Why Zhihu Is Valuable for B2B Marketing in China

There are quite a few social networks in China and many western B2B marketers have heard about WeChat, Weibo, or even QQ, but we expect very few know about Zhihu. However, as a growing social platform, it should not be overlooked.

Zhihu Logo

Zhihu, founded in 2011, is a social question-and-answer website in China, which shares many similarities with US-based Quora. After six years of development, it has become the biggest knowledge sharing community in China. It’s an online forum used by experts and professionals from various industries that contribute high-quality insights. According to Alexa, Zhihu is currently ranked 24th in popularity in China and 130 in the world.

Meaning “Do You Know” in English, Zhihu’s name implies that you can find the answer here if you don’t know, and you can share the knowledge here if you do know. In its early days, Zhihu’s slogan was “discovering a bigger world.” Now, it has been changed to “sharing your knowledge, experience, and insights with the whole world.” The change now reflects the true intent of the site, which is to not only discover new things, but also share your own expertise. Nowadays, Zhihu is the primary channel for users to learn expert insights on various topics.

From a marketing perspective, Zhihu can be a valuable place for B2B professionals and companies to invest time and resources. In this post, I will introduce six reasons to explain why it’s worthy of a B2B marketer’s time. 

Note: Some of the links included below are resources in Mandarin.

Large User Base

According to Zhihu’s press release, there were 100 million registered users and 26 million active daily visitors at the end of September 2017. A user’s average daily visit duration is one hour and monthly page views are up to 18 billion. With a large user base and high rate of interaction, Zhihu has become a platform that is more and more valuable to both investors and marketers alike.


High-Quality Users

An iResearch report shows Zhihu users have a high academic qualification background and high consumption power: 80.1 percent of users hold a bachelor degree or above and 76 percent of users have high income. Thirty percent of users have a monthly income of 10,000 RMB, which is much higher than the general internet users’ salary level. Based on CNNIC’s report (released in January 2017), the majority of Chinese internet users have a salary range of 2,000 to 5,000; only 6 percent reach 8,000.

More than B2C companies, the typical audience for B2B brands have higher education levels in certain professional fields. This makes Zhihu’s user base a great fit for many B2B companies to reach target buyers.

Users Have Clear Objectives

Just as connecting with friends and families via WeChat, or sharing personal interests to the public on Weibo, people use Zhihu with specific objectives as well. Most of them are not just browsing the site, but are there with a clear goal in mind. As a knowledge sharing community, over 70.6 percent of users want to use Zhihu to improve themselves and learn. Additionally, 65.5 percent users are using Zhihu to search and ask questions relevant to their professional fields.

Purpose on Zhihu

Given user objectives on Zhihu, B2B professionals and/or companies have the opportunity to share their own insight, whether it’s about their own technologies or services or thought leadership within their industry. 

For example, when we search for Cisco, there were 739 questions about this topic and 19,000 people are following. Most questions are about internet solutions, computer languages, or firewalls. If the marketers from Cisco take the initiative to answer questions and engage with users, it only helps increase brand awareness and attract more of their target audience.

Cisco on Baidu

Diverse and Professional Content

Compared to Weibo or other social media mainly focused on entertainment or commercial content, Zhihu provides a platform for more authentic, original, professional, and in-depth content. Users don’t mind reading long content if it’s valuable to them.

The topics on Zhihu range across various industries such as Internet, art, books, education, lifestyle, business, economics, natural science, technology, chemistry, physics, biology, law, and more. People often search for specific questions related to their professional background and interests. 

Topics on Zhihu

It’s worth noting the volume of content as well. According to company data, there were over 6 million questions and 23 million answers generated in 2016.

Even if you’re not part of a global B2B brand, you can still earn people’s attention by interacting with them on certain topics. For example, when we search for logistics on Zhihu, there are 731 questions and 19,000 followers of this topic. With that type of activity, it’s worthwhile for logistics marketers to create a trustworthy profile and engage with the community; it will only help build thought leadership within the industry.  

Logistic on Zhihu

However, you need to be aware that Zhihu has a very strict community rule against the spammy messages. When you participate in the discussion, it’s better to use a sincere tone to answer the questions in a relevant way. You have to be very careful when using links in the question-and-answer area. If you are reported for posting promotional messages by other users, your post will be deleted and your account might be closed by Zhihu forever.

As an alternative, Zhihu has a feature called Zhihu Column (launched in 2013) that allows users to post long articles. This is a space for in-depth blog posts or content syndication. Since Zhihu allows users to include links in these posts, as long as they are very relevant to the content, it’s an excellent option to support SEO link-building efforts.

High Authority on Search Engines

Zhihu has high authority on many search engines, such as Baidu, So.com, and Sogou. Its Baidu authority shown on AiZhan SEO tool is 10. That score is the same as the government’s websites and is even higher than many news sites, such as Sina and Sohu. This means that the content on Zhihu is more trustworthy to Baidu and will be easily found on the search engine.

Case in point: When we search for “B2B marketing” on Baidu, the top result is the question “how to run B2B marketing” from Zhihu, then a page from the news site Sohu. The third result is a Zhihu question again: “How to use new media for B2B marketing”. The results from Zhihu are even ranked higher than Baidu products, such as Baidu Baike and Baidu Zhidao.

Baidu Search Result Page

By asking and answering on Zhihu, B2B marketers will not only get brand exposure on the Q&A platform, but also increase search rankings on the internet.

Institution Accounts

In July 2016, Zhihu started inviting institutions to open accounts on the platform. At the end, there were around 3,000 institution accounts opened. The topics and questions for institution accounts are not only about industry knowledge, but also cover recruitment info and customer services, which provides additional value to users. Once an organization has successfully applied for an institution account, there is a small blue mark by the account name, which means it has been verified by Zhihu.

Zhihu Institution Account

Based on past experience, many people thought the implementation of institution accounts would make Zhihu less “clean” and ultimately hurt the platform, just like the commercialization did on many social media platforms. However, with the strict supervision system of Zhihu, brands had to follow the community rules well. More than a year later, institution accounts have become an important and valuable component of Zhihu.

In September 2017,  Zhihu announced canceling the invitation system and opening the institution account to all organizations. Any brand can easily apply for an institution account on Zhihu as long as they pass the verification and follow the community rules. Since it is a new movement, the platform isn’t flooded with institution accounts on Zhihu now. B2B brands have the opportunity to become early adopters and create a meaningful presence on the social media platform. 

Zhihu Institution Accounts

Final Thoughts

With a large, high-quality user base and diverse content, Zhihu is a valuable platform that can be used to generate brand mentions and increase brand awareness. When done well, it can be an important tactic to support an overall content marketing strategy in China. Although the institution account is new, it offers B2B marketers a wonderful opportunity to test and occupy the market.

I hope this post gave you more of an understanding about Zhihu and the overall Chinese digital market so you can better allocate your resources for the B2B marketing in China. Will you consider marketing on Zhihu? I invite you to share your thoughts, concerns, or experiences with us in the comment area.

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