Want to reach an affluent user base in China, but unsure how?
Advertising on Zhihu — one of China’s biggest, yet most overlooked, online channels — should be at the top of your list.
But what is it, exactly?
And how can international businesses get started on building a Zhihu marketing strategy?
Let’s take a closer look.
What is Zhihu?
Launched in January 2011, Zhihu — which translates to “do you know?” in English — is China’s leading question-and-answer website with over 420 million registered users.
Think of it as China’s answer to Quora, only with more features.
Who uses Zhihu?
Here’s what you need to know about Zhihu’s user base:
- 56% are male
- 48% are from first-tier cities
- 98% are over the age of 18 years old
- 80% hold bachelor’s degrees or above
- 76% earn more than 10,000 RMB a month
- The average user spends 70 minutes a day on Zhihu
The bottom line is that Zhihu users are professional, educated, affluent, and dedicated to the platform — all of which are very attractive qualities for marketers.
What are the core features and elements of Zhihu?
Before we get into the ins and outs of marketing on Zhihu, here’s a quick breakdown of the site’s core features…
Functions and interfaces
Zhihu has three interfaces:
- Homepage: which includes the ‘Recommended’, ‘Following’ and ‘Trending’ tabs
- Discover: which features popular content, like editor recommendations, hot discussions, and roundtables
- Topic: which displays popular content from specific topics a user follows, like technology, design or fashion
Think of each page as a customized feed of specific content tailored to a user’s unique interests and on-site behavior.
Each user on Zhihu has their own profile, which details their interests and verified expertise.
Profiles also display a user’s post history, badges (like “excellent answerer”), and “salt value” (a score between 0-1000, which rates a user’s overall contribution to Zhihu).
Zhihu University gives users access to a wide range of features that go beyond just Q&As, such as:
- Zhihu Weekly: an e-magazine published by Zhihu that brings together the best articles and answers posted to Zhihu in a given week
- Zhihu Bookstore: where users can download thousands of ebooks and audiobooks written by experts in their fields
- Zhihu Live: where users can watch live seminars on topics they’re interested in
- Zhihu Courses: which allows users to download educational courses
Zhihu Column gives users access to ‘columns’ posted by approved users. Think of them as mini-blogs on specific topics, like economics, travel and technology. These can be really powerful marketing tools, which we’ll explore a little later.
Zhihu vs. Quora — how do they compare?
At a basic level, Zhihu and Quora are very similar. They’re both Q&A sites, and both value quality content. That said, there are a few important differences to be aware of.
Reach and scope
First and foremost, while Quora is an international platform, Zhihu is for China only. This is reflected in the type of content posted, as well as in language use.
Zhihu is far more regulated than Quora. There are extra restrictions around what can and can’t be posted, and content is constantly monitored for any breaches.
Compared with Quora, Zhihu is more advanced and offers users a far wider range of features. Quora, on the other hand, is still primarily a Q&A site and hasn’t yet evolved in the same way as Zhihu.
What kind of businesses should invest in Zhihu marketing?
Any business looking to target educated professionals with a higher disposable income in China should advertise on Zhihu.
That said, some brands will benefit from Zhihu marketing more than others.
Those in the B2B, IT or professional services industries, for example, would be best-placed to increase brand awareness by providing genuine value to users on the platform.
Fashion and beauty brands, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t have the same success — unless they’re targeting a professional market, specifically.
How to open an account on Zhihu as a foreign business
If you want to advertise on Zhihu, you’ll ideally want to open a Zhihu business account. These are official brand accounts that are verified and trusted by users.
Unfortunately, however, business accounts can only be opened by businesses that are registered in Mainland China.
If that’s your business, read on for a step-by-step breakdown of how to open an official account. If it isn’t, skip to the next section for an alternative approach.
Step 1: Email registration
Head over to Zhihu sign up page and fill in your email address, choose a password, and complete the CAPTCHA code. Then, click “Register”/“Registration Agency Number”.
Step 2: Choose your business category
You’ll then be asked to confirm a business category. You can choose from:
- Business organization: for most businesses
- Government and public institution: such as government agencies
- Other institutions: for charities and nonprofits
Step 3: Provide business information
In this step, you’ll need to submit your business’s full name. You’ll also be asked to provide photocopies of your certificate of incorporation.
