What is Zhihu? Your B2B Marketing Guide to the Chinese Quora

what is zhihu

What is Zhihu? Find out everything you need to know about the largest Q&A platform in China, and how to lift its B2B marketing potential for your business in the Middle Kingdom. From an SEO boost for your Chinese website to increased brand awareness, free market research and competitor analysis – Zhihu is a powerful B2B marketing tool in China.

In this Tenba Group article, we take a deep dive into Zhihu, the Chinese Quora, with a particular focus on marketing, branding, and research benefits for your global B2B brand.

What is Zhihu? An Introduction

In Chinese, Zhihu.com (知乎) literally means “Do you know?”. It is China’s largest Q&A platform with more than 120 million answered questions – similar to Quora in the Western world. This means that registered users can ask questions that are answered by other registered users, typically in detail and well-researched. They can like, share, report, and comment on answers, as well as invite other registered users to answer a question.

In general, Zhihu applies a positive upvote system to rate the best answers. Besides, questions and answers can also be shared. As such, the platform’s motto is to ‘share knowledge, experiences, and thoughts with the world’ and to ‘discover a bigger world.

Zhihu was launched in 2011 with funding from Tencent, Sogou, and others, and received further funding in 2019 from Kuaishou and Baidu. In April 2022, Zhihu (NYSE: ZH and HKEX: 2390) went public with an IPO of 4 USD, raising more than 106 million USD. This is a step that Quora has not taken (yet).

Find out more about investing in Chinese stocks and companies.

Zhihu vs. Quora

While both platforms may look similar, the market relevance vastly differs. In the Western world, internet users typically consult Google to answer their simple or more elaborate questions.

On the other hand, Chinese netizens often consult Zhihu due to its high reputation and educated user base. Besides, as the app offers a large variety of verification badges, e.g. as a medical doctor, the trust and authority of such an expert are valued higher compared to other platforms where basically anybody can write anything (and promote it) without verification of the content. 

Finally, Google is blocked in the Middle Kingdom, and local search engine leader Baidu (as well as Sogou, Qihoo, and WeChat in-app search) rank Zhihu questions and answers high due to its investment in the platform. 

In other words, Zhihu has significant authority on the major search engines, which is a sign of credibility, and Zhihu pages often outrank major news outlets for online searches.

Quora was created in mid-2019, just 1.5 years before its competitor. However, Zhihu is hardly a Quora copycat. Zhihu’s users make the platform an expert knowledge space on a wide range of topics including culture, education, career, sports, TV and movies, politics, technology, and lifestyle.

Overall, Zhihu has more features, including the possibility to publish content without answering a specific question, a large variety of paid content (ebooks, podcasts, etc.), as well as the encouragement of short video content and livestreaming.

FeatureZhihuQuora
High-quality user-generated contentyesyes
Ask, answer, vote, follow, and share questionsyesyes
Paid adsyesyes
Englishnoyes
Accessible in mainland Chinayesno
Website and app functionsyesyes
Trending feedyesno
Articles, moments, videosyesno
Paid knowledge content (ebooks, podcasts, consultancy, etc.)yesno

Zhihu vs. Baidu Zhidao

While Baidu Zhidao focuses on quick answers, Zhihu provides more in-depth expert insights and encourages discussion among its users.

Established in 2005, Baidu Zhidao or Baidu Knows (百度知道) is a leading Q&A platform in the Middle Kingdom by Chinese search engine leader Baidu. 

It has more than 400 million registered users with around 24 million daily visits.

Zhihu User Base

Today, Zhihu has around 5.5 million monthly active paying users. Among them are well-known Chinese entrepreneurs, public figures, and intellectuals – many of whom have verified accounts on the platform. This adds to the high reputation and popularity of the platform in the Middle Kingdom. By the end of 2021, there were more than 50 million content creators and more than 460 million content posts on Zhihu.

In general, Zhihu’s user base is

They seek high-quality, informative, and detailed content on current high-level, technical, and premium topics. As users are educated and because a large number of questions are asked and answered, Zhihu users continue to improve their knowledge and capacity, rather than just socialize as is the case on other Chinese social media platforms. 

