Zhihu Marketing: Easy Steps, Massive Results?

Zhihu Marketing Guide for Brands & Companies doing Business in China is a guide to help marketers and business people understand the nuances of marketing on Zhihu. The goal of this post is to share some insights into what works on Zhihu, how brands can use it effectively, and also provide examples of how different companies have used it.

1. What is Zhihu and how is it different from other Chinese Forums

For all of you out there, Zhihu is the most popular Q&A platform for people in China and is often seen as the Chinese equivalent of Quora but when you look a little deeper than the surface, you’ll see it is much more. Zhihu is highly trusted by Chinese netizens  (especially compared to one of its biggest competitors: Baidu Zhidao) and Zhihu pages are not only indexed in Baidu SERP but also Wechat search tool.

As of December 31, 2020, they had accumulated 315 million questions and answers contributed by their 43.1 million content creators with an average MAUs that increased from 56.9 to 75.7 million people in just 1 year (a 33% growth rate).

Zhihu’s monetization strategy centers around three main areas: online advertising, paid membership options, and content-commerce solutions as well as Education and eCommerce-related services. Because its monetization revolves around the content it naturally integrated into the platform’s core feature which is Q&A and perfectly integrates the organic content on the app.

1.1 Some Interesting Data about Zhihu (Q2 2021):

  • Year of launch: 2010
  • Number of users (2021): 94 million monthly active users
  • Average monthly paying members (2021): 4.7 million – representing RMB154.9 million (US$24.0 million) in revenue.
  • Advertising revenue: RMB248.3 million (US$38.5 million)- 48% increase compared to Q2 2020
  • Total Revenue: RMB638.4 million (US$98.9 million) (+144.2% from RMB261.4 million in the same period of 2020.)

Source: Zhihu Financial Report

1.2 Who are Zhihu users?

Because initially, only experts were invited to answer questions, the app has attracted a crowd of educated and knowledgeable users.

As a matter of fact, most Zhihu users have at least a Bachelors’s degree (+75%) with 1.62% having a Ph.D. These users usually live in 1st and 2nd tiers Chinese cities and are aged 18 to 35 years old. 40% of users are also older than 30.

A recent study found that 30% of Zhihu users earn more than 10,000 RMB/month. Not only are they educated but they also have purchasing power.

Zhihu has an extensive community of high-skilled individuals who are often recognized for their knowledge and abilities to educate others (which makes Zhihu Marketing ultra-efficient).

1.3 What Types of Accounts are available on Zhihu

Zhihu offers two main types of accounts, register here:

  • Personal Zhihu Users account: These accounts are an affordable and easy option particularly interesting to small-to-medium-sized businesses not in China yet. Personal accounts for private use can be set up, independently of the fact that you’re in or out of China. The main downside is there’s always a risk that your account might get deleted if it becomes too commercial so as expected content creation needs careful administration with edits made accordingly. This type of account should be used in your Zhihu Marketing Strategy.
  • Zhihu Brands/Organization account: These accounts have all of the benefits that you would want in an advertisement, but it is important to note they are only available for businesses that hold Chinese business licenses. Organization accounts can themselves be split into 4: Enterprises, Media, Government, and others.

A brand account comes with Zhihu’s commercial features but also improves visibility and certifies your account, protecting you from copycats and improving your credibility on the Q&A platform. An organization account is crucial for your Zhihu Marketing effort.

NB: Although a brand account comes with more marketing tools, we suggest that you build a series of user profiles with a personal account. Make these profiles relevant and let them animate the debate around your products/services. We call this practice undercover marketing, it is efficient, especially in a country where consumers trust their peers a lot more than official communication from brands and companies.

1.4 How to register a brand/ Organization account on Zhihu?

Find the full registration guide by Zhihu here (in Chinese)

1.4.1 List of requirements & documents needed

  • Must have a Chinese Business License
  • Provide Company data: In order to register a brand account on Zhihu, you need the following: your company’s name and operating license. As well as the name of the account operator and a copy of his/her ID.
  • Name of the account and field of activity
  • An Avatar

1.4.2 Register a Zhihu brand Account: Process

  • Registration: When registering you must use a professional e-mail address to activate your account.
  • Chose your type of account: Choose between a business, government, or another organization account.
  • Account verification: Once your account has been approved, you will get a blue badge.
  • The annual audit fee is 300 RMB.

