What is Zhihu? A Marketing Guide to the largest Q&A platform in China
When you have a question, where do you find the answers? Most people turn to their friends or search on Google. However, for millions of people in China, they turn to Zhihu (知乎). Zhihu, which translates literally to “Do you know?” in classical Chinese, is a comprehensive Chinese Q&A platform where questions are posted, answered, liked and shared by its community of users.
Launched in 2011, Zhihu stands out from its competitors by providing high-quality questions and credible answers. As of 2018, it has reached 200 million registered users, with over 120 million answers on the platform it has become China’s largest knowledge sharing community. With the tagline “Discover a bigger world”, it is definitely an important source for Chinese netizens to obtain expert knowledge and insights into various topics. Since this is one of our favorite platforms for marketing in China, we’re going to take a deep dive into the platform, how it works for users, and how it can be used for marketing.
Table of Contents
What is Zhihu? An Introduction for Beginners Read Now
The 8 Basic Features of Zhihu Read Now
- Personal Profile
- Salt Value
- Zhihu Membership
- Functions and Interfaces
- Zhihu University
- Zhihu Roundtable
- Zhihu Paid Consultancy Services
- Zhihu Column
The Key Benefits of Marketing on Zhihu Read Now
How To Set Up a Zhihu Enterprise Account Read Now
5 tips to Building A Positive Brand Image on Zhihu Read Now
- Open a Zhihu Enterprise Account
- Engage the Zhihu Community
- Produce Professional Learning Materials
- Leverage KOLs to Enhance Credibility and Reach
- Use Zhihu’s Advertising Packages
2 Successful Examples of Marketing on Zhihu (Case Studies) Read Now
What is Zhihu? An Introduction for Beginners
Zhihu, similar to Quora, is a comprehensive Q&A platform for individuals to ask and answer questions. Different from “Baidu Zhidao” which focuses on quick answers, Zhihu provides more in-depth expert insights and encourages professional discussion amongst users. If you already know what Zhihu is and are here for info on how to get started marketing on Zhihu, jump to our other post on Zhihu marketing.
In the beginning, the platforms only allowed users to register for the platform through direct invitations and referrals, which helped draw high-quality users to the platform. To open up to more users, Zhihu started open registration in 2013, which shifted the focus from elite groups to the general public. Registered users can: ask and answer questions, like, save, share, report, comment on answers, or invite specific users to answer the questions. Users are able to follow and send private messages to other user accounts, making it a social media platform as well.
It is widely used by experts and professionals from various industries to share high-quality insights. Users also turn to the platform for information on a wide range of topics including culture, education, career development, sports, TV and films, politics, technology, and lifestyle.
Fueled by forward-thinking investors, In 2016, Zhihu took steps toward commercialization, allowing for the creation of “enterprise accounts”. Some foreign brands active on the platform include Audi, Siemens, and Infiniti. Zhihu is also gearing up to expand its paid content business with the launch of Zhihu University and a paid-consultancy service. It is foreseen that Zhihu will be the leader in the budding pay-for-knowledge market in China.
The 8 Basic Features of Zhihu
#1. Personal Profile
One of the reasons why Zhihu can maintain a more professional and credible image to its competitors is that users can build their personal profile. Through providing basic information such as location, education background, industry scope, and working experience, readers can determine whether or not the answers they are getting are from a credible source.
Above you can see the profile of a popular Zhihu user with more than 85k followers. The user, Steven Li introduces himself as a Financial & Risk Management Practitioner based in New Jersey. He obtained his Ph.D. at Columbia University and is a CFA and FRM charter holder. He specializes in the banking industry and is an Executive Director at J.P. Morgan. His credentials evoke an automatic sense of trust in his answers.
Spotting fake profiles
To prevent impersonation and ensure authentic information sharing, Zhihu introduced a rather complicated identity authentication system for its users. This process requires that users submit relevant documents for verification, thus eliminating the creation of fake profiles. Through submitting this information users users can be rewarded with titles and badges in the “Recognition and Achievement” section of their profile. Some of these titles include “Excellent Answerer”, “Recommended By Editor,” and “Popular Provider.”
“Badges” are a rather new recognition mechanism enforced by Zhihu, it aims at encouraging interactions among the community’s users. Examples of badges include “Active user”, which recognizes users who go online every day, while the “Sociable Person” badge is given to people who have followed a large number of users. It rewards the users who have contributed informational content in their fields of expertise with an orange badge.