While Zhihu initially was only accessible through referrals, it has been open to the general public since 2013. Today, Zhihu has become a super community that serves with information and knowledge. But the service goes beyond that. Zhihu also has a social media aspect and ecommerce capabilities, which makes it a valuable platform for brands.

The variety of Zhihu’s functions – from free online courses to paid consultancy services – make its core user base a very engaged community, many of whom are experts in their field.

The Credibility of Zhihu Users

As users have to register to use Zhihu, they are typically eager to fill out their personal profile with education, qualification, and experience in order to prove their credibility when answering questions. 

Their profile (and reputation) then incentivize Chinese netizens to interact in a friendly and helpful way, create content, and build a positive and knowledgeable community within the Zhihu guidelines. 

By providing helpful answers and interacting friendly, Zhihu users can gain positive scores (“Salt Value” on Zhihu), which entitles them to preferred treatment, e.g. when asking questions or contacting customer service.

The Salt Value (盐值) is a social credit feature, which is a homonym of 颜值 (literally face value), meaning attractiveness index.

Zhihu for B2B Brands

Since users are already making in-depth searches for specific topics and niches, Zhihu is a great place for B2B brands to place content marketing for their products, and interact with users. The current most popular topics include movies, IT, finance, and gaming.

Renowned international brands like Audi, Siemens, Airbnb, and Alipay are active and engaged on Zhihu. Being active on Zhihu is particularly relevant for high-end consumer products that require an explanation of their functionality and benefits.

This especially applies to the niches of sophisticated digital products, electrical appliances, baby products, and skin care that target a more affluent population. At the same time, specialty consumer services and products also gain popularity. This includes education, insurance, and medical topics.

Brands can use Zhihu for smart B2B marketing by

  • posting articles and questions (premium branded content), answering questions, posting on other profiles with a wide reach
  • creating professional learning and educational materials, e.g. webinars, video content
  • buying media/sponsored posts/leverage accounts with a big audience
  • following industry hashtags to respond quickly to trending questions with wide reach and relevance to build authority, establish opinion leadership, and acquire new customers
  • running paid ads
  • market research and product/service improvement through understanding the needs and problems of their target audience

For example, B2B brands can provide in-depth questions related to their niche or specific products and services. Make sure to include relevant keywords for your products and services.

Example Audi Business Account

This is the official and verified brand account for Audi (奥迪).

Right side

  • Audi has 146,914 followers (关注着) and follows 9 accounts (关注了)
  • the blue badge means verified, and the orange badge means industry expert, here Audi in the automobile sector (汽车) 
  • Audi received 58,785 Likes and 27 answers were saved

Top

  • Audi gave 94 answers (回答)
  • posted 69 videos (视频)
  • asked 29 questions (提问)
  • posted 82 articles (文章)
  • published 3 columns (专栏)
  • shared 62 ideas/thoughts (想法)
Audi brand account
Source: zhihu.com/org/ao-di-66-50

The Zhihu Business Model

From the beginning, Zhihu emphasized high-quality questions and professional answers, which quickly attracted a large community. The business model of Zhihu is through ads as well as its knowledge and education center. Zhihu strives to become the leader in the “pay for knowledge and education” market in China.

Besides, Zhihu regularly publishes newsletters as well as print and ebooks of aggregated knowledge on specific topics. Overall, Zhihu is in hyper-growth mode with reported revenue of 111 million USD in Q1/2022 (+55% year-on-year comparison).

Zhihu & Chinese Censorship

In the Western world, Zhihu may be perceived as relatively liberal in terms of freedom of speech and largely untouched by the censorship of the Chinese government.

However, this reputation is largely unearned. Zhihu has a small team to monitor discussions on politically sensitive topics to ensure they comply with the law.

This brings us to the end of the introduction on “What is Zhihu”. More information on the Chinese internet censorship and how to still market online.

