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Back in February, 260,000 Chinese netizens gazed upon the northern lights through a livestream held by Visit Sweden. In subsequent months, PromPerú has released videos spotlighting Quechua and Aymara culture, and Tourism Australia has built a strong digital following around its natural celebrities: eucalyptus munching koalas and beach-going kangaroos. The platform of choice for these tourism organizations? WeChat Channels.

Released by Tencent in 2020 to boost WeChat’s video and livestreaming capabilities amid the rise of short-video platforms Duoyin and Kuaishou, it has quickly become a key tool for tourism stakeholders to stay top-of-mind and engage Chinese audiences during an enduring period of travel standstill. 

At a time of tight budgets and heavily restricted cross-border tourism, launching on yet another Chinese social media platform might seem superfluous. However, Channels promises to change how users on China’s most popular social platform consume and post content in the long-term. Given tourism stakeholders produce and archive video content and most with serious ambitions in the China market already operate on WeChat, beginning to consider moves on Channels is the logical next step.

Here we break down Tencent’s latest feature alongside House Cheng, the Director of Social Media at Dragon Trail International, a marketing solutions company that has used WeChat Channels with its tourism clients for the past year.

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Visit Sweden’s northern lights livestream. Image: Visit Sweden on WeChat

What are the advantages of WeChat Channels for tourism stakeholders?

Most straightforwardly, the potential to connect with WeChat’s 1.2 billion active users. Given Tencent’s ambition to compete with other short-video platforms, the tech giant is providing strong support to brands that launch on Channels. 

One further advantage of Channels over its rivals is the inherently social aspect of WeChat — unlike ByteDance’s Douyin, for example. Users are already in the habit of sharing content with friend networks and this could potentially result in far higher traffic.   

House says: “Tencent is trying to promote Channels. This means they’re currently helping overseas NTOs [national tourism organizations] organize livestreams and promote travel content in order to attract more followers of travel brands and travel KOLs [key opinion leaders] to use Channels.” 

 

How is a WeChat Channels account set up?

It involves a three-step process: invitation, setup, and verification. 

First, an admin is invited to open an account by WeChat Team.

Second, the admin enters WeChat, finds Channels in the Discover section, follows the step-by-step instructions, and enters profile information.

Third, the admin connects the Channels account to the existing Official Account by scanning a QR code that confirms the Channels account can be verified by the Official Account. 

House says: The two main challenges is that the organization must have a verified Official Account, and the admin must be officially invited by WeChat to join.”

 

What type of content works best on WeChat Channels?

WeChat Channels for the travel sector

Tourism Australia’s Channels account has leaned on the celebrity of the country’s natural landscapes and residents, including koalas and kangaroos. Image: Tourism Australia on WeChat

House breaks videos into three categories of increasing complexity: 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. 

  • 1.0 involves uploading already created branded videos and sharing content produced by KOLs and media partners.
  • 2.0 details editing videos with Chinese audiences in mind (adding subtitles, animations, and shortening to one minute).
  • 3.0 means creating content specifically for WeChat Channels (and other China-facing media) through 1 minute storytelling. 

House says: For 1.0 and 2.0 videos, beautiful scenery, food, culture and cute animals, all with touching background music, perform the best.”

 

PromPerú’s Channels account has succeeded with a smart KOL strategy and a strong theme. Image: PromPerú on WeChat

What about a successful campaign on WeChat Channels?

Tourism organization: PromPerú 

Campaign length: January to February 2021

Goal: To bring new exposure to PromPerú’s previous video content and engage with audiences on WeChat Channels.

The strategy: Three-pronged; short and engaging talk shows from KOLs about traveling in Peru, spin-off short-videos connecting to KOL stories, and user-generated content campaign.

Result: The KOL talk shows and short-videos received more than 7 million video playbacks, while 100 user-generated content participants shared more than 300 videos and images. 

House says: “Using an overarching ‘Memories’ theme, PromPerú captured memories of KOLs and other travelers’ experiences.”

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