For those who can read Chinese, please find the details of the available badges here.
Zhihu promotes quality answers by rewarding users with the title of “Excellent Answerer”. Users are identified through an algorithm based on the amount of “Like”, “Dislike”, “Agree” they get from their answers. For example, Steven Li is recognized as an “Excellent Answerer” in Finance. Other fields include mathematics, economics, and travel, etc.
The “Popular Provider” badge is based on the actual interaction data of the user, which includes the number of “Likes”, “Thanks”, “Bookmark”, and “Professional Recognitions” the user receives on their answers. “Professional Recognition” is a newly launched feature, which only authorized users can provide. Approved answers are given a golden badge, and each one a user receives is listed in the “Recognition and Achievement” section of their profiles.
Another badge is given by Zhihu’s editors, The “Recommended by editor” badge. These badges are given out manually by a team of editors at Zhihu. These editors sort out quality answers based on popularity, the number of likes and the overall professionalism of the answer. Other related data include the number of times the user’s answers are included in Zhuhu’s roundtables and on the Zhihu daily (a newsfeed-like feature).
The verification and badge system on Zhihu helps users to identify professional users and high-quality answers, thus shortening their search time and reducing the chance of receiving false information. All of this serves to incentivize users and fosters an atmosphere of quality information sharing.
#2. Salt Value
Another interesting social feature introduced by Zhihu is Zhihu credit, otherwise known as “Salt value”, a user credit system designed to incentivize good behavior.
Established in 2018, Zhihu Credit is a standard feature for all users with the aim of “helping our users live, grow, and build their influence with their professional expertise and insight”, according to Dayun Sun, community management director of Zhihu. The system is made up of ratings in five categories, each evaluating a specific aspect of Zhihu user behavior, users receive a score between 0 – 1000, calculated with different algorithms and usage data in the five aspects.
- Credibility: This dimension relates to the basic profile of the Zhihu user, essentially their resume. This includes educational degrees, work experience, and any other qualifications that the user may have. For many users, this score can be improved by simply filling out a more detailed user profile to fully include all areas of professional and academic expertise, to indicate areas where each user may have higher credibility.
- Content Creation: A Zhihu user’s score in this dimension is determined by the quantity and quality of the content they create on the platform. This primarily consists of four activities: Asking questions, answering questions, publishing articles, and posting on Zhihu’s Xiangfa (“想法”) channel, a function similar to a Twitter feed, or WeChat Moments.
- Friendliness: This dimension refers to the level of civility with which a Zhihu user interacts with other members of the community. This does not necessarily refer to rules, or terms of service infractions, but one’s reputation for interacting with others in a respectful and polite way. In other words, a user may still be complying with the platform’s rules, but if they are seen by other users to be rude or mean-spirited, their score in this dimension may still suffer.\
- Community Behavior: While the “friendly interaction” dimension applies more to informal courtesy, “community behavior” refers more to compliance with the official terms of service on the platform. Infractions that can damage a user’s score in this dimension range from libel, plagiarism, threatening and harassing other users, to posting inappropriate or illegal content.
- Community-Building: This dimension refers to the degree to which a user contributes to the monitoring and curation of the content on the platform. Users can increase their score in this dimension by productively up-voting and down-voting answers to questions, editing content, and reporting on other Zhihu users in a way that is accurate. By measuring this dimension, Zhihu is able to incentivize its community members to essentially self-governing the platform.
Different credit scores do not only reflect users’ involvement in the community, but also affect the users’ privileges and rights. Users with a high salt score are granted extra rights to administer the community and access to more advanced community services. It is possible for users with a low score to be deprived of the right to comment and have their content shown to fewer people through Zhihu’s recommendation algorithm.
Currently, Zhihu opened up 4 features for users with a high salt score including: “The Green Channel”, “Public Editing”, “Weighted Opposition” and “Expedited Service” according to users’ credit score. For example, users who are in the “Green Channel”, users with a score above 600, can have their content audited with a higher priority, over 700, the content and advertisements that they report as spam will be reviewed faster. If they reach 750, they will enjoy faster customer service.
#3. Zhihu Membership
Zhihu also has two types of paid membership, “The Reading Club Membership” and “The Salt-Elected Membership”. For those who focus on acquiring knowledge, “The Reading Club Membership” is more suitable as it simply provides access to Zhihu’s online books, live-streams, and webinars while “The Salt-Elected Membership” includes more social benefits.
