In the second in our two-part series on WeChat, we look at ways real estate agents can use China’s biggest social media network to market property to overseas Chinese investors and local Chinese residents, living in Australia and New Zealand. Leading the charge is Black Diamondz Property Concierge, so we asked them what tips they’d share with other real estate agents wishing to join WeChat.
Many real estate agents now have Chinese residents living in their suburbs. Australia and New Zealand are both popular destinations for Chinese students, and many of these go on to live, work and start families. Family is extremely important in Chinese culture, and often the parents of these former students will follow them to Australia or New Zealand on a parent visa – to live in the same property as their adult children and help look after the grandchildren (as is the custom in China).
This means there are now a significant number of Chinese migrants buying and selling property in Australia. However, real estate agents can find them hard to reach online as they don’t use popular Western channels like Facebook. Instead, they are using their own Chinese-speaking social media platform, WeChat, which is used by Chinese migrants of all ages to connect with people from their own culture and make new friends in the area where they live.
In addition, there is also an increasing number of Chinese investors buying properties in Australia and, as Facebook and Twitter are banned in China, WeChat is the easiest way to reach this sector of the property market too.
Because of this, it’s becoming increasingly important for Australian real estate agents to have a presence on WeChat, as it’s an essential tool for reaching out to the Chinese community. It isn’t even limited to promoting your properties. As it’s much more advanced in the field of social commerce than its Western equivalents like Facebook – you can even use it to exchange contracts and take deposit payments.
So how can Australian real estate brands start using WeChat?
Black Diamondz leverage WeChat for prestige properties
Black Diamondz use their official (and verified) WeChat account to share news on properties they market, and as a recruitment channel for their agency. With a following of more than 35,000 people, they certainly know how to leverage this social media marketing channel for high-end properties. They’ve even sold a $10 million home through their social account!
We interviewed Adam Williams, Associate Director of Marketing and PR at Black Diamondz Property Concierge to find out his marketing approach.
Set up a WeChat account
Adam highlights that “WeChat is similar to Facebook in that you can have two different types of account: Personal or Official (business), and to set up either type of account is free.”
“Anyone, from inside or outside China, can have a Personal account on WeChat, so this is the easiest type of account to set up and is an option being utilised by some individual real estate agents” adds Adam.
An Official account is a little more like a Facebook business page – it enables you to promote your service or brand, and any WeChat user can become a follower and receive push notifications. Official accounts fall into three different categories:
Of these, only Subscription and Service accounts are used for marketing. These types of accounts both appear in their followers’ main chat feeds, but there are limitations on the number of messages you can post to your followers. There are subtle differences between the two:
- Subscription accounts all appear in the user’s “Subscription Accounts” folder in the chat feed. You can post one message a day to your followers from a Subscription account.
- Service accounts are more visible as they appear in the user’s friend list. However, the number of messages you can post from these accounts is limited to four per month.
You have to apply for any type of Official account on WeChat, and the application process takes two weeks. However, it can be complicated to set up an Official account if your business is not registered in China or Hong Kong.
How non-Chinese businesses can set up an Official WeChat account
There are several marketing companies based in China which enable businesses from other countries to set up Official WeChat pages by using their own accounts to host them. These companies are experienced at designing and building WeChat pages and enable you to incorporate your own logo and page design features. However, your page will technically be owned by the Chinese company, and their name will also appear on your account.
“It’s important to register with a trusted Australian company who can guarantee fair trade.” Adam Williams, Black Diamondz Property Concierge
It’s important to bear in mind with this option that you are leasing your WeChat account from a third party. You may have to pay them a hosting fee, and there is a risk that your page could be shut down. However, it does give you an important opportunity to promote your properties and real estate brand to Chinese buyers in both China and Australia, which otherwise would not be available to you.
Adam from Black Diamondz warns “If you engage a 3rd party to set up a WeChat page for you, be sure to proceed with caution. It’s important to register with a trusted Australian company who can guarantee fair trade if you choose to end a WeChat management or set up agreement. It’s also important to work with a marketing agency who will guide you towards the correct account and also the right type of content.”
If you would like help vetting and dealing with any of the Chinese marketing companies providing this service, we are happy to do this on your behalf – please get in touch.
