Zhihu marketing guide China

Zhihu Marketing Guide: Unlocking How Chinese Quora Works

Last Updated on June 11, 2024

While other marketers typically go for mainstream Chinese social media platforms like Weibo and Douyin, Zhihu presents itself as an underrated tool for digital marketing in China.

In 2023, this professional knowledge-sharing platform recorded approximately 110.5 million local internet users utilizing this app monthly to look for in-depth answers to their day-to-day queries.

In this guide, we’ll not only discuss tried and tested Zhihu marketing strategies for your brand but also in-depth knowledge of how the platform works.


What Is Zhihu?

Zhihu is the country’s largest question-and-answer platform, often dubbed the Chinese equivalent of Quora. It was established in 2011 as an invite-only app but became publicly available in 2013. Beyond answering questions from its users, it has since developed its own comprehensive digital ecosystem.

Today, Zhihu users can write articles, post videos, or launch live streams. The platform’s astounding success also led to the commercialization of some features in 2016, like digital advertising, online courses, and paid consultancy services.


Zhihu social media China


So, while it does have similarities with Quora, Zhihu’s approach to knowledge sharing and community engagement goes beyond traditional online forum formats.

It incorporates social networking elements, allowing Zhihu users to follow topics of interest and individual accounts. Through these features, the app developed a dynamic and interactive online community, with discussions often led by key opinion leaders and industry experts.

The high engagement rate of this platform also opens an opportunity to conduct deeper market research, helping brands gain insights into their target audience’s preferences and content consumption trends.

Most of Zhihu’s users are predominantly young, educated, and urban, making it an attractive target audience for new brands. More often than not, they’re professionals seeking in-depth knowledge, expert opinions, and practical advice on various topics.


Zhihu user demographics and statistics 2023


How does Zhihu work?

Before using Zhihu for your China marketing strategies, you should know that the platform works differently than other top social media platforms in the local market. Here are specific features marketers should get familiar with to maximize results.


●     Personal Profiles

The platform’s highly engaged user base mainly stems from its strong emphasis on credibility and authenticity. Zhihu users often have detailed profiles indicating their current location, educational background, and professional experience.


Personal profile on Zhihu China


This data transparency ensures that people answering questions or offering paid knowledge services are qualified and credible enough to be sources of knowledge. Furthermore, Zhihu implements a rigorous identity verification process, effectively minimizing the creation of fraudulent accounts.


●     The Badge System

Speaking of preventing fraudulent accounts and activities, Zhihu requires users to submit various documents for verification. By undergoing this process, an account can earn “badges” displayed in their profiles under the “Recognition and Achievements” section.

These badges range from “Excellent Responder (优秀答主)” to “Professional Recognition (专业)” and “Sociable Butterfly (社交达人).” Awarding these titles to core users fosters engagement within the Zhihu community and encourages them to continue posting valuable contributions to the platform.


Badge system on Zhihu China


The badge system in Zhihu also helps many brands, especially when looking for a reliable industry expert to collaborate with. Besides that, it’ll evidently come in handy during market research, as it can aid in identifying which insights and posts come from credible sources.

Specific users may have different badge colors based on their membership status, platform contributions, and professional credentials. If you see a brown one, it only means the account has an active paid membership.

Meanwhile, the blue badge is the highest profile verification. It signifies that the account is an industry expert and identified as a legitimate source of information.


Badge system highlight on Zhihu China


●     The Salt Value System (盐值)

Another feature that sets this question-and-answer platform apart is its user credit system called “Salt Value” or “盐值.” It evaluates users across five categories, all aimed at fostering a community culture based on platform behavior, quality content creation, and active participation.

  1. Basic Credit: An account’s salt value in Zhihu sets the baseline from the details included on their profile. It includes your educational background, professional experience, and other notable achievements.
  2. Content Creation: Credits gained in this area come from the frequency and the quality of a user’s contributions. High-value, informative, and engaging content comes with great credit rewards, encouraging users to share their knowledge and insights with others.
  3. Friendliness: Users can also gain points based on their regular engagements within the community. An account can earn this credit by being courteous, constructive, and respectful to fellow users.
  4. Community Behavior: This system rewards and favors users who consistently adhere to Zhihu guidelines and platform regulations.
  5. Community Building: Credits can also be gained through a user’s efforts to enrich the platform, such as through content moderation, participating in voting polls, and reporting violations. This category acknowledges accounts that actively contribute to the maintenance and growth of the platform.


Salt value credits on Zhihu China


●     Paid Membership Programme

Global and Chinese internet users can access Zhihu’s website and app for free. However, certain features, like exclusive content and professional learning materials, are only available for users with an active paid membership.

