such a seemingly minor thing can make a big difference. A recent study conducted by Newrank of 500 popular WeChat Accounts and over 87,000 articles found that, on average, article views were 50 percent higher on accounts that regularly interacted with readers in their comments sections.
Top KOLs and WeMedia on WeChat are very strategic about utilizing their comments sections. By dedicating time to respond to readers’ comments every time they publish an article, those accounts train their readers to show up and interact — both with the Official Account and with each other — and that is the key. The goal isn’t simply to encourage more comments from readers but to create a dialogue with readers in the comments section and to do it consistently. This creates an interactive experience and a sense of community around your WeChat articles, as well as a sense of anticipation for your next published article.
A lively comments section will not only help maintain current open rates but could also help bring in new followers, as readers are more likely to share an article if their comment is featured. Comments are also an excellent way to learn more about your customers, which will inform the types of content or products you will want to focus on in the future. That being said, merely turning on the comments function isn’t going to cause a flood of reader comments to come rushing in. As mentioned above, accounts must train their readers to make leaving a comment (ideally, a thoughtful and interesting one) a habit.
Below are the top five methods WeChat KOLs and WeMedia use to grow their comment sections:
Have a personality
Make people feel like they are talking to a real person (not a company) and an intriguing person at that. One of the best examples of this is GQ’s Official Account @GQ实验室 which is famous for its snarky, sarcastic responses that leave their readers laughing.
But even if your brand is on the conservative side, you can still interact with a personality. At the very least, your responses should be sincere. Make users feel as if their thoughts are being valued and heard and steer clear of generic brand-speak – that’s as bad as not responding at all.
One of the best ways to develop commenting habits among your readership is by giving away prizes like coupons, limited edition products, or product samples for the best comments or the comments with the most likes.
For example, WeChat fashion influencer @葱爷Fay used a coupon giveaway as part of her collaboration with Lululemon. By sharing their favorite Lululemon product in the comments section, followers were eligible to win a coupon worth $42.50 (300 RMB). This tactic not only encouraged follower engagement but also got her followers to endorse the brand and give valuable feedback about their preferred products.
Create a “Clock-In” culture
“Clocking-in” (or 打卡) is an internet term meaning the way users in China leave a comment on an article to show that they’ve read an article first. Seeing comments appear below an article and getting responses from that account then becomes a badge of honor. You can make leaving a comment a habit for your readers by recognizing and rewarding their consistent behavior.
Set selection criteria
With WeChat Official Accounts, reader comments only appear underneath the story once they have been approved by the account’s backend. This means brands can select which comments they feel are interesting and worth sharing. Many WeMedia and KOL account editors usually have loose selection criteria, with guidelines like: Does the comment tell a story? Does it show that the reader fully read the article? Is it positive?
“Sister Thirteen,” who manages the popular WeChat account @格十三, shared that she will sometimes choose comments that have a negative or opposing viewpoint because it gives her a chance to publicly address that viewpoint, responding not only to the commenter but also to other readers who might share that same opinion.
Respond quickly and reply to every comment
Editors should set aside time right after the article is published to answer comments. According to Newrank, 47 percent of all comments are made within one hour after publication, and top accounts typically respond to over half the comments they select within ten minutes of a reader submitting a comment. It’s also important to note that the account loses the ability to respond to comments 48 hours after it is submitted.