Reading Club Membership (¥188/year)
- 600+ guided reading podcasts
- 100+ reading podcasts guided by excellent answerers and experts
- 10k+ electronic books
- 600+ Zhihu weekly publications
- 12 designated live streamings
Salt-elected membership (¥19/month, ¥53/quarter, ¥198/year)
- 3500+ Zhihu lectures, courses, live streamings
- 600+ reading podcasts
- 10000+ electronic books
- 300+ magazines
- Keyword Alerts
- Exclusive Customer care
- Exclusive emojis for members
- The Ability to Pin Posts on top of Personal Homepage
- Comment with pictures
- Name card decorations for feeds
- Membership badge to highlight member status
- Narrower name changing time gap (From 180 days to 60 days)
#4. Functions and Interfaces
The interface of Zhihu’s website is clear and simply includes “The Main Page”, “Discover” and “Topic.”
The main page is divided into “Recommended”, “Following” and “Trending List”:
- “Recommended” uses a recommendation algorithm to create a customized page (questions and answers) based on popularity, users’ browse and search history.
- “Following” displays the feeds posted by the accounts you follow. If you have not followed any accounts, the system would introduce some accounts based on your interest/browse history.
- “Trending List” showcases the 50 most popular discussions on the platform sequentially, so that users can always get the most updated information easily.
“Discover” covers everything popular on the platform:
- “Recommended by Editor” – hot Q&A questions selected by Zhihu’s editors.
- “Hot discussions of the day” and “Hot discussions of the month” – popular discussions within different time frames.
- “Hot Round Tables”, “Hot Topics” and “Hot Collections” – helps viewers conveniently discover trending content on the platform
“Topic” displays popular discussions for the topics that you follow. For example, I follow “Lifestyle” and “Food Safety” thus on the topic page, I can find discussions within these fields.
Users can also post long passages and “XiangFa”(想法), short messages similar to Twitter’s Tweets. All the published content is showcased on the users’ personal homepage.
Answers are ordered sequentially based on quality and popularity (the best answer will be pinned at the top for ease of reading). As shown in the screenshot below, the question “How to meet new friends when I am in a relationship?” is displayed at the top of the page. At the bottom, you can see that the question has around 7,000 followers and over 900k views! Users can interact with the post by following, sharing, reporting, answering themselves, thanking the answerer, or inviting another user to answer the question.
#5. Zhihu University
Zhihu University offers a wider range of paid knowledge services, such as online courses, audio books, and training camps. The content spans general knowledge, professional knowledge and topics related to people’s interests and hobbies. With more than 5,000 content producers, the platform provides a total of over 15,000 paid knowledge products to more than 6 million paid users.
One of the main features of the virtual university is the Zhihu Bookstore, it provides a wide range of electronic books with diverse topics. Zhihu also publishes its own series of publications, “The Zhihu Weekly Magazine”, “1-hour E-Books” and “The Zhihu Salt-Selection”, which incorporate quality answers and invite excellent answerers to share their opinions on specific topics. Audiobooks are also provided where professionals guide readers through their books.
Zhihu Live and Courses
Zhihu Live is an interactive live streaming session emphasizing “Real-time knowledge sharing and Q&A”. Speakers (not necessarily high-profile professionals) would share knowledge, opinions or experience of their areas of expertise which users pay a small fee to join. Participants can ask questions and get answers from the speaker immediately, which facilitates effective learning and spread of knowledge.
Zhihu Courses is similar yet it isn’t in real-time and is generally composed by more professional speakers.
For example, the Zhihu user XiXi is a Ph.D.student from Harvard University talks about how to prepare for the IELTS exam in her live stream and shares how she improved her IELTS score from 6 to 8.5 marks. The course costs only ¥9.99, making it very affordable for the average Chinese user.
#6. Zhihu Roundtable
Zhihu Roundtable events allow traditional panel talks to be held online like a webinar. In each roundtable session, Zhihu invites 1 host and 4 guests reputable in their respective industries to share insightful ideas with the audience. Similar to traditional offline panel talks, audiences can also raise questions for specific guests or comment on the guests’ answers.
