Content Marketing on the Chinese Platform Zhihu

guide to using Zhihu for marketing

The Chinese social media platform, Zhihu has over 94 million Monthly Active Users (2021) and is one of the top 10 most popular websites in China. It has become a powerful marketing tool for brands to reach out to their target audience in China. This blog post will provide you with tips on how to use content marketing on this platform effectively. If you’re a marketer, brand, or company looking to find out how this media channel can help your business grow, then you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a look at some of the best practices for Zhihu marketing and share examples of companies that have been successful on the platform.

Zhihu Marketing is way more sophisticated than it seems

Zhihu is a Chinese platform that was founded in 2011 by Zhou Yuan, Li Shenshen, and Huang Jixin. It then opened internationally in 2013. This platform is based on a concept of online questions and answers managed directly by the communities that constitute it. It can be used in different ways: as a social network, but also as a specific search location. Zhihu is very important for people who do marketing, people who sell or buy in b2c, for everything related to education, or to better understand the Chinese market. One of the main characteristics of this network is divergent thinking, we find both very short and funny answers as well as in-depth answers with its sources and illustrations. It’s like an open discussion forum that is made up of users who share their knowledge around a subject. The best answers to each question are voted on and put forward for each question post.

Brands have to be Omni-channels to gain the trust of Chinese consumers

Ensuring a strong online presence is essential in China. Brands must build their online reputation and manage interactions with their potential leads in order to grow. This involves in particular the creation of content in Mandarin on Zhihu. To build your leadership on the Zhihu platform it is possible to create a corporate account. This type of account is similar to a LinkedIn account. It is also possible to write articles on the Zhihu Blog, but only the quality articles will be selected and published on the platform.

This need for quality content is mainly due to users who are now used to digital marketing. Younger people become more and more immune to ads as they get used to them, which affects the expected performance on Zhihu. Realizing this, the best way to attract consumers is to help satisfy user curiosity by maintaining a sufficient level of quality in the content on the platform, in order to build trust and meet needs.

Opening a Zhihu account may be considered non-essential when you want to integrate into the Chinese market and already have WeChat or Weibo accounts. However, this is not the case. Indeed, on Zhihu the strategy is focused on interaction with the community, response, commitment, and trust. While on the majority of other networks this is an exploitation strategy that focuses on publishing content.

How Zhihu created a qualitative community?

The profile of Zhihu users 

Zhihu has a lot of credibilities mainly thanks to the legitimacy of its users who form a quality community. Indeed, the typical profile of a Zhihu user is students and “white-collars”. 50% of them are located in Chinese first-tier cities. More than 80% of these users have a bachelor’s degree or higher, a high professional background, and a high income. In addition, 40% of them are over 30 years old, which adds a significant feature to the platform, which has a less young community compared to other trendy networks like Douyin for example. Thus the answers on Zhihu are considered relevant and informed by educated and mature people.

Zhihu’s goal is to increase knowledge by sharing everyone’s knowledge. Content providers who drive the most responses and are consistently voted best responses could become influencers. Indeed, their cultural capital can be transformed into power taken into account within companies’ strategy to strengthen their notoriety.

Advantages of content marketing on Zhihu

  • More Visibility Online – Zhihu Post can be Found on Baidu but also Wechat Search and obviously on the app
  • The more content you have on Zhihu, the more UGC (Users Generated Content) is going to be out there, helping with your brand credibility

The importance of content for Zhihu Marketing 

Generating useful content is a plus for marketing on Zhihu. The users who make up the Zhihu community love innovative, qualitative, and professional content that they cannot get through other media. To do this, you can surround yourself with an internal team or an external agency specialized in the Chinese market and the Chinese language, to generate content for you on the platform. There are two types of content on Zhihu:

  • The Brand Content: Official content posted by your company account
  • The “Users” Content: Ideally created organically by users, it can also be content created by your company or partner to look like organic content. We would then be talking about undercover marketing.

Benefit from a free referencing on Baidu

Zhihu is particularly prominent on search engines like Baidu and Sogou. When a keyword search is run on any of these, it is almost certainly a question and answers from Zhihu on the first page of results. Indeed Zhihu has a strong “Domain Authority” on the Baidu search engine, that is to say, that on a Baidu result page there will always be at least one Zhihu page result, which can potentially increase your visibility. Regardless of when the content is posted, if it is relevant for research it will be displayed and ranked well. Zhihu is a great long-term promotion tool.

