Over the past two years, WeChat has been a very important part of my research. And it should be on your radar as well. I’ve been particularly focused on gauging its innovations and exploring potential monetization possibilities. Most importantly, I’ve been evaluating how marketers can leverage WeChat from the time when it wasn’t ready to be a scalable marketing tool through to today, when all marketers need to understand how to use WeChat wisely.

With a whopping 468 million monthly active users, WeChat has been the focus of marketers for a while; as of July 2014, WeChat had 5.8 million public accounts. However, marketing leaders face challenges in using WeChat for marketing:

  • WeChat is a private social platform. The tactics that work on open social platforms like Weibo do not necessarily work on private social platforms like WeChat. Many marketers still wrongly attempt to use WeChat as a platform for news announcements.
  • WeChat provides limited ad formats and APIs. Although we do see Tencent considering the possibilities of introducing display ads in Moments (WeChat’s timeline) and laying the groundwork for search advertising by partnering with the local search engine Sogou, so far the only available advertising opportunity for marketers is purchasing display ads in public account articles. Many marketers also complain about the limited APIs that WeChat provides to them.

My most recent report identifies two important principles that marketers should follow in WeChat marketing:

  • Adopt four common tactics that would work on WeChat. These include opening public accounts and creating custom menus and connecting HTML5 sites to WeChat to craft sophisticated marketing campaigns.
  • Use WeChat to achieve selected marketing objectives. WeChat is not the ultimate social marketing platform; it has its strengths and weaknesses in helping marketers achieve various social marketing objectives. Only use WeChat for those suitable objectives.

Ultimately, marketers should focus on communicating less but communicating better on WeChat. It's essential to provide better service to WeChat followers and communicate meaningfully with them.

To get a better sense of how marketers should use WeChat more effectively, Forrester clients can read the full report: WeChat Marketing That Works: How To Engage With Chinese Consumers On WeChat. Marketing leaders seeking to engage Chinese consumers will continue to increase their investments in WeChat and expect the platform to offer more and deliver more innovation. In 2015, I will write more WeChat-related reports, including one about WeChat marketing innovations. Please stay tuned.