WeChat and destinations – hundreds of millions of users but only thousands of views

Chinese users of WeChat are more likely to read posts from airlines and cruise companies than destinations according to new research.

Dragon Trail Interactive looked at WeChat trends and traffic during the first three months of the year and found that the best performing accounts tended to be regional. In terms of average views per post, airlines and cruise lines did significantly better than destinations.

It explained that there are two types of official WeChat accounts – service accounts which gives holders more options but are limited to four posts a month and subscription accounts which allow for daily posts.

Airlines and cruise lines favour the former as they work better for sales and promotions; destinations the latter as it allows them, theoretically, to build up an audience. The study differentiates between national tourism organisations (NTOs) and destination marketing organizations (DMOs).

Air Asia is by far the best performing airline account, although best performing is a relative term. Its weekly post contains a number of articles, and each post racked up more than 100,000 views.

But as the release notes, “of all the different social media in China, WeChat leads the way – half of its 899 million monthly users spend over 90 minutes a day on the platform….”

On this scale, 100,000 views seems modest. And Air Asia’s page views are way ahead of all of the other businesses and destinations looked at in the survey.  Destinations have been encouraged to use WeChat as a means to market to the Chinese outbound tourist, but the numbers in the survey suggest a disconnect between the hype and the hits.

Chinese outbound tourists are still, on the whole, travelling within Asia and regional NTOs and DMOs get the most attention from WeChat users – the Beijing office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Hong Kong Tourist Board topping the respective charts in terms of overall rankings.

Page views is a different story. During the period under review, Thailand’s 96 posts received an average of 6,410 views while Hong Kong averaged 5,256 from 45 posts. Australia and New Zealand outperform both, netting an average of 13,808 and 12,562 respectively.

There is a big discrepancy between the performance of European and North American destinations on WeChat based on page views.  Brand USA does well with an average of 9,290 per post; VisitBritain less so with 2,814.

The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board’s average of 1,542 falls well short of Texas Tourism’s 4,515.

So what can be done to improve the take-up? Dragon Trail notes that imagery works well, with Australia’s success attributed to pictures of animals – “one article on the different varieties of Australian kangaroos gained over 28,000 page views” the study said.

Cruise lines did well out of celebrity endorsements. Royal Caribbean was the best performing cruise line and had the most read article in that category when it announced  Taiwanese artist Lin Zhiying as its new brand ambassador. Airlines see success when using deals as a call-to-action. Air Asia’s most popular post was one advertising free flights. The Tunisian Tourist Board got more than 10,000 views when it announced visa-free travel for Chinese guests.

As with all social media marketing, there are always arguments over reach, conversion and return on investment. How much did the Italian Tourist Board spend managing its WeChat account which averaged 1,324 views from 28 posts?

This study of WeChat shows that it too will not be immune from questions over its effectiveness.

Click here to read the results in full.

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