How to gain and engage followers on WeChat
As with all social media platforms, the first thing you need to do in order to use WeChat for marketing is to gain followers – there’s no point having an account if nobody is going to see your posts.
The easiest way to do this is by capturing their mobile phone numbers. WeChat is a mobile-only app, and will automatically import the contacts from your phone into your account. Then you simply click the “New Friends” button at the top of your Contacts menu, and hit “Add”.
Depending on each contact’s privacy settings, they will either accept you automatically or you will have to wait for their verification. You can also discover other WeChat users nearby using the Friend Radar function – Location services will show you how close they are.
If you want to attract WeChat followers, it makes sense to have a QR code, which you should include everywhere you get the chance, as scanning QR codes is a popular way for WeChat users to connect with business pages. QR codes also enable you to access WeChat’s web-based login – this is a very limited version of the platform, but can be useful for managing messages and property enquiries.
Use push notifications and messaging for customer service
Your Official account enables you to send push notifications and newsletters to your followers, although the numbers of these you are allowed to send is limited. You can also create groups to enable group chats – 500 people are allowed in a group. WeChat users expect Official accounts to provide instant and group messaging services, and followers expect quick responses, so it’s important to be available to your contacts. Messaging services enable you to send important property information to your followers, including plans and specifications.
Engage followers with quality content
Just as with other social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s important to share quality content on WeChat if you want to keep your followers engaged. Please bear in mind though that your target audience here is Chinese so your content should be designed to appeal to them. Sharing content enables you to include calls to action such as clicking through to your website or contacting you via WeChat.
“Utilising the WeChat platform successfully is so much more than simply translating Western content onto the Chinese platform.” Adam Williams, Black Diamondz Property Concierge
Sharing quality content also enables you to join a number of WeChat property groups which share information and news about the property market. This can be a great way to drive interest in your properties as the audience is already engaged.
Adam from Black Diamondz shares; “We have a talented in-house team of bilingual content marketers to manage both our WeChat account and some accounts for clients. And our team use WeChat as both a work and social communication tool, so they are well versed in using the social media app.”
Set up a WeChat microsite
If you really want to get the most out of WeChat as a marketing platform, it makes sense to set up an HTML5 microsite. WeChat essentially works a lot like an operating system, in that it hosts millions of smaller sites within it – this is how it provides users with such a wide variety of functions without them ever having to leave the WeChat app.
WeChat micro-sites are highly customisable and can act as a brochure, showcasing your properties, as well as highlighting your experience and demonstrating that you are a trustworthy business.
Australian real estate agents using WeChat to their advantage
Monika Tu, founder of Black Diamondz Property Concierge, says she uses a wide variety of social media platforms but say’s she generates the best results with WeChat, in fact, she says WeChat has enabled her to close a deal in just three days.
Monika initially posted her high-end properties on her personal WeChat account and shared the listing information with her friends. But once she realised how much interest this was generating, she and her marketing team created an official Black Diamondz Property Concierge account.
CBRE residential set up an official WeChat account in 2015, Ben Stewart, director of residential projects, explains that the company uses the account to post editorials and computer-generated images to build interest whenever it releases a new apartment project.
Chinese-born Sam Guo is the Broadbeach agent for Ray White. He became the group’s top international performer in 2016 by selling predominantly to Chinese investors – he attributes his success, and 35 percent of his sales, to his WeChat presence.
You’ll also find economist Dr Andrew Wilson from Domain.com.au on WeChat. Dr Wilson has his own personal account where he shares market updates in Chinese alongside the official Domain subscription account that posts property listings.
Be warned: WeChat property content must be unique
Adam from Black Diamondz states that “it’s important to note that Chinese audiences are looking for very different content to what is published for Western audiences. For our Black Diamondz Property Concierge WeChat account, we publish a combination of property, lifestyle and recruitment information, on a daily basis. We are extremely detail orientated and ensure the content we share is both relevant and appealing to the Chinese reader. Utilising the platform successfully is so much more than simply translating Western content onto the Chinese platform.”
WeChat is rapidly becoming an essential marketing tool for Australian real estate agents. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like more advice about how to use WeChat to benefit your real estate brand.