Long-term brand image on Zhihu

Zhihu is a platform itself based on the image and good reputation of its users. To be as credible as possible in the long term and to convince your audience with the best possible questions and answers, you have to win the heart of your community, which votes for the best answers by giving them “grains of salt”. These “grains of salt” are Zhihu’s notation which was designed to encourage good behavior in people who post. This system is made up of 5 categories for users to grow their profile.

  • The rating of the profile: It is made according to the basic information provided during the creation of the profile such as: the level of education or the professional experience.
  • The content: The content corresponds to the quality of the answers provided and the frequency of engagement on the Zhihu profile.
  • Friendliness: Here it is the quality of interactions between members, politeness and mutual respect that is taken into account.
  • Community spirit: It is the respect of the platform rules.
  • The creation of a community: It is the participation to develop and allow Zhihu to develop for example by voting, reporting and sharing content.

To continue to convey a positive image over time, it is possible to use KOLs to give importance to your brand. For example, you will need to find a KOL who has some expertise in the field that your brand concerns and make them answer questions to talk about you. Ads can also give more visibility and help you look good. You can make pop-ups, advertisements in the news feed, or even advertising inserts to make your brand credible in the eyes of educated users of the platform.

A “new” place for marketing in China

Zhihu’s proposition for businesses is their ability to reach a unique audience that enjoys reading long articles and having deep conversations. These users are constantly on the lookout for practical, useful, and authentic information; Zhihu is therefore even more beneficial for brands in certain fields, for example, the technology industry, B2B brands, and the education, medical, legal and lifestyle, and entertainment industries.

Quality publications that include knowledge relating to a particular field will always be pinned at the top of the responses. No matter when you’ve posted, new users will see your response and advice, which is great for your long-term marketing strategy.

Zhihu helps build trust and brand awareness: It is one of the ideal platforms for growing your brand awareness among educated and affluent users. Once that trusting relationship is established, Q&A can easily become very popular through word of mouth.

Why Cosmetics & Beauty brands should be on Zhihu?

On the cosmetics side, Zhihu is a platform that is an advantage for potential customers who are looking for specific products and who prioritize quality. Zhihu can compare brands with each other by asking questions directly to the “cosmetics” community. Thus the best answers, and therefore the best brands will be put forward and will obtain visibility. It is also possible for companies to interact with their customers, an exchange that creates bonds and builds loyalty in the long term.

Zhihu’s favorite topics

Zhihu community was originally composed of independent social elites with critical analysis skills, so direct sales do not correspond to the spirit of the community. Certain favorite subjects are more apt to sensitize users of the platform.

  • Information and Communication Technologies:

Zhihu’s founder is a computer professional and the core user group itself is composed of many computer engineers, making it a platform well known to geeks. So, if it is part of your field of activity, you can try to expand your business on this platform and reach your target audience. 

  • Professional service providers:

Zhihu there are also many Chinese entrepreneurs looking for information on business services offers, such as HR, market research, law, etc. If you have expertise in certain areas, you may be inclined to capture their attention.

  • Brands that already have a certain notoriety: 

Zhihu is an ideal platform for brands that have already acquired certain notoriety and recognition among the public. Audi has successfully conducted a series of marketing activities on Zhihu: since their arrival on the platform in July 2016, they have asked 4 questions and answered 22 others. Most of the responses were consulted more than 100,000 times. 

  • Well-being sectors:

Recent research on the platform shows that health and fitness are one of the users’ favorite interests along with movies, travel, reading, and photography. Wellness and health-related activities may therefore be of great interest to Zhihu users.

Zhihu Features & Tools

Zhihu’s interface is easy to use. This includes the main page which is divided into recommendations as well as a trend publication. It includes a discovery section that allows you to discover everything popular on the platform, the most popular discussions, the topics that are the subject of a roundtable, and the publications recommended by the editors of Zhihu. And finally, the interface includes a thematic section that provides popular publications within the topics that a user follows.