Relevance of Zhihu for China SEO for Your B2B Brand

Whether your brand is established in the Middle Kingdom or you are entering the Chinese market, being visible on the country’s largest search engine Baidu is key to providing information to prospective customers and directing them to your business.

Answering questions on Zhihu and engaging with online users shines a positive light on your brand and also boosts your Baidu SEO and other search engine visibility. That’s because Zhihu backlinks are valuable (high authority for Chinese search engines) and generate social traffic. Besides, Zhihu users contribute to a lower overall bounce rate once directed to your website as they are interested in the informational content on your website and stay longer.

Baidu is a shareholder of Zhihu and ranks its own or (partially) owned platforms higher on its SERPs, while Sogou and Tencent (WeChat) were early investors in Zhihu. Take a deep dive into the relevance of China SEO in this article.

To sum it up, Zhihu will help with your China SEO strategy through

  • valuable high-authority backlinks
  • generating social traffic
  • lower average bounce rate of the whole website

Users value authentic and real-life answers rather than generic product descriptions, which they can also find when searching the internet. High-quality content, as everywhere, contributes to higher credibility and authority, which in turn is beneficial for the ranking algorithm on Zhihu, Baidu, Sogou, Qihoo, and WeChat.

Your brand and business website achieve higher organic search engine ranks (thanks to the authority of Zhihu backlinks) and traffic to your business website.

Compared to other platforms, Zhihu stands out with a loyal user base who actively researches information on a large variety of topics. These educated and knowledge-hungry individuals typically have a higher attention span and appreciate longer and more detailed content compared to other platforms, where short and animated or video content is often preferred.

This is also reflected in the low bounce rate on your business website (displayed on tools like Baidu Tongji for Analytics), where users that visit your website from Zhihu (e.g. from a brand post with links to your business website) typically stay longer on your website.

Based on our own experience, Zhihu is one of the best social networks in China for local and international B2B brands to not only leverage the platform itself but also generate social traffic to their respective business websites.

How to Register a Zhihu Account

Principally, there are personal and business account types on Zhihu.

Personal accounts

Registering a personal account on Zhihu requires a personal WeChat/QQ/Weibo/Taobao account or a Chinese/international phone number to receive a verification code.

It’s free of charge and the registration process is simple. Registration with just an email address is not possible. Once you’re registered, you can add your email address and link your other social accounts.

Business accounts

Registering a business account on Zhihu and verifying it (official brand account) for government organizations, media outlets, non-profit organizations, and research institutes currently cost 300 RMB (~45 USD). For the time being, you can only pay with WeChat Pay.

Keep in mind that you will need a business license to set up a business account (Chinese or international business licenses are accepted from 2021). It is not possible to transfer personal accounts into business accounts. 

Note that Zhihu currently does not accept business accounts in the following industries: finance/investment/trading, cosmetics/medical, franchise, and emotional consultancy.

Opening a Zhihu Business Account

  1. You will need an email address to register your Zhihu business account. 
  2. Choose between Business, Government/Public Institution, and Other.
  3. Fill out the following business information and upload your Chinese business license:
    1. the business name (same as on the business license), 
    2. the operator name, ID photo, and number, and mobile phone number (SIM verification)
    3. account name
    4. account icon
    5. industry
  4. Verify your account with your mainland Chinese phone number and passport copy. Add additional industry qualifications and expertise for added credibility. You will receive a blue verification badge on your account.
  5. Officially verify your business account (mandatory) to get the blue badge and enjoy extra benefits, e.g. copyright protection, data analysis, additional advertising services, and Salt Value privileges.

Paid Advertisement on Zhihu

After you have completed your business account verification, Chinese businesses can apply for ZhiPlus aka Zhi+ (知+).

To get started, you must charge your Zhi+ profile with 10,000 RMB (~1,500 USD), which can be used as Zhihu ad budget for campaigns. Cost-Per-Click (CPC) starts from 0.25 RMB (~0.04 USD) and the minimum daily budget is 300 RMB (~45 USD).

