Harriet Geoghegan shares insights into why Chinese property buyers remain an important segment
Looking to connect with Chinese buyers but don’t know where to start? There is one platform you need to master – WeChat. Harriet Geoghegan from WeTools is a WeChat marketing specialist and in this interview, Harriet shares excellent insights on how to reach, build relationships with, and market to Chinese buyers on the biggest Chinese social media channel.
Do you use WeChat already? If yes, we’d love to hear about your experience with China’s biggest social media app. Leave us a comment at the bottom of this blog.
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Following is the video transcript.
The power of WeChat for real estate agents
Today I’m with Harriet Geoghegan. She’s a WeChat marketing expert who is talking to us about marketing property to the Chinese.
Harriet, how long have you had your agency? And what was the impetus for starting it in the first place?
We started the business about two years ago, and it came about from our own experience trying to market property to Chinese.
I used to work for a marketing agency that worked exclusively for property developers and we had a network of real estate agents – many of whom were Chinese.
One of the things we were constantly being asked for was WeChat. Chinese real estate agents and property buyers would say, “Can you send me that on WeChat? Is the property on WeChat? Can I share the home on WeChat”.
We knew nothing about WeChat, so I started doing some research and discovered that WeChat was one of the biggest social media apps in the world. I guess when you think about it China is one of the biggest populations on the planet, so even an app that’s restricted to one country can have many users.
From early beginnings, WeChat has improved
Our journey began with actually trying to understand WeChat ourselves.
We wanted to know how to create property marketing campaigns for real estate agents on WeChat. What did our real estate clients need that would help them sell homes and what would work for them on WeChat.
We found it was really difficult to get started. In fact, it’s very hard to find a company in Australia that can set up a WeChat account. A couple of years back, international businesses weren’t technically allowed to have a WeChat account so you had to buy an account from another, Chinese-based, company.
You had to register your account in China which meant you had to have a company there. And that’s a very difficult process. So, you either had to have a joint venture with a Chinese business or enough clients to warrant setting up a business in China yourself.
So when you think about it from a social media point of view, it was really restrictive and difficult to create a presence on WeChat. Luckily over time, it became a much easier process and WeChat today has really opened up to outside companies using the platform. But it still requires a lot of research and learning.
Once we finally worked out how to create a WeChat account we then needed to suss out how to promote properties on the social media platform, the next challenge was how we were going to post in Chinese. At the time we didn’t have anyone in our marketing team that spoke Chinese.
Once we’d overcome these first set of hurdles, we were able to launch our first property campaign and to our amazement, we sold off the plan units for entirely new development through WeChat – so we were pretty blown away and knew that we were on to something.
Why the Chinese are attractive to Property Developers
So why were property developers interested in the Chinese market?
Really, it comes down to the restrictions on what Chinese buyers can and can’t purchase, in terms of real estate in Australia. If you are a Chinese home buyer, and you don’t live in Australia, you can only purchase new off-the-plan properties. There are quite a few off-shore Chinese home buyers that are interested in house and land, but the majority of Chinese look to buy units in apartments.
As we started to understand a lot more about the local Chinese market, including how many WeChat users are based in Australia, we were happily surprised to learn that there are over 3 million people to reach on the WeChat platform locally.
So in terms of the target audience on WeChat, we started with Chinese people who had actually migrated to Australia already and were looking for a home to buy.
So we started from the point of view of developers needing to reach home buyers on WeChat and focused on how the Chinese agents operating in Australia use the social media platform.
We quickly realised that there’s a whole lot to learn, even about the culture and the way that the Chinese conduct business, because that’s really different – even if the Chinese person already lives in Australia.
Even if they do speak perfect English, there’s a lot of cultural nuances in the way you reach out to them as well as understanding how they do business and where they will seek out information about properties for sale.
Why WeChat influencers work for property marketing campaigns
Talk to me about the content that you produce for property developer campaigns.
You had an interesting angle, where you engaged a lady who speaks Chinese, but she’s actually from Australia, blond-haired and blue-eyed. So how did that come about?
WeChat has some really strict rules around publishing and what kind of content you can advertise. We had to understand the WeChat advertising features in the same way you need to understand the Facebook and Instagram advertising platform.
