In the second of my two-part series about targeting Chinese property buyers through digital marketing, I take a more in-depth look at WeChat, and how, as a real estate agent, you can use this platform to get the most out of your property campaigns.
If you’d like to read part one, it covers the intricacies of selling a property to Chinese buyers.
I recently caught up with Lisa Hutchinson and Harriet Geoghegan, founders of WeTools, a real estate marketing agency that’s had great success promoting the sale of “off the plan” properties to Chinese investors, located both in Australia and mainland China.
How can Australian real estate businesses use WeChat?
WeTools attribute their success largely to WeChat. Having tried more conventional marketing techniques to start, they eventually switched to Chinese social media apps and haven’t turned back, saying they’ve found the perfect property marketing formula.
“Initially we sent marketing communications translated into Chinese through email, but we struggled to get Chinese buyers to open the messages,” Lisa explains. “Then Chinese buyers agents started asking us to ‘message them on WeChat, send us more information on WeChat, what’s your WeChat account?’”
Lisa and Harriet started researching WeChat and eventually opened an account. From there, they experimented with content to find the best real estate marketing techniques for Chinese audiences.
“We knew we’d found the magic formula when we sold an entire building for a property developer with a single WeChat campaign, prior to construction. That was when we truly understood the power of WeChat and marketing effectively to a Chinese audience.”
WeChat is the most popular social network in China, and as a result, it’s the easiest way to reach Chinese property buyers. However, a personal WeChat account will only allow you to communicate with Chinese contacts you already know. If you want to market your properties more widely, you need to harness the power of WeChat’s business tools.
The different types of WeChat business accounts
WeChat offers two types of business accounts, which are known as “official” accounts:
1. WeChat Service Accounts
Used by e-commerce and service-based businesses looking to sell through the app.
2. WeChat Subscription Accounts
For companies sharing information and content, such as news sites, blogs, and real estate agencies listing properties.
With these accounts, businesses can run advertising campaigns, post publicly accessible and searchable content, buy and sell, and host mini-websites and use promotional campaigns within WeChat.
It isn’t always easy to set up a WeChat business account. WeChat generally doesn’t allow foreign companies to create official accounts that are visible to citizens of China. However, official Tencent partners and high-value advertisers like WeTools can be exceptions to this rule and help Australian real estate agents get around the bureaucracy.
Why your real estate business should be using WeChat
Australian real estate agents haven’t been quick to adopt WeChat, and this is most likely due to the complicated procedure of setting up an official WeChat account. Plus there are many differences in real estate marketing techniques between Chinese social media platforms and their westernised counterparts such as Facebook. However, WeChat is most certainly worth exploring, primarily if you sell off-the-plan apartments, as it offers significant benefits for your real estate agency.
Learn how to use WeChat and benefit from;
1. Greater accessibility to Chinese property buyers residing both locally in Australia or offshore in China.
2. An inbuilt CRM, enabling you to connect and communicate with your Chinese database subscribers.
3. A translation function in its messenger service, making communication easier between you and your Chinese clientele.
While it’s a great help to have a Mandarin-speaking person in your office to translate your listing enquiries and reply to Chinese buyers, WeChat makes communication possible for everyone. Simply click on message text and hold down, and you’ll be given the option to ‘translate’.
The other massive advantage of WeChat is that it offers excellent opportunities for your listings to go viral. Once you share a listing with channel agents or buyers, it can literally end up anywhere. WeTools’ posts average over 1,000 views.
If you’re interested in learning more about how residential real estate agencies are using WeChat, read my interview with Black Dimondz premium property specialists.
What we can learn from property developers
Property developers and project marketers are ahead of most residential real estate agents when it comes to understanding WeChat and how to use it to its fullest advantage.
Social media marketing on WeChat isn’t just about posting a property listing. Chinese property buyers want to know more about the property development, the area and its infrastructure, from video tours of the neighbourhood to investment data, so they can get an idea of the lifestyle they can expect if they purchase the property.
Property developers understand that the neighbourhood and community are just as important to the buyers search criteria as the home itself. So, WeTools’ property marketing campaigns on WeChat include a unique type of ‘influencer content’ that Chinese audiences, in particular, want to see.
Lisa and Harriet share that “Chinese home buyers love great CGI and video, so these are tools you should be using in your property marketing campaigns. It’s also important to share translated material that can be loaded quickly on a mobile device from anywhere in the world, to cater for investors in mainland China as well as Australia.”
Why influencer marketing matters
Chinese property buyers value the opinions of influencers on WeChat, so much so that this is an area that WeTools has tapped into with great success.
“We use several online influencers, but our number one is Amy Lyons. Amy is a blonde Australian who spends half her life in China and speaks fluent Mandarin. She has a cult following on several platforms including WeChat. We use Amy to profile Sydney suburbs in a style that Chinese buyers find especially appealing.”
When engaging an influencer for your property campaign, you do need to be careful that the content is authentic and not a straight advertisement, otherwise Chinese audiences will switch off. The content needs to be engaging, quirky and fun, and it needs to promote an attractive lifestyle.
WeTools has seen engagement increase tenfold by using influencers. Their advice is this; if you’ve not tried influencers or included a budget for them in your project marketing then it’s time to reconsider your strategy – influencer marketing is a must.
Channel agents are also a type of influencer
When marketing property developments, WeTools works with a network of Chinese agents who have buyer networks of their own.
“The strategy is part promoting the new development to them, keeping a project top of mind (persuading them to choose it over others); and part giving them the tools to market it to their buyer audiences,” Lisa and Harriet explain.
Chinese buyers agents, also known as channel agents, have vast networks of contacts in China as well as Australia. These agents play an important role and are of enormous value to a property developer due to the Chinese emphasis on trust, which means they will always prefer to buy from a known connection.
WeChat is ideal for sending channel agents marketing materials they can easily use with buyers based in China. They can forward a WeChat post to an entire buyer group in seconds. If you help them with their job, which often involves translating marketing materials and ensuring web content can is accessible in China, you’ll forge a strong relationship and that all-important trust-factor.
The verdict on marketing to the Chinese
Chinese property investors are here to stay, so it’s important to get serious about including them in your real estate and project marketing campaigns. By incorporating WeChat within your digital marketing strategy, as not only another social media channel but a prioritised customer segment, you’ll hit the right note with Chinese buyers and gain a massive advantage over your real estate competitors.
If you’re worried about taking your first steps into WeChat, don’t be – there’s always help available from the likes of myself and Lisa and Harriet at WeTools.