ZhiPlus allows your business to 

  • promote posts 
  • run ad campaigns
  • boost interactions with your questions and answers
  • create mini-programs that drive conversions,
  • analyze data
  • and more

Keep in mind that you need a business account to advertise with Zhi Plus, it’s not possible with a personal account and if you’re not a registered business in mainland China. If you wish to promote your personal account or international business on Zhihu, you can collaborate with an agency or business account holder to do so. Besides, there are many other free ways to lift the potential of Zhihu through B2B marketing on this platform which you will learn throughout this article so you might not need paid ads.

In case you still require assistance to run paid ads on Zhihu, please contact us. At Tenba Group, we are happy to help you with all your China marketing needs.

Zhihu Personal Accounts vs. Business Accounts

To show you that a business account is not necessarily required to leverage the potential of Zhihu for your business, let’s take a look at Thermtest Asia. This company uses a personal account, which you can also see in the URL “people”. Even though this personal account is not officially verified with the blue badge, it is sufficient to leverage SEO benefits for their website thermtestasia.cn.

They do so through backlinks from Zhihu (which has a high authority), by posting articles, and by answering industry-relevant questions. This generates social traffic at no additional extra cost.

Thermtest Asia account
Source: zhihu.com/people/hong-mei-gui-52-6

On the other hand, Tencent (a Zhihu shareholder) uses an official business account and has the blue verified badge. Here, it says “org” in the URL.

Tencent account
Source: zhihu.com/org/teng-xun-70

Next, let’s take a look at the Zhihu website, app structure, and functionalities.

Zhihu Website Structure

You can search on Zhihu.com without registering on the platform. However, to engage with the community, create, and share content, you have to register. After you have logged in on Zhihu, these are the main functionalities.

1. Top menu

The top menu guides users through the main functionalities, mainly around news on Zhihu, the account, asking, and answering questions.

  • Home (首页)
  • Education (学习)
  • Members (会员)
  • Discover (发现)
  • Waiting for Your Answers (等你来答): Zhihu suggests questions where you may be able to provide helpful information and answers
  • Search bar
  • Ask Questions (提问) – Blue Button
  • News bell
  • Inbox
  • Your account

2. Sub menu

This menu below the main menu mainly shows Zhihu trends and recommendations. 

  • Following (关注): accounts you follow
  • Recommended (推荐)
  • Trending list (热榜)
  • Videos (视频)

3. Right side/creation center (创作中心)

The creation center on the right side allows Zhihu users to become actively engaged and involved with the community.

4. Right side/learning center

This knowledge center provides a large variety of educational material on a wide range of topics.

  • Live
  • Bookstore (书店)
  • Round Table (圆桌)
  • Column (专栏)
  • Paid consultations (付费咨询)
  • Encyclopedia (百科)
Zhihu website menu
Source: zhihu.com

5. Right side/service center

This menu on the bottom right side mainly deals with the account services of Zhihu users.

  • My collection (我的收藏)
  • My followed questions (我关注的问题)
  • My invitations (我的邀请)
  • My balance (我的余额)
  • My vouchers (我的礼券)
  • Service Center (站务中心) – for complaints, ban of information
  • Help and Customer Service (帮助与客服)
  • Copyright Service Center (版权服务中心)
Zhihu website structure
Source: zhihu.com

Zhihu App Structure

First of all, you can download the Zhihu app from your Apple iOS store and Android/Google Play store. There is also a desktop app for MAC and PC.

The HOME screen of the Zhihu app has the following menu:

Zhihu app top menu

  • Ideas (想法): algorithm-based on users’ profiles, questions, concerns, likes, search history, and other parameters
  • Recommended (推存): Zhihu suggestions of other accounts you may like
  • Everything (全站)
  • Live streaming (直播)
  • Many likes (高赞)
  • Categories like entertainment (娱乐), psychology (心理), etc.
  • Trending list (热榜): 50 most popular current discussions
  • Search function
  • Notification bell

Questions, Recommended, Trending list screens in the Zhihu app

Zhihu app menu
Source: Zhihu app

Zhihu app bottom menu

  • Home (首页)
  • Following (关注 )
  • Create (+): post questions, write articles, share videos, and start live streaming
  • Members (会员)
  • Profile (我的)

Following, Members, Profile screens in the Zhihu app

Zhihu app menu
Source: Zhihu app

Zhihu Functions & Features

Now, let us explain the basic features of Zhihu based on the app.