Zhihu Marketing tools:

  • Zhihu Bookstore: The bookstore is a database that collects all of the site’s questions and answers. It will sort them and create files grouping all these Q&A by theme or by relevance. It is through this option that Zhihu Zhoukan which is Zhihu’s online magazine is created. As a business you can take advantage of this by sponsoring the magazine, for example, or help enrich the content of this magazine.
  • Zhihu Roundtable: This feature allows people who specialize in an area or a subject to come together to discuss a subject or debate or even answer sensitive questions.
  • Zhihu: This is a service that allows answering questions by voice message. These posts can also be purchased by users if they find the content interesting. The price of the recording is established by the person who posted this voicemail message.
  • Zhihu live: Live videos are more and more popular on Chinese social networks and websites, so Zhihu wanted to take advantage of this trend by creating Zhihu live in May 2016. Similar to lectures at the university, a lecturer is preparing a presentation lasting an average of one hour in which 30 minutes are devoted to the conference and 30 minutes to questions and answers. Users wishing to participate must pre-register and pay for the conference at a price ranging from 20 to 100 RMB on average. Again Zhihu lives is a great way to communicate on topics that you are an expert on and interact with users in real time.
  • Zhihu tip service: Authors of essays found on the platform can receive small “tips” of a few RMBs usually allowing readers to reward the author for their work and sharing on the platform. This feature works with WeChat Wallet. She encourages authors to continue writing quality content for Zhihu.

Zhihu Paid Ads:

There are many types of paid advertising on Zhihu. It is possible to find in particular the cards and the banners which are adapted to the graphic content and to the videos. This content will vary depending on whether the content is posted to your account or whether you wish to bring the content to other users. The end goal is to get users to take specific action for a business purpose. For example, a message for more information, to go to the Tmall and store, or to go to your website.

Zhihu Paid Ads

With News Feed ads, you can choose various advertising spots:

  • Open-screen ads.
  • Pop-up ads on the main page.
  • Banner ads on the main page.
  • Trending topics text/card ads.
  • News Feed banner/video ads – usually the third spot in the user’s news feed.
  • Ads on the page of chosen question/answer.

Zhihu uses ‘drag to refresh’ in its app. And with each refresh—appears a new ad.

Zhihu Open screen ad

Zhihu Account

Just like many other Chinese social media platforms, Zhihu offers its users the ability to choose specific account types to perfectly match your company’s needs :

  • Personal accounts: Personal accountsfor private use can be set up, independently of the fact that the user is inside or outside China. These accounts are an affordable, easy option particularly interesting for small to medium-sized B2B businesses. The main downside of choosing a personal account is that there is a risk of your account being deleted if they become too commercial, so as you might’ve guessed your content creation needs to be carefully administered and edited.
  • Organizational or Brand accounts: These accounts have more room to manoeuvre regarding their advertisement and their item promotion, but it is important to note that businesses who want to open this type of account must have a Chinese business license.

How to Create official Account for your organization?

As has just been explained, it is possible to create a Zhihu account for your organization. This type of account is similar to a personal account except for one detail: its registration procedure. If for a personal account it is very easy to register on the platform, conversely for professional accounts the procedure is much stricter. This rigor is put in place to avoid false advertisements so as not to disturb users. 

Here are the 4 steps to create your professional account:

  • Registration: When registering you must use a professional e-mail address to activate your account.
  • The type of account: Choose between a business, government or other organization account.
  • Company data: You will need to give information about your company such as: the name of your company, its operating license, of which you will have to provide a scan, the name of the operator, the identification number of the company. operator, the name for the account, the avatar and the field of activity.
  • Account verification: Once your account has been approved, you will get a blue badge. The annual audit fee is 300 RMB.

Zhihu marketing Conclusion

To conclude, Zhihu is a suitable platform to extend its brand awareness and reputation in China, by creating serious conversations. This will allow brands to gain authority and attract new customers, but it will take time. 

On the other hand, Zhihu is not the right place to increase its sales in the short term because its users belong to wealthy and highly intellectualized social classes with a strong spirit of critical analysis. They are attracted by the history, image, and reputation of a brand that stands out from the others. 

The platform itself is not sufficient to promote a company given its long-term reward attribute. However, appearing on the main Chinese search engines is a good way to generate sales leads,  promote and increase consumer awareness through external links that users can share on the platform. 

GMA: a great partner for your Zhihu Marketing & China Success

Gentlemen Marketing Agency is a Shanghai-based digital marketing agency that helps foreign brands establish themselves in China by offering you marketing strategies tailored to your needs and targets.  

Our team is up to date on all the latest marketing trends in China and uses all the most effective digital tools to promote your business in China.

Read more about Zhihu & Social Media in China 2020:

1 comment

  • very good article about Zhihu, it is really a good platform, focus on quality over quantity
    Chinese white collar love that now.

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