#7. Zhihu Paid-Consultancy Services
Professionals can earn extra income on the platform by providing paid knowledge for consulting services. A similar feature has been launched on multiple platforms, such as the paid health consultancy on Weibo. However, the Zhihu paid consultancy services are very popular as they cover a wide range of topics.
Zhihu users can choose to pay to consult with specific users (users with salt-value above 500 can register as a consultant) either publicly or privately, and consultants can answer their questions with voice recordings. For public questions, your question will be viewable by other users, and other users can pay a smaller fee to listen to the answer as well. (The question asker is entitled to 50% of the proceeds from other listeners.) After your question is answered, you can pay an extra amount for follow-up questions.
To ensure timely and efficient replies, Zhihu enforces strict rules that if the question is not answered within 72 hours or the answer is not satisfactory, askers can get their money back.
For instance, consultant Steve Shi is a psychologist who graduated from The University of Toronto. He has answered a total of 1000 questions and has received over 220k likes and more than 70k thanks. To ask Steve a question, you have to pay ¥99 as the consultation fee or listen to others’ public questions and answers for a small fee of ¥1.
#8. Zhihu Column
Apart from Q&A questions, Zhihu also encourages its users to write long articles for more detailed information sharing. To make it more organized, Zhihu launched Zhihu Column for those who want to create in-depth content continuously about a specific topic. This is similar to having a publication on The Medium
For those who would like to own a column, they should submit an application to Zhihu and wait for approval (3 working days). The column must be about a specific topic, Zhihu accepts topics such as Economics, Finance, Internet, Technology, Science, Psychology, Travel, Household, Vehicle, etc. However, it DOES NOT accept topics about Love, Relationships, Entertainment, and Gossip, Politics and Social Issues, Astrology, Investment Sharing, or Health Consulting.
To apply for a column successfully, applicants should state all their relevant experience about the topics they apply for (educational background, working experience, certificates, etc.) in their application.
The Key Benefits of Marketing on Zhihu
Zhihu is a powerful marketing tool. The platform sees a large number of educated users gathering to communicate and socialize, posing a great opportunity for brands to target a unique audience.
1) A Highly Educated User Base
Zhihu is popular among highly educated people. According to research, 80% of registered users have a bachelor’s degree or above and 20% of users have overseas educational experience. According to CNNIC’s report, the majority of Chinese internet users have a salary range of 2,000 RMB to 5,000 RMB; while only 6% reach 8,000 RMB. However, on Zhihu, 76% of users have what is considered a high income, with 30% of Zhihu users making more than 10,000 RMB per month, which is much higher than the average internet users’ salary level.
Therefore, we can conclude that Zhihu’s user base is composed of users with high income, high consumption power, and strong educational backgrounds, who are capable of discussing more high-level, technical, and premium topics.
Zhihu has a predominantly more mature user base with around 80% of them being older than 25. This makes the platform ideal for brands which would like to target a sophisticated, more affluent population. Regarding geographical distribution, most of the Zhihu users are from first-tier cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Chengdu etc.)
Unlike social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat, which users mainly use want to connect with friends and families, Zhihu users have clear goals that, 70.6% of users want to use Zhihu to improve themselves and acquire more knowledge. Additionally, 65.5% of them are using Zhihu to search and ask questions relevant to their professional fields. We can see that on Zhihu, professionalism and self-improvement are highly sought after and valued.
2) Raise Brand Awareness through Q&A discussions
According to research, Zhihu’s registered users has surpassed 200 million. Wondering how many people visit Zhihu daily? On an average day Zhihu sees over 26 million daily visits. which means that it is widely used by China’s netizens. It makes Zhihu an ideal platform for promoting your brand to a large number of educated and well-off users.
As an example of one company that used Zhihu to raise brand awareness, let’s take a look at “The Invisible Guardian.” “The Invisible Guardian” is a role-playing game launched by New One Studio in 2019. It was listed as a Zhihu topic and many users have since been discussing this new game on Zhihu with questions like:
- “What do you think about the characters of The Invisible Guardian?”;
- “Which female character in The Invisible Guardian do you like the most?”; and
- “What are the sentences or quotes that have impressed you in The Invisible Guardian?”
These questions sparked active discussions on the platform, which helped to promote the game indirectly and raise brand awareness.
Among them, the leading actress of the game, Evan Tin, even answered users’ questions in person with a verified account, which received 4330 likes and more than 474 replies. The topic itself garnered 7,559 followers and 280 questions were raised, with 88% of Zhihu users recommending the game.
