- China’s social media network WeChat is so ubiquitous that you should have your own account if you want to work with Chinese clients.
- Connect with clients and nurture them through the buying process using the app instead of email or the phone.
- Use WeChat’s QR code feature to connect quickly with new acquaintances and capture all of their contact information.
China gets criticized in the West for banning sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google.
What is often overlooked is that the country’s homegrown internet companies are often more popular, more profitable and more innovative than their counterparts in the U.S.
While Statista reports that Twitter has 320 million users and Instagram 400 million, China’s WeChat has 697 million. Many of Facebook’s new and upcoming features — such as in-app shopping, money transfers and messenger bots — are known in the tech industry as a plan to turn Mark Zuckerberg’s company into merely a “WeChat clone.”
At first glance, WeChat is just another app for chatting, much like Facebook Messenger or Apple Messages. But, while Facebook considers itself a success if it grows the number of people who use it each month, WeChat considers itself a failure if its own users aren’t relying on the app for every aspect of their lives — including chatting, dating, shopping, arranging meetings and even exchanging all the information necessary to close a real estate transaction.
The company has built a loyal — even compulsive — userbase.
That’s why I recommend you set up your own WeChat account if you don’t have one already. To do so, you just have to download the app onto your mobile phone and follow a very simple registration process.
Once you have your WeChat account, follow these three suggestions for making the most of it.
1. Don’t turn to Rosetta Stone
Don’t worry; you don’t need to speak Chinese to use WeChat. The app’s default language in the U.S. is English.
If you are messaging with a buyer whom you don’t share a common tongue with, WeChat’s built-in translation feature will make it easier to overcome the language gap.
2. Make friends
When you are nurturing potential buyers from China who might be a few months away from purchasing, ask them to add you to as a friend on WeChat.
If they agree, that’s a good sign they are comfortable with you. It also leaves the door open for you to stay in touch with them until an eventual transaction.
If they say no, they might not be serious buyers or you did an insufficient job in your initial contact with the consumer.
3. Stay in touch
Use WeChat not just to get in touch, but also to stay in touch. Keep a Chinese holiday calendar on your desk and send best wishes at appropriate times.
The big dates to watch out for are Chinese New Year, Christmas (believe it or not) and Labor Day.
Continue to provide new and useful information every week or so. As you would for any client, make sure it is relevant to their motivations and interests, and include links to your latest listings.
Juwai.com surveys the Chinese consumers who make real estate buying requests through our platform. In the U.S., 73.4 percent of buyers are motivated at least in part by education. That means buying a home for their children to live in while studying. It could also mean, in the case of immigrants, choosing a home in a good school district.
The other key motivations are investment (16.9 percent), lifestyle and second-home ownership (15.1 percent) and immigration (12.5 percent).
If you focus on topics of relevant to these four key areas, your WeChat lead nurturing is more likely to be successful.
4. Embrace the QR Code
For most Americans, QR codes are no more than irrelevant ugly boxes, composed of squiggly lines and dots. Few of us even know how to scan one.
But in China, QR codes are both popular and useful.
WeChat has a built-in QR code reader, and everyone on the app has a unique code. This has made a quick scan with the mobile phone the default way of interacting with brands, colleagues, customers and friends.
When you meet potential clients from China, offer to let them scan your QR code. That will give them your WeChat profile, and it also generates a friend request. This is especially useful when you meet many people on a single occasion.
If you do bother to hand out printed business cards, be sure to put your QR code on them, along with your other information.
In the WeChat-era, Chinese typically make fewer phone calls and rely on email much less than is common in the U.S. WeChat is their platform of choice. You will find that it is a powerful way to build your business and make connections with Chinese buyers.
Matthew Moore is president of the Americas for Chinese international real estate website Juwai.com. You can follow him on Twitter or Linkedin.