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Research shows new insights into WeChat official account follower behavior

globeone together with Bomi release first WeChat official account follower behavior study in China

  1. Most respondents have a positive attitude towards corporate WeChat official accounts
  2. There is a clear preference of subscription accounts over service accounts
  3. Content quality is the main driver to grow and keep followers
  4. “Sharing” plays a very important role in driving new followers
  5. Use all the functions available to provide follower-friendly user experience
  6. Adjust posting time to adapt to the peak reading time


Shanghai, 18 January 2016— globeone, a management consultancy specialized in strategy, brand management, communications and market research together with Bomi, a marketing research company, release the results of a substantial WeChat official accounts follower behavior study in China today. The study interviewed 2,000 WeChat official account followers in 9 top tier cities in China about their preferences, evaluation and behavior when it comes to WeChat official accounts. This study offers unique insights for companies and an opportunity to optimize their WeChat strategy.


Research proves that corporate WeChat official accounts are considered valuable

The study shows that most (60%) respondents follow 6-20 WeChat official accounts. The categories hobby (sports, beauty, clubs, etc.) and news/gossip take up 50% of all accounts subscribed to, followed by personal service (18%, e.g. bill check, courier service information check, etc.), public service (17%, e.g. utilities, telecom, traffic, etc.) and professional accounts (14%, clients, suppliers, own company, etc.). Despite some uncertainty in the industry, the corporate WeChat official accounts are considered as “valuable for the company” by 92% of the followers.


Subscription account or service account? Followers have a clear preference

For a company there is always the question what type of WeChat official account to open: do we want to open a subscription account or a service account? Our research shows, subscription accounts are clearly preferred by most respondents (58%) over service accounts (23%). Most followers prefer subscription accounts because of the separate folder structure (74%) and frequent updates (56%). On the other hand, the immediate notification function (67%) is more important than the additional features (35%) offered in service accounts. “The strong preference for subscription accounts reflect the desire for a lot of information on a continuous level by followers. Companies are required to invest in frequent communication with their followers which means that the company has to clearly commit resources that are able to manage an account on such high content level,” said Tatjana Martens-Pearce, Managing Director of globeone China.


Quality of content the key to keep readers from deleting the account

The study shows whatever measures you take to promote the account, content quality will always be the driver to grow and keep followers. Data shows that interesting/exclusive insights (62%) provide the biggest incentive to followers, even bigger than free gifts (50%). Followers prefer in-depth (76%), self-composed (58%) and illustrated (44%) WeChat official account content.

“It is boring” (46%) and “I have no time to read them anymore” (46%) are the top two reasons why people cancel or delete WeChat official accounts. However, since availability of time is out of the WeChat account owners’ control, the only way to avoid being deleted is by providing high quality and interesting content as the most important measure to keep the followers. It is shown that followers care about products & service news (46%) and promotion information (43%) most. Another intriguing find is the amount of articles preferred when clicking the account – 65% of followers like to have a choice of 2-3 articles for each time the account publishes news.


“Sharing” plays a very important role in driving new followers

WeChat Moments turn out to be the main avenue for followers to subscribe to new official accounts – this applies to all categories:  news/gossip (69%), public service (64%), personal service (62%), accounts for hobbies (61%) and professional (54%). Fortunately, 94% of respondents have already used this function and have shared content via “Send to Chat” and “Share on Moments” before. However, our research shows that 50% of followers only use this function “sometimes”. “It is crucial for account owners to encourage followers from sharing ‘sometimes’ to share ‘often’ and even ‘always’ by providing relevant topics and content that help to represent followers’ own image, or useful tips and statements that can stir up their emotional resonance. While the sharing function is the key to gaining more followers, the way to retain your readers is by ensuring the content is interesting and exclusive in combination with regular incentives,” said Tatjana Martens-Pearce.


Use all the functions available to provide follower-friendly user experience

The different types of WeChat official accounts provide several different functions, all of which should be leveraged to optimize the interaction and engagement with followers. The study shows that followers are very interested in these functions: almost all (95%) respondents click the “Read more” link; 90% for the “Menu bar” function; 82% for the auto-reply function; 80% for the “Comment” function. Also, most followers consider the “Menu bar” function (81%) and “Comment” function (70%) to be necessary. “After some research, we noticed that not all the accounts fully benefit from the functions available in WeChat, such as the “Menu bar” and “Comment” section. This is lost potential, as a menu bar can enable quick access to key brand content and comments can encourage the engagement and interaction with followers,” said Tatjana Martens-Pearce.


Adjust posting time to adapt to the peak reading time

69% of respondents are frequent users who access the WeChat official accounts at least once a day. 57% of respondents estimate to spend 30 mins to 1 hour on reading WeChat official accounts per day. Most (55%) respondents check WeChat official accounts at night, followed by at noon time (39%), which is also in line with the WeChat life report 2015 issued by Tencent. Companies should adjust the posting time based on the peak reading time to get a higher reading rate and better exposure.


Study design

The study examined the follower behavior of WeChat official accounts in top cities of China. The study data was collected on the basis of 2,000 individuals by BOMI marketing research company on behalf of globeone. The study was conducted during October – November 2015. 2,000 followers of WeChat official accounts from 9 top cities in China were interviewed via an online questionnaire. The cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Shenyang, Wuhan, Nanjing and Xi‘an.


Read more and download the survey here: WeChat Official Account Follower Behavior Study – China