This example shows that Zhihu is a powerful platform for raising brand visibility or promoting a new product, given the significant number of users and the “Q&A” nature of the platform. Zhihu’s recommendation algorithm further helps brands to reach their targeted audiences. It bases its recommendations off of a user’s profile, questions, concerns, likes, and search history and uses this to assign them to suggest different questions and types of content. For “The Invisible Guardian”, questions and discussions about the game would be shown to those who have liked or subscribed to topics about games.
3) Build Trust Through 3rd-Party Mentions
Since most of the users are well-educated, being mentioned on the platform can help your brand establish trust and go viral through word-of-mouth across the community.
For example, a Zhihu user asked for recommendations for durable suitcase brands, which attracted 273 replies. Among them, the most popular answer suggested The Samsonite – Raydien DB3, and explained why this model is the best by posting its pictures, listing out its materials, wheels, weight, interior size, and experience with the product.
“This suitcase has accompanied me to many places already. The most memorable experience was once when I went on a business trip to the U.S.A. At 11 pm at night, I stumbled, missed my step and dropped my luggage down a staircase. I was frightened as I had my laptop with important documents inside. Luckily the Raydien DB3 is really durable, my laptop was safe and sound, and the suitcase was almost undamaged except a small and shallow mark at the corner.”
With more than 8 million viewers, the post helped the mentioned brand, Samsonite, to establish trust and spread word-of-mouth mentions among a large amount of Zhihu users.
Weibo and Wechat are good at creating viral messages that can generate a craze within a short period of time, where marketers can see a dramatic increase in the number of followers in a single day. However, what comes quick vanishes quick. Unlike those advertising campaigns, posting content on Zhihu takes a longer time to gain momentum. Still, Zhihu’s voting mechanism enables good content to last (the best comment remains pinned at the top). Once you create high-value organic content on Zhihu, you not only achieve likes and shares but you can create a long-lasting branding effect that can convert new customers for as long as it stays pinned on top. This is also important for search engines which we’ll go into greater detail on in the next section.
We can conclude that Zhihu is an incredibly powerful tool for soft-selling and influencing long-term buying decisions, as many users come to the platform for in-depth reviews and analysis when they need to make a purchase decision. The public is more likely to trust messages delivered by other common users, as it is considered to be fair and unbiased. If your brand is recommended by an industry expert, it would make the mention even more credible and persuasive.
4) High Authority on Search Engines
Zhihu has an extremely high ranking on many mainstream search engines, such as Baidu, Sogou, 360.com. It’s Baidu domain authority is 8/10, while for 360 search it is a 9/10. This is almost the same, or even higher than many major news websites, such as Sina and iFeng. This shows that the content on Zhihu is deemed trustworthy by major search engines and makes it easier for content on the platform to rank high in search results.
According to research, a large proportion of users arrive at Zhihu from organic search on search engines, proving Zhihu is an effective way to improve your search engine visibility.
Apart from external search, internal searches on Zhihu are also valuable according to the founder and CEO of Zhihu, Zhou Yuan, daily searches on the site have reached 60 million. If your brand is posted or mentioned on Zhihu boost online visibility among China consumers. Given the number of users that come to Zhihu directly this also means that many users come to the platform with the intent to search or find new content.
How to Register For Enterprise Accounts on Zhihu
Apart from personal accounts, in 2016, Zhihu started inviting institutions to open accounts on the platform, such as government organizations, media outlets, enterprises, non-profit organizations, and research institutes. By the end of 2017, there was around 3,000 institution accounts opened on the platform.
An institution account is Free of Charge and enjoys similar features to the personal account, which include asking questions, answering questions, publishing articles, and participating in social interactions, such as commenting on answers, inviting specific users to answer the questions, giving likes, dislikes, report, etc.
Since Zhihu has been able to thrive due to the trust its users place in the platform, Zhihu has a very strict and thorough verification process to ensure misinformation and advertisements cannot negatively affect the user experience.
To open an enterprise account, visit here and follow the steps below:
1) Register a new account
Use a company email for registration and activate your account.
2) Choose account type – Enterprise, Government Authority, Others
3) Fill in Company information
Basic Documents needed
- Enterprise Name (same with Business License)
- Business License (with picture uploaded)
- Operator name
- Operator’s ID number
- Operator’s mobile number (SMS verification required)
- Account Name
- Account Icon
For more information, please visit here (if you know Chinese) or get in touch with our team.