Step 4: Provide administrator information
Next, it’s time to designate an account administrator. To do that, you’ll need to provide…
- Their full name
- Their ID number (or a valid passport number)
- A picture of them holding their photo ID
- A photocopy of the photo ID
Step 5: Provide account details
To set up your account, you’ll need to:
- Choose your industry from the drop-down menu
- Confirm your account name (which should be your brand name)
- Submit an account avatar (which should be your brand logo)
Step 6: Verify your account
To unlock the benefits of a Zhihu business account — including a verified tick — you’ll need to verify it. Here’s what’s involved:
Apply for verification
You can do this by logging into your business account and clicking here. Then, all you need to do is confirm the details submitted in the previous steps. Simple!
Pay the verification fee
Once you’ve confirmed your details, you’ll then be asked to pay a verification fee of 300 CNY/year, which is approximately $47 USD.
How to register on Zhihu as a business outside Mainland China
If you are a business outside mainland China, you can still open a personal Zhihu account as an individual, which you can use as an ambassador account for your business.
To start the registration process, click here and enter your mobile number.
Then, click “Get verification code”, enter it, and click “Register”.
Then, you’ll need to create a username and password.
Confirm those details and your account is ready to go.
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How to advertise on Zhihu
Zhihu is great for promoting your brand organically with native content. But if you want to secure quicker traction, paid for ads could be a better option.
Zhihu offers two main ad types:
1. Newsfeed ads
These ads appear in a user’s personal feed on Zhihu. You can choose from:
- Open-screen ads
- Pop-up ads on the main page
- Banner ads on the main page
- Trending topics text/card ads
- Banner/video ads
- Ads on a specific question/answer
- Search results ads (for a specific keyword)
- Trending ads (appear in trending searches tab)
You can target these ads to users based on their gender, age, location, occupation, interests, on-site behavior and more.
2. Zhi+ ads
Zhi+ is an advertising feature that lets you boost your Zhihu answers (or ads) to a relevant audience looking at specific content on Zhihu.
You can do this with:
- Next answer ads: which is when your promoted answer is automatically shown to a user as the second answer to a related question.
- Content divider ads: this is when your ad (with an internal or external CTA) is inserted into either your content or the content of another account.
You can also combine the two and promote an answer that has additional ads inserted into it as a content divider.
How much does it cost to advertise on Zhihu?
Setting up an ad account on Zhihu is free, but you’ll need to have a minimum ad budget of at least $3,000 dollars.
Your exact CPC and CPM on Zhihu will depend on your industry, but here’s a breakdown of average costs per ad type:
- News feed ads on homepage: 0.8-1.5 CNY CPC
- News feed ads on answer-related pages: 0.35-0.6 CNY CPC
- Zhi+ next answer ads: 0.21-0.60 CNY CPC, 4.90-17.43 CNY CPM
- Zhi+ content divider ads: start from 2.60 CNY CPC right up to 135.80 CNY CPC for competitive industries
These are taken directly from Zhihu’s 2020 marketing and sales guidebook.
How to start advertising on Zhihu?
To start advertising on Zhihu, you’ll need to open two separate ad accounts: one for news feed ads and one for Zhi+ ads. These are different from official business accounts.
If this seems a bit complicated, get in touch with us. We can help you start advertising on Zhihu, without all the hassle of opening separate ad accounts.
Top tips for international brands marketing on Zhihu
How can you build a marketing strategy for Zhihu that really delivers?
1. Optimize for specific keywords
When posting content to Zhihu, try framing it around specific keywords. Why? Because Baidu — China’s biggest search engine — often ranks Zhihu results higher than actual websites.
This means that if your answers and articles on Zhihu consistently include high-potential keywords, they could generate leads and exposure via Baidu… for free!
2. Remember — content is king
Take full advantage of every channel Zhihu offers.
You should be asking questions, answering them, hosting live streams, writing columns, and more — all in a strategic and targeted way.
The more quality content you produce, the more trusted your brand becomes.
3. Work with KOLs
Zhihu is filled with popular and trusted figures in a wide range of industries. Think of them as Key Opinion Leaders.
Partner up with one in your industry — perhaps by paying them to answer one of your questions, or by running ads on their articles — and your brand could get in front of millions of users interested in your field.
4. Don’t just invest in paid ads
Paid ads are great, but Zhihu requires a long term strategy that combines both ads and organic content. The latter is where real brand awareness can be built in an authentic way that’ll pay off far better in the long term.
Need help with your Zhihu marketing strategy?
Our team of Chinese marketing experts can put you on the right track.
They can open personal, business, and ad accounts on Zhihu, as well as help you build a Zhihu marketing strategy that ticks all the right boxes.
Get in touch with us to find out more.