During theWeChat Open Class Pro on January 9, 2020, ZHANG Xiaolong, father of WeChat,announced in his speech that short content was the direction that WeChat was heading.

On January 21,Channels, the video platform on WeChat, started its alpha test. It drew extensive attention from overseas businesses, for it serves as another entranceto the Chinese market. After two months’ observation, we have summarized the following four major points for anyone who’d like to give it a try.

 

1.What is Channels?

 

The official definition of Channels is a platform for records and creation and a window to know about other people and the world. The entrance of Channels is on the Discover page of WeChat, right below Moments. Its overtness is in sharp contrast with the entrance of Time Capsules, a WeChat video function that resembles Memory on Instagram, and is proof that the official attaches great importance to it.

 

 

The interface of Channels is clear and simple. The UI with a single-column feed looks like that of Instagram. Videos automatically start playing when users swipe down to them.Below are video descriptions and users’ comments that are folded.

Users can add videos to Favorites or share them to chats and Moments as they like. It’s worth mentioning that a “Not Interested” button is set for users to see less similar videos in their feed. Thus, creators must offer quality content if they wish to obtain more traffic.

 

 

Since its alpha test, Channels has attracted many giant foreign companies. LV was the first luxury brand to have a Channels account. The first video it posted got 100,000 views in one day. In addition, Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) have also joined the alpha test. The first video of LI Ziqi, a net-celebrity, received more than 60,000 Likes and 8,000 comments. LIU Xingliang, who started as a KOL on official accounts, accumulated 20,000 fans 50 days after his Channel account was opened. More than 20 of his videos were viewed over 100,000 times.

 

 

In terms of user experience, the interface of Channels is in the middle of the spectrum where on one side is the highly immersive full-screen feed of Tik-Tok and on the otherside is the double-column feed of Kuaishou that encourages selection. Swiping on the single-column page is less immersive than Tik-Tok, but smoother than Kuaishou. It enables users to shop for videos and let manifestneed be the main driver of content consumption.

Channels recommends videos based on relevance instead of popularity, which is similar to Kuaishou. For an infant product, this recommendation algorithm encourages usersto create videos, but may let poorly-made videos show up on users’pages.

This is quite different from the algorithm of Tik-Tok that prioritizes quality. When usersopen the app, a popular video will pop up immediately. This method attracts users to stay longer in the app so as to boost activeness and retention.

 

2.Basic functions

 

1.Auto-playback

When a user enters the main interface of Channels, the video at the top will automatically start playing for 1 minute at most. Users cannot pause it, but can double-clickon the video to Like it. The Like button is also located in the bottom-rightcorner of the video. Users can also add videos to Favorites or share them tochats and Moments.

 

2.Support forboth videos and images

In addition tovideos, pictures can also be posted on Channels (up to 9 pictures each) andthey are not zoomable or savable. Neither can QR Codes in the pictures bescanned, presumably for fear of leading traffic to other platforms. Instead ofa collage pattern like that of Moments or Weibo, the pictures are presented oneat a time and users can only swipe left or right to see more.

 

3.Support forhyperlinks to official account articles

Locations, tags,and hyperlinks to official account articles can be added in the descriptions below videos. Content creators can put up the links to increase traffic totheir own official accounts.

 

3.How it helps brands gain public traffic

 

Few of WeChat’s products are designed for public traffic: articles posted on official accounts can only be read by their followers; comments can only be shown at the bottom of the articles if selected by authors; and the replies of a Moments post canonly be seen by the repliers, the person who sent the post and their mutual friends.

Channels,however, is more of a public-traffic version of Moments that is more open than Moments, but more personal than Weibo. WeChat has also added recommendation mechanism for the first time on this centralized public-traffic product.Content creators who produce the most influential content will be the mostlikely to be recommended to boost brand exposure.

In the WeChateco-system, Channels doesn’t only gain public traffic by putting videos andpictures in front of more people, but also synergizes with official accounts tooffer private traffic. Channels and official accounts are not in a zero-sumgame. The links below videos can add traffic to official accounts. Therefore,resources are shared, and official accounts could be exposed to a bigger audience and accumulate fans.

More things could be done on Channels other than leveraging the huge traffic on WeChat. It’s highly likely in the future that Channels will be connected with Mini Programs,or even live-streaming platforms. This could benefit product marketing andboost revenue, thereby bringing closed loops to operations in various industries. Owners of Channels accounts could do live-streaming as onTik-Tok, Kuaishou and Taobao.

For many companies outside China, Channels is a traffic battlefield that no one canignore. Now the platform is still in its infancy. The dividend period is particularly suitable for small-and-medium-sized companies whose budgets are limited. The pandemic has made many SMEs realize that they could easily crumble away in the face of a black swan event if without online traffic. Thus, gainingit will be the priority of all SMEs after the pandemic ends.

Traditional methods like websites, official accounts and group chats are viable options,but they take painstaking operational efforts to work well. The emergence of Channels brings a reshuffle period in public traffic, a precious opportunityfor companies to build their own traffic pools.

 

4.How to startone

 

At the moment,Channels is still in alpha test with limited access open to users in somecities. Those that could apply for an account are mostly influential KOLs that are invited, or businesses verified through official accounts. If you haven’t got the invitation, don’t worry. Scan theQR Code below and W-axis Technology can help you apply for an account through the alpha test channel. Since Channels supports corporate and institutional verification, we recommend registering by the name of your official account tounify your brand recognition. In the meantime, we can provide you with an“official account + Channels” full package of operational assistance.