Given that there are a large number of users on the platform, Zhihu implemented an account authentication policy (education background, career, certificates etc.) to avoid impersonation and ensure authentic information sharing. It is extremely beneficial to both individuals and organizations to get your accounts verified to help the Zhihu community differentiate you from any fake accounts. This improves the credibility of your words and fosters effective communication, which in turn helps you to build trust and reputation among your followers.
Approved accounts are given a blue badge, which would be shown with verification title on users’ profile page, answering pages and search results.
For enterprise account verifications, Zhihu accepts educational and research institutions, NGOs, government authorities, media, and businesses, etc. An authenticated account is more advanced than a simple enterprise account as they enjoy extra benefits such as copyright protection, data analytics, more customized services for Zhihu advertising and “Salt-value” privileges.
The information needed for enterprise authentication is almost the same as that provided when opening an organization account. Still, applicants from specific industries need to hand in extra industry qualification documents. For example, a company selling dietary supplements should provide either a “Domestic Health Supplements Approval Certificate” or an “Imported Health Supplements Approval Certificate”. Currently, Zhihu supports 381 types of verification, including manufacturing, entertainment and media, health and medicine, education, finance, IT technology, science, and public figures. The annual application fee for verification is RMB ¥300, Authenticated parties must renew their authentication and pay the RMB ¥300 fee yearly.
5 tips to Building A Positive Brand Image on Zhihu
So excited to get started using Zhihu for marketing but have no idea where to start? Let’s take a look at how your brand can incorporate Zhihu as part of your digital marketing strategy in China!
1) Open a Zhihu Enterprise Account
Companies can open an authenticated enterprise account to kickstart their marketing journey on Zhihu. For example, Audi AG has a verified account on Zhihu and has been very active on the platform.
From Audi’s profile, we can see some basic information about the brand, including its industry, brief introduction, and a link to its official website. It is an “excellent answerer” in the topic of Automobile, and has attracted more than 100k followers.
Building a professional profile is an essential first step to establishing your brand to serve as a base of your ongoing marketing efforts on Zhihu. It allows you to interact and communicate with users, or even act as an industry representative to provide useful answers to questions on the platform.
2) Engage The Zhihu Community
The second step would be reaching out to other Zhihu users through community interactions like asking questions or posting answers. This helps with enhancing credibility and delivering a professional brand image by providing high-quality content.
Answering questions might seem simple, but it must be carefully dealt with on Zhihu. Brands should choose questions that they’re target customers are likely facing and ensure that they have enough knowledge to provide a complete and thorough answer before posting. As a rule of thumb, you should choose questions that are
- Directly relevant to your company and brand; or
- Related to your company’s industry and expertise.
Audi replied to several questions directly related to their companies’ car models. For example, for the question “How should we comment on the Audi A7?”, Audi gave a thorough answer explaining not only the functionality and high-tech features of the new car model but also a brief description of the history of The Audi A7’s predecessors, which received 115 likes and 35 comments.
Apart from directly related questions, Audi also replied to questions such as “What are the common conceptual mistakes of driving safely in the snow?”, and listed out some points worth noticing for drivers. These type of answers may not directly helpful to your brand’s sales, as there is not any technical knowledge about the products. However, by sharing useful safety tips Audi can pose itself as a caring and helpful brand by addressing community concerns.
When answering questions, do it in a professional manner. Add some supporting materials (graphs, pictures, and videos) to make the answer clear and credible. Do a careful fact check to ensure that your answer is correct as your brand reputation would be critically harmed if viewers find that you are spreading false information.
Do not try to hard-sell your products as Zhihu is a knowledge sharing platform, NOT a sales platform, so being too pushy may trigger hostility among users.
Lastly, answer questions that are related to your profession, do not attempt to answer unrelated questions in the name of your company just to raise your profile as it may indeed bring adverse effect and harm your brand image.
Asking questions also requires some techniques, and we suggest that brands can start with questions that are:
- Related to your brand and industry;
- Do not require difficult technical knowledge; and
- Interesting, up-to-date.
Audi has raised an excellent question by asking its audiences “Put aside real-life considerations, where would you want to go if you bought a new car?”. It is easily understood as it does not require technical knowledge about cars. It triggered the audiences’ imagination and increases purchase intention by making them think about their lives with a brand new car. The question attracted 356 followers and was viewed more than 500k times.