2. Why do brands in China need Zhihu Marketing

  • Reaching out to a Niche Educated Target audience
  • SEO & Visibility Boost: Zhihu posts are very well indexed
  • Company Credibility building
  • Cost Efficient Marketing

2.1 What type of companies should invest in Zhihu Marketing?

Universities looking to market their higher degrees or executive education should consider using Zhihu marketing as a communication tool.

Organizations in B2B industries that sell highly complex solutions would also enjoy targeting this audience on the platform because they can relate better with them than others due to shared experience and expertise from working together before.

2.2 How to use Zhihu Marketing for your business?

Zhihu marketing is a great long-term promotion tool/strategy. Whether it’s posted yesterday or years ago from their archives…if it’s relevant research material then there will always be at least one Zhihu result page ranking on top of Baidu’s SERP. You can thank Zhihu’s domain authority and the quality of its content for that.

Zhihu is excellent to work on a company reputation. We said it multiple times already, Zhihu’s content is top-notch and well-trusted by netizens. Use this to your advantage. Have Zhihu content creators post about your brands, create several authority profiles on Zhihu and post undercovers about your brads, interact with Zhihu users that are asking questions about you, and on. All these actions will positively impact your online reputation in China (in the long term!)

You can use Zhihu as an effective tool for digital marketing in China because its different user features help it stands out from other platforms, making this platform a great resource for reaching potential customers that you want to engage.

Bonus: content creation and communities management on top of being long-term efficient strategy on the cheapest side (especially when compared to the paid advertising that B2B companies love to use but that is pricier and doesn’t last in time – don’t get me wrong, they are still useful)

2.2.1 What are Zhihu’s Marketing features opened to organization Accounts?

The Zhihu app offers a wide variety of information and tools to users and companies. The interface is clean and intuitive with an easy-to-navigate content library that includes recommendations from trending discussions as well as what’s hot in your specific topic area. Users also have access to the most popular roundtables or editor-recommended publications on any given subject through its thematic section

Here is a non-exhaustive list of Popular Zhihu Features

  • Zhihu Column (知乎专栏)
  • Zhihu Paid Ads
  • Zhihu Live (知乎Live)
  • Zhihu « 值乎 »
  • Zhihu Class Room
  • Zhihu Column (知乎专栏)
  • Zhihu Roundtable (知乎圆桌)
  • Zhihu « 值乎 »
  • Zhihu Bookstore (知乎书店)
  • Zhihu tip service

Although not all these features are useful for marketers, they are interesting to look at in order to understand the ecosystem of Zhihu, and how it keeps its contributors and users in a virtuous circle of engagement and quality content creation.

2.2.2 Zhihu Columns (知乎专栏):

With Zhihu Column users can post well-written and in-depth articles on the platform outside of the traditional Q&A format. Columns were launched in 2013 and are one of the oldest features of the Q&A app. They are a given for marketer that should absolutely take advantage of it.

Indeed, Zhihu columns can be used by companies to create company descriptions and communication materials that will easily be indexed in Baidu’s SERP (and Wechat search results). Keep in mind that users have a certain standard when it comes to content on Zhihu. They are looking for posters who master their topic. This type of content may not find the same success on other Chinese apps.

2.2.3 Zhihu Bookstore

Zhihu bookstore is a collection of the best answers under each category and is updated regularly. The answers are then compiled by topics and themes in an online magazine called Zhihu Weekly (知乎周刊). It is possible for brands to sponsor this magazine.

The Zhihu Bookstore is one of the major features of the Zhihu virtual university or “classroom” that offers paid content such as books, webinars, audio, and specialist interviews for instance.

2.2.4 Live-streaming on Zhihu

The live streaming service of Zhihu Live allows eligible organizations to provide presentations on topics in their field since 2016. With Zhihu Lives, streamers have a discussion with their wives (usually viewers need to pay a fee) people in real time. The live streaming session emphasis is on knowledge sharing and Q&A.

Note that speakers in Zhihu’s life are not always famous nor have high expertise.

2.2.5 Zhihu Roundtables

The main purpose of the Zhihu Roundtable feature is to gather people that are specialists in a given topic and ask them to share their insights with the audience. In this panel-like setting, famous experts can answer questions or talk at length about different topics related to their field. This roundtable is usually composed of 1 host and 3 guests.

2.2.6 Zhihu « 值乎 » Paid “Consultancy”

A service that allows answering questions by voice message. These posts can also be purchased by users if they find the content interesting. These questions can be private or public. The idea is to allow users to easily ask questions to professionals and experts on any given topic while rewarding the person answering the question.