Personal profile

Providing voluntary information like location, education, their industry and work experience adds to a registered user’s credibility and trustworthiness. You can also see the number of followers, credentials, likes received, and more.

Badges

In order to prevent impersonation and fraudulent information sharing, Zhihu introduced a complex authentication system, which includes the submission of several documents for verification. Through this step, users can receive “badges” in their profile under “Recognition and Achievements”. 

Badges include “Excellent Answerer” (industry-specific), “Recommended By Editor”’, “Popular Provider”, “Active User”, and “Sociable Person”, encouraging interactions among the Zhihu community users.

Beyond the scope of other social platforms, Zhihu offers a large variety of verifications and badges, e.g. for lawyers, medical doctors, and other experts in their fields. This adds additional trust and authenticity to Zhihu.

For example, this doctor uses a personal Zhihu account, where he verified that he holds a Doctor’s Degree in Surgery from the Shanghai Jiaotong University (上海交通大学 外科学博士).

  1. blue badge: verified account
  2. orange badge: verified Doctor
  3. brown badge: paying member
KOL influencer on Zhihu
Source: zhihu.com/people/fu-shi-bo

In the Zhihu badge information section, you can see a selection of annual badges that users can obtain while they are a Zhihu member (other badges for verifications are not included here).

badges on Zhihu
Source: zhihu.com

Salt Value 

This social feature incentivizes and rates good behavior to help users gain education, expand their horizons and knowledge, and establish their authority.

The Salt Value (盐值) is viewable for paying Zhihu members only. It can be between 0 and 1,000. It is calculated by an algorithm, taking into account credibility, content creation quality, friendliness, community behavior, and community-building capabilities of a Zhihu user.

Overall, Zhihu allows links to external websites, but sanctions spam links and prefer quality content to quantity content.

This social score also affects the users’ privileges and rights. It is available for paying members only (Salt-Elected Membership).

The Salt Value is composed of the following attributes, which can be used to increase the score: 

  • Credibility: verified professional qualifications and experience, references, certificates, etc. 
  • Content creation: quality and quantity of content published (posts, answers, questions)
  • Friendliness: communicating politely and respectfully
  • Community Behavior: compliance with Zhihu terms, e.g. no plagiarism, no inappropriate content
  • Community Building: interaction with the community, e.g. voting answers, editing content, reporting offending content
membership
Source: Zhihu app

Zhihu Premium Membership

While you can use Zhihu without being a paying member, you need to become a premium member to access extra content e.g. educational services on the platform.

Personal account users can choose a paid option called “Salt Elected Membership” (盐选会员), which costs approx. 3$/month, 30$/year, 8$/season, and 15$/year for students). It provides access to ebooks, podcasts, live streams, webinars, newsletters, and additional benefits.

Zhihu Courses & Zhihu Live

These popular interactive live streaming sessions and courses focus on real-time knowledge sharing and Q&A. Regular Zhihu users share their knowledge, opinion, and experience on a certain topic of their expertise. Other users pay a small fee to join and listen to the presentation. 

Participants can ask questions and get answers from the speaker live and in real-time. This makes learning and sharing knowledge even faster and more entertaining.

Popular examples are beginner makeup classes for beauty brands, technical tutorials to capture the best images/videos for camera gear, or travel hacks for service providers in the tourism industry.

Zhihu Roundtable

These events are basically online webinars of traditional panel talks. Each roundtable consists of one host and four guests (industry experts) who discuss trending topics of their industries with the goal to share knowledge and industry insights. Viewers can interact with the panelists by asking questions.