A clever question Audi posed was: “What are the Audi ads that impress you?” By asking audiences to recall Audi’s advertisements, it reminds audiences about the trendiness and selling points of the vehicles, as shown in the ads. In addition to the marketing effect, Audi was able to garner valuable feedback on what works in its advertising to improve its future marketing campaigns.
Publishing Articles and Feeds
Publishing articles is mainly done by more advanced Zhihu users, who want to target readers looking for more in-depth and detailed knowledge. Writers can take the initiative to decide what topics they would like to share (social issues, career insights, etc.), thus allowing a bit more flexibility compared to answering other users’ questions. Audi has so far published 31 passages, which are about the launch of its new car model, annual review of the brand or details about its advertising campaigns.
To promote the new car model A6L, Audi published a Zhihu passage to recruit 20 Zhihu fans to be the test drivers of the new car. Interested parties filled out a questionnaire allowing Audi to select suitable candidates based on their personal qualities. The 20 selected submitted a test report after the 7-day trial. Publishing such a campaign through an article was effective as most of the readers are loyal fans of the brand.
If you want to focus on more specialized knowledge, brands can set up a Zhihu column to organize their content more efficiently and attract specific followers. Audi owned 2 columns “Audi says” and “Audi Moment”, the latter one is co-organized by both Audi official and other writers. Interested parties can contribute content to the column by sending your piece of work to the column’s editor.
Publishing “XiangFa” (想法), or feeds, is also a powerful tool to deliver short messages to followers. Compared to Q&A, writers can again enjoy more flexibility on the content. Short messages are reader-friendly and require less preparation time, and are mostly used for official announcements and sharing corporate videos and photos.
3) Produce professional learning materials
As mentioned before, most Zhihu users want to improve themselves and acquire more knowledge through the platform. Noticing this mentality, brands can try to co-operate with Zhihu University to produce useful learning materials, such as live streaming sessions and magazines.
For example, cosmetics brands (like L’Oréal, SK-II, etc.), could compose live sessions to teach make-up beginners how to use different cosmetics correctly and demonstrate some popular make-up styles in China. They could also publish electronic magazines/books on Zhihu, introducing different cosmetics raw materials and how they are used in its products.
The U.S.-based semiconductor and telecommunications equipment firm Qualcomm sponsored an issue of the e-magazine Zhihu Weekly on The Zhihu Bookstore. In the e-magazine, which was about the development of telecommunication, Qualcomm included an article about their role in shaping 5G as a leader in the industry. It was read by more than 47,000 consumers and received a high rating, proving this approach to be successful.
Producing such materials requires time and effort, which may be considered risky as it is possible that only very few people are interested in the materials produced. Try to co-operate with famous “Excellent Answerers” on the platform to utilize their popularity as an indirect promotion.
4) Leverage KOLs to Enhance Credibility & Reach
In addition to creating your own content, you can cooperate with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) to write tailored content (questions or answers) for your brand on Zhihu. KOL campaign is very effective and popular among marketers on Zhihu.
For example, Zhihu user “Chili” (吃梨) specializes in sharing beauty and cosmetics tips. She has answered 253 questions on Zhihu and has accumulated more than 100k followers. More surprisingly, she has received more than 800k likes, and her answers were saved more than 1 million times! For the question “Are there any suggestions for make-up beginners?” (7,674 followers, more than 1 million viewership), Chili’s answer was the best with 313 likes. In her answer, apart from make-up reminders, she also mentioned some brands worth buying such as NYX and Kate.
It is important to know how to leverage the right KOLs as success depends highly on the KOL’s personal image, audience, expertise, engagement rates, and the number of followers. You should focus on working with KOLs relevant to your brand’s industry scope to achieve the best results.
5) Use Zhihu’s Advertising Packages
With such a large userbase, Zhihu has moved towards greater monetization of the platform by opening it up to advertising. The system is designed for businesses who would like to promote their brand name to Zhihu’s educated user base. Here we are going to introduce the 3 most popular types of advertising on Zhihu.
Similar to many mainstream social media platforms, Zhihu also features pop-up advertisements upon opening the app. Businesses can further add value to the advertisement by adding an “interactive function”, such as a “click here” button that direct users to a dedicated page (internal or external link).