When we said earlier the paid content was very well integrated into the Q&A concept and created engagement and more content, we were not lying, that is a perfect example.

2.2.7 Zhihu tip service

A Simple feature that allows users to reward quality content writers with real money (through a WeChat wallet). This feature encourages writers to keep up with good content, which is key to the success of the app.

2.2.8 Zhihu Native Advertising

Probably one of the most interesting features for marketers and brands out there. As mentioned at the beginning of the article the advertising revenue of Zhihu has recorded a nearly 50% growth between June 2020 & June 2021. More and more brands are seeing the potential of the app to reach out to its well-educated and wealthy community. So let’s have a look at the native ads you’ll encounter on Zhihu!

Online Paid advertising in China - zhihu marketing

Zhihu Marketing: Types of Native Ads

  • Open-screen ads
  • Pop-up ads on the main page
  • Banner ads on the main page
  • Trending topics text/card ads
  • News Feed banner/video ads – usually the third spot in the user’s news feed
  • Ads on the page of chosen question/answer

Read more about Native Ads and Paid advertising in China

2.2.9 Zhihu Marketing “Easy” Mode with Q&A

Q&A campaigns are a great way to make your brand gain visibility on Zhihu. Once your account is created, you can customize it, explain what you do, and give an introduction to your company. They start asking and answering questions to aliment conversation about your brand. Not only answer questions about your company but also about your industry.

It is also a simple way to introduce yourself as an expert in your industry and to make your company feel more accessible to users. Especially if you play the game and make use of the tool we talked about above such as the Zhihu Tips.

Playing with Q&A is exactly what Audi has been doing on Zhihu as we will see right now.

2.3 Examples of successful Zhihu marketing campaigns 

Audi: interaction with Zhihu Users through Q&A

Audi has been running a series of successful Zhihu Marketing “campaigns”. Although the group has not posted much since they open their account on the app, most of their questions & answers got 100 thousand reads. For instance with their answer to the question “Why is Audi a light factory?” the input tone was professional while also having some humor thrown in – not only did they pose themselves as experts but “fun” brands too. The brand took the occasion to talk about its craftsmanship and innovative technologies.

Audi Zhihu Marketing

Doctor Lilac (dingxiang): Sets in Stone it status of Health Specialist

Dingxiang is a medical knowledge-sharing website. The website received a US$70 million investment from Tencent on September 2, 2014.

The website is a comprehensive resource for healthcare professionals to keep up with the latest news in their field. They publish reports, conference proceedings and professional materials that are tailored towards physicians’ continuing education needs as well as Biomart (a platform dedicated specifically toward biomedical e-commerce) JobMD which provides tools people need when searching for jobs or applying them through a headhunter service called DXY Survey Market Research related services can be found here too!

By providing comprehensive answers and knowledge on the medical field to Zhihu users, this account was awarded a Zhihu Medal on the topic, increasing its visibility tenfold as well as its followers base. So much so that the account was for a moment the biggest account right behind Zhihu’s Official account.

Zhihu Marketing Guide Conclusion

The strength of Zhihu is the quality of its users generated content as well as the high engagement of its well-educated user base. For companies, there is a unique opportunity to create a proximity relationship with their target audience while introducing themselves as true experts in their industry/domain of expertise. The other real benefit of Zhihu Marketing is the possibility it gives companies to promote themselves “undercover”, fuelling discussion about them which in return will increase brand awareness and visibility in a truly cost-efficient way.

Want to get started with Zhihu Marketing?

gma - DIgital Marketing Agency China

Contact us today, and let’s schedule a phone call to discuss your marketing need in China and how you can incorporate Zhihu marketing into your China Communication Strategy.

Find out about our Zhihu Marketing Solution

Read as well: Guide to Social Media in China & Guide to Douban Marketing

1 comment

  • I would add that Zhihu is the perfect tool for online reputation building in China because It helps to have a credible profile, but more importantly it’s about how you interact with other people on the site, respond to their questions and write positively about things that interest you.

    Being active on the platform really pays off when it comes to getting discovered by niche Chinese consumers groups.
    As seen in this post Zhihu has an advertising system in which Brand Partnerships are specifically targeted so there is no big risk of being bombarded by irrelevant ads here for consumers – if your qualifications match what they want they will call you up personally.

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