Zhihu Virtual University & Bookstore

Here you can discover a wide range of paid knowledge and education services, including online courses and audiobooks. Overall, there are more than 15,000 paid knowledge and education products, which are accessed by more than 6 million paid users.

One of the main features is the Zhihu Bookstore, which offers a large variety of ebooks on a wide range of topics. Besides, Zhihu’s own publications and audiobooks include “The Zhihu Weekly Magazine (知乎周刊)”, “1-hour E-Books” (知乎一小时 ), and “The Zhihu Salt-Selection” (盐选杂志) with the latest most relevant questions and best answers. 

Collaborating with Zhihu on these professional learning materials can also be beneficial to your brand if you have relevant content to share and added value to provide.

Zhihu Paid-Consultancy Services

Industry experts can earn extra income on Zhihu by providing paid knowledge as consultation services. Compared to other platforms like Weibo, which has launched a paid health consultancy service, Zhihu offers paid consultancy services on a much wider range of popular topics. 

The fact that only Zhihu users with a Salt Value above 500 can register to become a consultant, adds to the professionalism and authenticity of the consultation service.

Zhihu users can consult with the professional publicly or privately, and the consultants answer the questions with voice recordings. If you choose to ask your question publicly, other users also pay a small fee to listen to the answer, and the person who asks the question receives 50% of this payment. Asking follow-up questions also comes at a small fee.

To ensure quality service, Zhihu gives users their money back if their question is not answered within 72 hours.

Zhihu Column

Besides answering questions, Zhihu also encourages its users to write longer and more detailed articles to increase the capacity of information and knowledge on the platform. Media-rich articles with photos, videos, and infographics are encouraged.

Zhihu Columns (知乎转栏) organizes these articles according to topics. Users who would like to own a column on a specific topic have to submit an application to Zhihu.

Generally accepted topics include economics, finance, IT, science, travel, mobility, and more. On the other hand, Zhihu generally does not accept topics around love, relationships, entertainment, politics, social issues, investment, astrology, and the likes.

Case Studies: How Zhihu Helps B2B Brands

Generally, Zhihu helps local and international B2B brands through

  1. generating social traffic and valuable backlinks to the business website (organic SEO) by creating own questions and articles (social traffic generation)
  2. paid ads (lead generation and sales)
  3. sponsored posts (media buying/KOLs/PR) through posting own content and links on other popular accounts (brand awareness, community engagement)
  4. live streaming, e.g. webinars, beauty tutorials (brand awareness, soft sales)
  5. answering questions from high-volume accounts with your official brand account (brand awareness, community engagement); following industry hashtags is beneficial to stay up-to-date and respond quickly to trending topics
  6. market research and product/service improvement through understanding your audience’s problems and needs
  7. hashtags for trend identification and competitor analysis

1. B2B Businesses Can Boost their Baidu SEO

The first example is a Baidu search for “塞浦路斯移民” (Cyprus immigration), which organically ranks this Zhihu article about “immigration to Cyprus” https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/93439477 on number four.

SEO boost
Source: baidu.com

The second example is a Baidu search for “导热系数测试” (thermal conductivity testing), which organically ranks this Zhihu question on “thermal conductivity testing” www.zhihu.com/question/431164882 on number four. 

In this case, the link does not refer to a Zhuanlan standalone post. Instead, the Zhihu question and its answers rank on Baidu.

SEO boost
Source: baidu.com

2. B2B Businesses Can Generate Leads & Sales through Paid Ads

Leveraging paid ads on Zhihu elegantly combines your brand’s organic interaction with your audience and Zhihu users. Zhihu ads are an effective way to increase your brand awareness and drive users to your products or services. Get immediate reactions in a shorter time, and reach a wider audience.

Zhihu Paid Ad Types

  • Pop-up ads: upon opening the app, interactive functions possible to redirect users to your selected page
  • Newsfeed ads: integrated into the page feed, more detailed than pop-up ads
  • Display ads: appear as banners, videos, or search results on Zhihu’s internal search pages and homepages, users are likely to see these display ads when visiting related pages

All Zhihu ads can drive users to an app store, mini-program, or ecommerce (Tmall, JD.com, etc.) page. Zhihu ads are particularly suitable for B2C brands in the gaming, social media, and ecommerce industry.

