In the run-up to China’s Mid-Autumn Festival, the Suzhou Museum’s mooncakes were all the rage on the country’s digital airwaves. Each year, tradition dictates that locals should consume these flavor-filled baked goods to celebrate the harvest moon, but the reason this museum’s holiday treats stood out among a cornucopia of others — aside from the cute animal faces stamped on them — was a brilliant WeChat strategy.
A clear, image-driven post described the museum’s festive offerings, which were created in collaboration with the 240-year-old local bakery Qianshengyuan, and promised to send a complementary mooncake box set to three lucky followers for posting in the comments section. The Suzhou Museum has built a reputation for its strong independent voice on social media, and so it was unsurprising when dozens of fans commented in just a matter of hours.
Although the institution’s location and cultural proximity to its audience are advantageous, there are lessons that Western museums and cultural institutions can learn from the Suzhou Museum, and creating an Official WeChat account (registered in China) is only the first step toward a long-term and dynamic relationship with followers.
Below are three ways to boost engagement and grow an audience through WeChat’s comments section:
Respond, respond, respond
Long or short, humorous or critical, every follower’s WeChat comment deserves attention. Account handlers should set aside time after posting specifically to answer user questions (47 percent of comments are made within an hour of publication.) Not only does responding to comments validate your users’ precious time, but it also increases the likelihood that people visiting your account will engage with content — something known as “Clock-In” culture in China, whereby users get into the habit of checking in on an account.
Have a personality
From digital engagement to in-house experiences, Chinese museums are challenging what it means to be a cultural hub in the 21st century. Creating a consistent tone on WeChat comments is an easy way to demonstrate your museum is a living thing run by people. Beijing’s Palace Museum is a good example of an institution whose voice online matches its reputation as the pinnacle of refined Chinese culture in the form of elegantly worded and timely responses.
As the Suzhou Museum’s Mid-Autumn Festival post showed, free giveaways are a surefire way to generate social media attention. Whether it’s offering a guided tour of your institution or gifting your latest cultural product (which is known as wenchuang in China), there are many ways to incentivize your subscribers to comment. Get creative! Not only can prizes develop a commenting culture among followers, but asking specific questions can also elicit valuable information that helps you to better understand your readership.
Reporting by Richard Whiddington