The upon app-open display advertisement is particularly useful for catching users’ attention as it pops up immediately upon opening the app. Overall, pop-up advertisement is one of the most popular forms of advertising on Zhihu. While these are still quite rare in the Western world, as it does negatively affect the user experience, these are quite popular in China and many apps offer them.
Newsfeed advertisements are integrated within the explore page’s feed, businesses can customize the content of the promoted posts by adding special text or pictures to deliver a specific message.
Compared to pop-up advertisements, newsfeed advertisements are more detailed as businesses can insert more text and multiple pictures. Besides, it is more widely accepted by users as it is not “forcing” them to view the advertisement. To maximize their marketing efforts, brands can add more action-oriented trigger buttons to create campaigns with multiple goals, such as encouraging app downloads orinviting viewers to register for product samples.
Zhihu also provides traditional banner advertisements for businesses. It is usually shown on internal search pages, where many users would visit and probably notice the advertisement, which boosts viewership compared to newsfeed advertisement.
For those who can read Chinese, visit here for more information about Zhihu advertising.
2 successful Examples of Marketing on Zhihu (Case Studies)
Xiangpiaopiao Food Co. – KOL advertising
Xiangpiaopiao is one of the fastest-growing enterprises in China’s milk tea industry, with a presence in all of the provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions of China. The company was looking for a boost in its communication efforts prior to its IPO in Shanghai. Recognizing that those interested in IPOs and other financial matters are present on the Zhihu platform it chose to launch a marketing campaign on the platform.
To attract investors’ attention, Xiangpiaopiao launched a communication campaign on Zhihu, which began with 4 finance-related KOLs (200k – 350k followers each) creating unique articles to share with their followers. The articles were immediately followed up by 8 more KOLs sharing them to their followers. The content of the article focused on what captures the attention of high net worth investors in China.
For instance, “Thoughts on the A-listed IPO of Xiangpiaopiao Food Co.” attracted huge discussions among Chinese investors. Besides, each KOL made sure to use relevant hashtags and to engage with users who commented and reacted to the content to drive further engagement with the topics.
The results of the campaign were extraordinary with Xiangpiaopiao ranking first for popular topics like: “A-share”, “Initial Public Offering”, “Financial Analysis”, “Milk Tea”, and “Xiangpiaopiao”. The KOL articles were read more than 258k times, with 937 average likes per article. Popular investors have engaged in the topic, including Zhang Liang, the founder of Zhihu with 740,000+ followers.
Infiniti – Zhihu Live
Infiniti is the luxury vehicle division of Japanese automaker Nissan, who conducts marketing campaigns in over 50 countries. To educate the public about the functionality of an Infiniti automobile, Infiniti held a FREE live presentation on Zhihu.
During the 10-hour live streaming presentation, two “excellent answerers” in the automobile field were invited to break down a model car – Q50 Hybrid to its basic parts, explaining the functions, operation principles and technical details of different components, reassembling everything and answering questions from the audience. Through this “Vehicle Anatomical” class, the audience acquired professional knowledge of the vehicle structure and got to know more about Infiniti’s car model.
The live presentation has achieved great success, attracting more than 16,000 viewers and many favorable responses. Viewers reflected that the live session was very useful and they had learned a lot more about vehicles. Through providing a rewarding lesson to the viewers, Infiniti has not only raised its brand awareness among car lovers but also confirmed their image as a professional, high-end car manufacturer.
As a popular Q&A platform, Zhihu allows people to exchange meaningful knowledge and forms a community of mutual aid through social interactions. With such business potential, Zhihu was able to raise US$270 million in its Series-E funding in 2018. The company is now believed to have a valuation of around US$2.5 billion.
Supported by this new investment, the company is gearing up to build a national knowledge-based content platform. It plans to increase investment in content, knowledge services and commercialization, as well as artificial intelligence technologies for more personalized content.
“We are looking to build a smart community for the general public users, with AI and user-generated content at the core,” Zhou Yuan, Founder and chief executive officer of Zhihu said.
With a large amount of high-level intellectual users, Zhihu provides lucrative marketing opportunities for brands and organizations. Still, be reminded that –
- Direct sales activities are strongly disliked, and can seriously harm your brand image
- Target Zhihu for long-term results and brand building. Zhihu is not the best platform to see immediate results.
- The ability to generate useful content is a must, as Zhihu users have higher expectations for content quality and accuracy
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