WeChat is popular because it has a lot of features besides messaging. In China especially, the app has evolved to include things like mobile payments and finding a nearby taxi. It has also become a kind of reading app.
One way that’s happening is through WeChat’s ‘official’ accounts, which are being used by a wide array of brands, small companies, media, and even celebrities. They’re a bit like Facebook Pages. In the WeChat app there are ‘subscription accounts’ , so called because people are effectively subscribing to updates that appear in the form of messages. You can then click through to a mobile page that contains the full content (pictured below). So far, there are more than two million official accounts on WeChat, with a mix of subscription accounts and brand-oriented ‘service accounts’.
WeChat is working on an advertising service that will allow anyone with an official account to place ads in their content and make money from clicks. That will be especially useful for content creators and media outlets who want to make money from their WeChat subscription accounts. The self-serve ads are currently in testing by Tencent (HKG:0700), the maker of WeChat, and are a part of the company’s Guangdiantong ad platform.
3.5 percent click-thru
According to 21st Century Business Herald, Tencent is seeing a good amount of clicks from the ads run by a handful of WeChat subscription accounts during the testing phase. Tencent Guangdiantong director He Yanjie says that a ten-day experiment saw a click-through rate of 3.5 percent on average on those ads.
The best click-through rate – of 13 percent – was seen by broadcaster Luo Zhenyu (who uses his nickname 罗辑思维 on WeChat) on his blog-like subscription account. Tencent revealed that Luo made more than RMB 10,000 (US$1,600) from all the ad clicks on his WeChat account content during those 10 days.
Technode reports, citing Peter Zheng, the head of the Guangdiantong program, that Tencent is not taking a cut of revenue from this new WeChat ad service – not at the moment, at least. That leaves content creators free to take home all the money from their ad clicks.
WeChat began its ad tests last month, and the service will likely roll out fully a little later this year. WeChat’s official accounts – like many of its extended features – are aimed at Chinese users, and few such accounts appear in English or other languages.
Note that this development doesn’t mean WeChat is getting ads plastered all over the place. These will only appear if you follow certain official accounts and then opt to click through on one of their messages to read a full post. It’s just like visiting a mobile website, except it all happens inside WeChat app.
While nobody wants to see more adverts, Tencent’s offering to content creators should help get them to devote more resources to their WeChat official accounts. And that, in turn, will increase the amount of time people spend using WeChat to read stuff. Ultimately, that will be bad news for the Twitter-esque Sina Weibo as well as other reading apps, such as Flipboard.
(Editing by Josh Horwitz)
In contrast to ‘service accounts’, which are aimed at brands. These are being developed to add in more e-commerce features, such as Xiaomi’s flash sale of its phones from its WeChat account. ↩