Social media marketing

Why Zhihu is the next big thing for brand marketing

Why Zhihu is the next big thing for brand marketing

In today’s uncertain world, people need quick and reliable answers to their questions.

Knowing who and what to trust online can be difficult. The amount of digital information available is staggering. With over 1.8 billion websites (and 571 new sites created every minute), it’s no wonder that information overload and credibility issues are a problem.

For China’s response to this particular issue, enter Zhihu. The name translates to ‘Do you know?’ and it is one of the most exciting brand marketing opportunities in China today.

To understand why this “knowledge-sharing platform for experts” is the next big thing for China’s digital strategy, we have a few questions to answer…

Why is Audi a lamp factory?

Audi (yes, that Audi – one of the world’s leading automotive brands) spent a lot of time and effort answering this particular question from Zhihu.

For those unfamiliar with the automotive industry, Audi has earned the humorous nickname of the “lamp factory.” In response, Audi wittily replied that they believed they could sell cars with “peace of mind” – but never expected to be considered a lightweight factory. The response went on to provide a history of Audi innovation, using its reliance on science and technology (and in particular lighting) to shape the company’s image.

But why is it important for Chinese marketing?

Well, at present, Audi’s answer is Zhihu’s top voted answer, with over 3000 likes. The post has a reach rate of 1:3000 and Audi’s traffic from a wider share has increased by more than 84%. With such results, brands doing content marketing in China cannot afford to ignore Zhihu.

With the right tone in the right place, companies can build their brand image and reputation in China, as well as share real expertise.

What is Zhihu?

Launched in 2011, Zhihu is a user-generated community that acquires, shares and disseminates high-quality information. As a Q&A platform, Zhihu aims to provide effective and credible answers to questions. With inspirational slogans such as “discover a bigger world”, the site is an extremely important source of information for Chinese consumers.

In 2020, Zhihu had over 420 million registered users with 40 billion monthly page views and an average daily usage time of over 70 minutes. Due to its reliable nature, it has quickly become the first platform many Chinese turn to for answers in their daily lives.

Zhihu started life as an invite-only platform for verified experts. It was opened to the general public in 2013, with strict personal profile verification and badge systems. While maintaining reliable, high-quality content, the platform began to function more as a business networking tool, allowing users to connect and share knowledge.

Who uses Zhihu?

Zhihu is famous for its highly skilled user base with diverse industry interests. Unlike key opinion leaders (KOLs) on other major platforms, Zhihu’s content creators are often academic experts and real-life professionals.

Users such as Lei Lei (Doctor of Biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences) are common – interested in building a bridge between professional and public scientific knowledge. Due to their active engagement with the online community, a stable “level of trust” is developed.

All of this is great news for brands looking to expand their Chinese marketing strategy. Nearly 74% of users have a bachelor’s degree or above, while those with a doctorate or above account for 1.62% of users. This group has higher incomes (with 30% of users earning more than ¥10,000 per month) and consumption rates, and cares deeply about brand reputation.

Additionally, 70% of users are between the ages of 20 and 29, making Zhihu a great platform to reach the Chinese Gen Z and Millennial markets.

Which brands could benefit from it?

With a young but highly skilled professional user base, Zhihu is an ideal platform for brands working in business-to-business, education, or other complex markets.

Since Zhihu users are already looking for specific information on a wide range of topics, it’s especially useful for brands promoting professional services or high-end products (all of which deserve a little explaining). This applies to niche products such as personal care, technology and baby products as well as services such as insurance, financial investment, education or health.

Why Zhihu is essential for content marketing in China

In 2016, Zhihu allowed “corporate accounts” on the platform. Many global brands such as Audi, Siemens, Amazon, Louis Vuitton and Chanel (to name a few) have jumped at the chance to tap into this exciting Chinese market.

To explain this renewed interest, let’s take a look at the main user needs:

  • Find answers to questions – often niche or individualized topics

  • Obtain high quality information – answers must be reliable and accurate

  • Professional and friendly responses – users expect well-structured and friendly responses

  • These key demands mean great opportunities for “brand building” and entry points into Chinese consumer buying journeys.

Brand building

If your brand specializes in the area users are wondering about, you have an immediate opportunity to boost your reputation among Chinese consumers. By engaging in discussions and writing articles, replies, and comments, you create positive, long-term brand awareness.

As Zhihu users are there to gain specific knowledge, good brands can expect higher engagement rates compared to “traditional” Chinese social media marketing activities on sites such as Weibo and WeChat.

Shopping trips

Chinese consumers use Zhihu to ask questions about specific companies, products or technologies. This means brands (across a range of industries) can target a highly engaged audience at a key point in the buying journey.

Brands such as Amazon’s Kindle have taken full advantage of this in their China strategy. By working with KOLs to discuss issues such as the importance of reading in modern society, products are gently introduced as part of the discussion.

As a result of these efforts, Kindle created a huge buzz with “What Does Reading Mean?”, making it into the Top 10 of Zhihu’s Hot List. by fourteen times and the number of brand approvals multiplied by nine.

Search Engine Optimization

Do you remember the answer to “Why is Audi a lamp factory?” »

In addition to the massive user engagement that followed, when you search for ‘lamp factory’ on Baidu, guess what comes up first…that’s right, it’s Audi’s Zhihu answer.

Zhihu’s display weight in Baidu search is at the highest level (10) – it is the same weight as government websites. This means that Zhihu is not only important for the platform itself, but for any digital campaign in China.

Zhihu is an essential platform for any brand’s Chinese social media strategy. Users do not simply browse online content, but actively search, collect and interact. All of this means higher engagement rates, higher levels of brand awareness, and Chinese digital marketing that really makes a difference in buying decisions.

If you are looking for marketing opportunities in China, read our Guide to Chinese Influencer Marketing. As the world’s largest social media marketplace, learn how to differentiate your brand with the right influencers and impactful campaigns.

rocky chiplanning manager at Emerging Communicationswith editorial contribution by Michaela Zhu.