You can pay and promote an article but it’s heavily restricted for certain industries. To advertise real estate through WeChat you need to look toward influencers.
The best way to get a message about a property you are selling out across WeChat is to find someone who wants to share your message for you. They need to have a big following or manage WeChat groups with an active user base. That’s very much the same as in Western social media as well. WeChat influencers, with large social media accounts, will promote something and get it out across the WeChat audience very effectively.
So we set out to find a WeChat social media influencer who had the right kind of audience and struck a deal where they would share messages about living in Australia and buying property.
We discovered a lovely girl, called Amy, who lives between Australia and China with a substantial WeChat following. She’d actually entered a televised Chinese-language competition and in doing so gained a social media following on WeChat almost overnight.
Amy is a beautiful blond bubbly Australian girl who could speak fluent Chinese and she’s been very popular. So we have used her in a lot of our campaigns to present some of our properties and conduct location-based tours around Australian suburbs that are popular with Chinese migrants.
In our campaigns, Amy introduces people to Australia and explains to the Chinese audience why people love the suburb and why they would love to live there too. These campaigns with Amy featured were really fun and exciting and different, and got a huge amount of exposure for the new property development projects we were working on.
Should real estate agents target Chinese buyers?
Harriet, in your opinion, why should real estate agents use WeChat or focus on the Chinese?
That’s a really important question to ask. I think it’s the first thing that a real estate agent should sit down and think about. Is the Chinese home buyer important in your area, and a target audience that you want to focus on?
You do need to do quite a lot to set up a WeChat account and then real estate agents need to work quite hard at creating content and building an audience on the platform – there are no shortcuts, it has to be a long-term strategy for you.
In terms of the Chinese audience based in Australia, it’s still a really important target market to tap into. When compared to other migrant populations who historically move countries in search of better jobs, with the Chinese that’s not always the case.
It’s important to appreciate that some really wealthy Chinese families migrate to Australia because they’re looking for a different lifestyle with clean fresh air and easy access to beautiful beaches. They are arriving in Australia with a lot of money to hand. And even though they can bring things with them they can’t bring a house! So they are looking for homes – in particular, high-value homes.
In recent years we’ve had six hundred and sixty thousand visitors coming to Australia from China every year. With 27,000 of them migrating to Australia permanently. That’s a huge market.
The importance of Golden Week to real estate agents
You may have also heard of Golden Week, which is an important holiday for the Chinese – it’s when everyone in China has a holiday at the same time. Sometimes you see in the media frenzy of pictures depicting huge traffic jams on Chinese highways. That’s Golden Week.
A lot of Chinese people travel to Australia during Golden Week. And while they are here, many Chinese visitors check out Australian homes for sale and consider purchasing a property as an investment.
What time of year is Golden Week?
Golden Week is in October. That’s when you’d typically see a lot of Chinese tourists, as well as a lot of real estate agencies advertising in advance to make sure their property or new development is on the Chinese home buyers shopping list.
And, if you yourself are a real estate agent, you might have noticed that you’ve had quite a few inquiries from Chinese home buyers visiting from overseas around October.
Offshore Chinese buyers vs local Chinese-Australian’s
So I guess there are two different categories of Chinese home buyers; offshore and local.
In Australia, there is already a huge Chinese community living here and then there are additional Chinese buyers based in China who are looking to invest in Australia because our economy is seen as a lot more stable than theirs.
For example, a Chinese person will see that for the same price as a 40 square meter apartment in Shanghai they could buy a 4 bedroom home in Sydney. So as you can see, Chinese investors get a lot more bang for their buck investing in Australian property.
Education is another huge priority for the Chinese. Many wealthy Chinese families send their children to Australia for an English education and as part of that they often move the entire immediate family over to support them or alternatively they might buy their children a home to live in here.
There’s plenty of reasons why offshore Chinese purchasers look to buy in Australia.
With millions of Chinese-speaking residents in Australia already, all real estate agents should consider the virtues of marketing themselves and their properties on WeChat.
The Chinese audience is not just made up of new migrants, there are people that have been here for a very long time who are still very much connected to their Chinese culture and their local community. Remember that these people might not even have a Facebook account because WeChat is the primary mode of communication for them.
As a real estate agent, do you use WeChat already? If yes, we’d love to hear about your experience with it. Leave us a comment below.
About this video series
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