Examples 

Here are two examples of a pop-up ad when starting the Zhihu app for Tommy Hilfiger and for Tmall for the 618 Shopping Festival.

pop up ads in app
Source: Zhihu app

3. B2B Businesses Can Boost Community Engagement

Analyze industry leaders and accounts with positive reviews and wide reach, and contact the account owners to place your own branded content (articles, questions and answers, live streams) on their page with your brand mention (sponsored posts).

Here is an example of a KOL influencer, a verified medical doctor, who can leverage third-party accounts with big followings. This is one of his sponsored posts, where he promotes the student platform turnitin.

KOL influencer
Source: zhihu.com/question/23460854/answer/2530869578

4. B2B Businesses Can Leverage Soft Sales

On the right-hand side, you can see a brand account as well as the live stream. This is a webinar for university rankings in Hong Kong by an agency for studying abroad and student recruiting. 

live stream
Source: Zhihu app

5. B2B Businesses Can Elevate Their Brand Awareness

Looking at the log reveals that a private person (an agent) asked the following question in 2017: “想去欧洲移民,去哪个国家好呢?” (Which country in Europe is the best to emigrate to?). As anyone can answer this question, replies also include agents and real estate developers.

Therefore, this is a great method to place your own content, inform your audience, and build your brand awareness. Just keep in mind to focus on helpful and extensive information instead of hard sales. Answers that are focused only on promotional content and sales pitches, likely will get downvoted and, therefore, become invisible to other Zhihu users.

B2B brands can strategically

  • determine relevant questions with a high reach and provide useful in-depth answers
  • identify new questions that will be helpful, and ask those questions with another account
Q&A
Source: zhihu.com/question/52710851/answer/655110792

6. B2B Businesses Can Conduct Market Research

Understand the problems and needs of your target audience, how they think and which services and products they use. For example, an immigration agency could ask the question “美国哪里可以找到房地产中介呢” (How to find real estate agents in the US?).

market research
Source: zhihu.com/question/357473087/answer/913099026

7. B2B Businesses Can Follow Hashtags for Trend & Competitor Analysis

You can search for keywords in the search bar and then click on 话题 (topic) to see the hashtags, their followers, questions using the hashtag, and all discussions. Here is an example of the hashtag 塞浦路斯 (Cyprus). 

When clicking on 更多 (More), you can find further information links to Q&As and posts related to the respective hashtag, based on Sogou Baike (Sogou “Encyclopedia”).

As a B2B company, you can follow relevant industry hashtags to stay up-to-date on current events and developments, create corresponding content, answer relevant questions, and analyze your competitors.

following trends and hashtags on Zhihu
Source: Zhihu app

The marketing method for your brand is determined by your products and services, objectives, and budget. The China experts at Tenba Group are here to provide advice on what’s best for your business.

5 Key Learnings to Use Zhihu Effectively

Based on how Zhihu helps your B2B brand in China, discover the key learnings to use Zhihu effectively.

Zhihu’s educated user base appreciates detailed content and has a higher purchasing power. They primarily want to further educate themselves (beyond entertainment only). Brands can promote (advertise) their products and services on Zhihu as well as directly generate leads and sales.

These are the key benefits of B2B marketing on Zhihu, based on the learnings of the case studies: lead generation and brand awareness.

  1. Adding high-quality content on Zhihu builds your brand credibility, trust, and authority, and therefore, positively impacts Baidu rankings (plus Sogou, Qihoo, Shenma, Toutiao, and Bing) directly, and WeChat indirectly.
  2. Brands can use the answer function to communicate and build strong relationships with their audience to directly generate leads and sales
  3. It is also an opportunity to identify shortcomings of your products and services and make real-life and user-inspired improvements by understanding the needs and problems of your target audience. New brands in the Chinese market can also use the Zhihu forum to conduct market research on their products and services.
  4. Zhihu users have the willingness and demand to deal with larger quantities of content compared to other platforms in China, which focus on short content and videos. Consistency is essential: answer questions fast (the Chinese market is very speedy) by following key hashtags for your business, in-depth, and engage with your community in an educated way.
  5. Zhihu’s highly educated user base has higher expectations for content quality and accuracy. If you cater your content to them, you can lift the potential of positive word-of-mouth recommendations for your brand.

