Q. What is Zhihu? A. Its China’s Quora. Only Better

June 29, 2021 Liang Zitong

What is Zhihu? Its China’s Quora. Only Better.

If you want real feedback and insights about people’s experience doing business or opinions about the latest news, where would you go? In China, Zhihu might be your ideal choice. The platform has become an important player in the China online ecosystem in recent times due to its reliability and trustworthiness.

Zhihu is like China’s version of Quora. In Classical Chinese, “Zhīhū” (知乎) means “(Do you) know?” It is a question-and-answer platform where users create, answer and organize questions. Zhihu began in August 2010, founded by Zhou Yuan, Li Shenshen and Huang Jixin. The website launched on January 26, 2011; since then, it has accumulated over 44 million questions, encouraging people to share knowledge, experiences and insights, and to find their answers. Over the years, the company also developed its business model and went IPO, with a listing on the New York Stock Exchange on March 23, 2021 (Zhihu Inc – ADR)

Zhihu and Quora share many similar features, most notably their Q&A platforms. Comparatively speaking, Zhihu has more features allowing users to publish content without targeting a specific question. Meanwhile, on Zhihu there are more ways for users to pay for knowledge online, for example ebook sales, podcasts, and VIP programs. As short videos have become a new trending way of sharing knowledge, Zhihu also developed a program to encourage video content by monetary and exposure profits.

Why Should You Use Zhihu?

Large User Base
Zhihu is huge. According to data published in 2020, Zhihu has accumulated 43.1 million content creators, contributing 315.3 million questions and answers. In the fourth quarter of 2020, Zhihu’s average Active Monthly Users reached 75.7 million (a year-on-year increase of 33%). The average number of monthly interactions in the community during the same period was 675.7 million. This is a large base of users and a big pool of people.

Besides a large user base, Zhihu stands out from other Chinese Q&A or social platforms because of its user profile. It is especially popular among highly educated people: according to research, with 80% of its registered users having a bachelor’s degree or above, and 20% having overseas educational experience. 76% of users are in the high income bracket, making the average salary level of Zhihu users much higher than that of other Chinese internet users in general. Therefore, we can see that high income, high consumption power, strong educational background and thus capability of discussing more high-level, technical, and premium topics are usually Zhihu’s users’ main characteristics. The large user base makes Zhihu an ideal platform for promoting the brand to educated and well-off users.

Recommendation Algorithm
Zhihu’s recommendation algorithm helps brands and content to reach their targeted audiences. The personalized feed is based on the user’s profile, questions, answers, followings, likes, and search history. The algorithm ensures advertisements and content reach people whom the company cares about. The algorithm also ranks the quality of the content based on reactions from users. If users with high weight upvoted an answer or an article, the system would be more likely to display the answer on the top of the answer list and recommend it to the audience. In this way, businesses are able to use quality content to gain exposure.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization
From the perspective of search engines, Zhihu is friendly in terms of content quality and user experience. As a high-quality and reputable website, pages on Zhihu can get an excellent initial ranking on many mainstream search engines, such as Baidu and Sogu. Its Baidu domain authority is 8/10, which is almost the same, or even higher than many major news websites in China, such as Sina. This means that the content on Zhihu is easier to rank high in search results. Research also demonstrates that a large proportion of users arrive at Zhihu from search results on search engines. This phenomenon proves that Zhihu is an effective way to improve your search engine visibility.

How to Use Zhihu to Leverage the Brand?

There are currently two ways to use Zhihu to promote a brand. Companies can join Zhihu’s advertisement program to publish sponsored advertisements or register their own account and create content to gain popularity.

According to the statistics from APP Growing, in 2020, the sponsored ads placed on Zhihu are mostly from 2C companies. Game, social media applications, and e-commerce are the mainstays, and these three categories account for about 50% of advertisements on Zhihu. Ads from 2B businesses like corporate services accounted for 5.85% of ad volume. The regular sponsored advertisements in Zhihu APP include App open ads, content feed on the recommendation page, and banners on the question and answer pages. Unlike traditional banners, advertisements can be embedded in the content feed of Zhihu as native ads, in the form of questions and answers. Native ads can naturally integrate into the home page and remain in the question and answer lists, and they will show up in the search result if the users search the relevant keywords on Zhihu. The content can continue to affect subsequent users, becoming the permanent asset of the brand.

Besides, businesses can do their content promotion on Zhihu by content marketing and influencer marketing. Zhihu has looser censorship on the advertisements at the end of the article compared to other social media platforms. Therefore, businesses can embed external links to their products or websites in the articles. The audience can be directed to these pages to know more about the products and services provided by the company.

Small and medium‑sized 2C companies usually use influencer marketing strategies on Zhihu. Zhihu allows users over Level 4 in the credit system to recommend products with Taobao/JD links. The clicks and orders generated by the recommendation link provide content creators with monetary benefits. Therefore, businesses can connect with KOCs (key opinion customers: ordinary everyday consumers who enjoy sharing their experiences on social media) on certain topics and promote the product by asking them to share the experience of the products. Although they may only have an audience of several hundred to a few thousand followers, KOCs typically have a much closer relationship with their followers than a KOL does, so the followers have more trust in KOCs. Besides, the cost of KOC promotion is usually lower than KOLs.

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