Create a long-lasting positive branding effect for your products and services with high-quality in-depth content on Zhihu through soft-selling and influencing long-term buying decisions.

Brands typically start their Zhihu visibility with Q&A campaigns, by posting and answering questions in-depth (also with graphics or illustrations) that go beyond general public information. This demonstrates their industry expertise and niche competence, builds brand awareness, and helps to find and connect with new audiences.

For example, what was the inspiration for the foundation of your brand, and what does the vision or slogan mean from the brand’s perspective? Technical and scientific information is generally appreciated. Other users can then add their own interpretations if they like.

Further types of questions could be, which product line (flavor, color, taste, etc.) do you like most and why? This can spark active discussions around your brand.

Click here for more insights on China marketing for your B2B brand.

How to Get Started with Zhihu B2B Marketing in 6 Easy Steps

Now that you know what is Zhihu, here’s how you can get started with leveraging the site’s potential for your B2B brand:

  1. Register and verify an official business or personal account on Zhihu.
  2. Engage the community by asking them questions, providing in-depth answers, and publishing articles relevant to your brand and industry expertise. Add graphs, pictures, and videos for added value. Apply a soft selling and long-term customer relationship strategy. 
  3. Create and share professional learning materials (free, freemium, paid content).
  4. Collaborate with industry experts through media buying/sponsored posts/KOLs.
  5. Follow industry hashtags to stay up-to-date and create relevant content.
  6. Consider Zhihu paid advertising, depending on your China market goals and strategy.

Keep in mind that

  1. Zhihu and its user base dislike direct sales activities
  2. Building your brand on Zhihu is a long-term strategy. For short-term immediate results paid ads are more suitable.
  3. Creating useful and informative content is a must as Zhihu users expect high quality and accuracy.

This brings us to the end of how to leverage this Chinese Q&A platform for your B2B brand through smart organic and paid marketing.

Key Benefits of Zhihu for B2B Brands

The main benefits of Zhihu for international and local B2B companies are

  1. SEO boost for your business website (valuable high-authority backlinks, generate social traffic, lower average bounce rate)
  2. brand awareness on a knowledge-centered social platform to reach a quality audience (soft sales)
  3. free market research and competitor analysis (community feedback, hashtags)

What is Zhihu – The Takeaway

China’s Quora-like Zhihu is a powerful marketing tool to advertise your B2B brand, raise brand awareness, generate leads and sales. Especially in the education, career, technology, lifestyle, culture, and medical sectors as well as all industries that require an explanation of its products and services.

Posting and answering questions on Zhihu in-depth and media-rich also provides a positive organic boost on Chinese search engines like Baidu, Sogou, and Qihoo, as well as the WeChat in-app search.

Using Zhihu effectively for your B2B marketing in China isn’t difficult if you keep in mind high-quality and informative long content, consistency, and audience engagement. The formula for success on Zhihu is providing its educated intellectual users with actually helpful content that adds value to their lives and helps to expand their knowledge through social interactions.

Keep in mind that content marketing takes time and doesn’t just happen overnight. However, compared to faster-paced and short-lived platforms like Weibo or WeChat, content on Zhihu has the potential to last and work in the long term. Besides, Zhihu serves an educational purpose with its in-depth questions and answers, and because users seek answers to evergreen questions.

Get in touch with Tenba Group to redeem your FREE consultation if you are interested in getting support for this with a clear and effective strategy. Don’t miss the power of Zhihu for your China SEO strategy!

Finally, please take a look at our extensive China marketing solutions to learn how to boost your brand in the Middle Kingdom.

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