Zhihu offers its users a choice between two membership plans: “The Reading Club Membership” and “The Salt Elected Membership.” Each of these memberships caters to different user needs and preferences, customizing their Zhihu experience uniquely.


membership on Zhihu


  1. The Reading Club Membership

This account membership is suitable for a knowledge-seeker because it unlocks access to various informational resources, including e-books, webinars, and live streams.

Members who opt for this plan are typically those eager to research deeper into their fields of interest, seeking comprehensive insights and continuous learning opportunities.


  1. The Salt Elected Membership

Meanwhile, this membership is tailored for Zhihu users looking to enhance their social interaction on the platform. It offers a range of benefits to improve the overall user experience, like dedicated customer support, exclusive emojis, and a special badge.


Popular Content Features on Zhihu

The range of content formats in Zhihu is unlike any other platforms in China. Verified users can answer questions and facilitate communication with their audience using different mediums, from writing articles to launching a live session and offering paid consultations.


Popular contents on Zhihu


Read along as we discuss each content category, explore how these features work, and discover why they’re practical tools for digital marketing in China.


1.    Zhihu Column

The platform encourages users to write long-formatted, media-rich articles to give more insights and promote sharing in its community. However, not everyone can have their own Zhihu column. The account holder must apply before they can start sharing on this section.

The articles in Zhihu’s column often include images, videos, and infographics intended to deepen the discussions on the platform. Users interested in a specific topic won’t have difficulty visiting related pages because the platform categorizes articles according to the subject matter.


Zhihu’s Column Section

Zhihu’s Column Section


Zhihu welcomes a broad range of topics for these columns, with areas such as economics, finance, technology, science, and travel being particularly popular. Marketers should take note of these categories before deciding to use the platform’s content creation tools for long-term soft selling strategies.

It tends to steer clear of subjects related to romance, relationships, entertainment, politics, social controversies, and similar themes. The platform’s primary focus is educational and informative content.


2.    Zhihu University & Bookstore

Zhihu University is a section where most users go when looking for academic or informational materials. It’s a feature that aligns with brands and individuals offering educational services or other specialized skill training.

This central hub has an extensive collection of resources available through the Zhihu bookstore. It features everything from e-books to various publications crafted by experts across multiple industries.


Zhihu Bookstore Interface

Zhihu Bookstore Interface


The platform also hosts a variety of educational courses, many of which users can download directly. While some of these courses are offered at no cost, others might incur a fee or a subscription to access.


3.    Zhihu Roundtable

The platform often hosts events in this content section. Typically, they’d invite specific users or experts to talk about the latest updates and trending topics in their respective industries.

It’s like a panel talk where the guests talk about the technical details of their niche, and the participants can ask questions during the session.


The Roundtable Menu on Zhihu

The Roundtable Menu on Zhihu

4.    Zhihu Live

Live streaming is all the rage now in China, and Zhihu’s users are certainly not missing out on this trend. The platform includes features that allow content creators to launch real-time knowledge-sharing sessions.

With Zhihu Live, even regular or personal accounts can share their insights and experiences about specific topics they wish to discuss. For other users to join the conversation, they may be charged a minimal fee.


Zhihu Live Lectures Interface

Zhihu Live Lectures Interface


Attendees can interact directly with the live stream hosts by submitting questions and receiving immediate responses during the sessions. This interactive format accelerates the knowledge exchange process in Zhihu and opens an opportunity to engage organically with potential consumers.

The best examples of content strategies in this section are makeup tutorials offered by cosmetic brands, technical guides for using specific equipment, and expert tips for local travelers going abroad.


5.    Zhihu Consulting Services

On Zhihu, this section is where you can find an industry professional that offers paid knowledge services. It’s one of the features that distinguishes it from other mainstream platforms like Weibo.

A unique aspect of Zhihu’s consultancy services is the requirement for consultants to have a Salt Value exceeding 500. It ensures that only highly credible and professional individuals can offer their advice. And with this qualification, the platform can regulate the content quality and reliability of the consultations provided.

Zhihu Section for Paid Consultancy Services

Zhihu Section for Paid Consultancy Services


Consultations on Zhihu can be conducted in public forums or private sessions, with responses typically delivered through voice recordings.

Opting for a public query allows other users to access the expert’s advice for a minimal fee, half of which is given to the individual posing the question. Accounts are entitled to refunds if their questions remain unanswered after 72 hours.


6.    Zhihu Encyclopedia

In 2019, Zhihu launched a Wikipedia-like feature to create a more cohesive and systematically structured collection of Q&A content.

Initially, specific users and brands are granted the privilege to craft and refine entries for Zhihu Baike or Zhihu Encyclopedia. They can enhance existing articles by recommending excerpts from existing answers on the site.

Selected users who edited and added excerpts in this section will be acknowledged on the article pages, and their profile links will be tagged as official contributors.


Zhihu Encyclopedia



Other User Interfaces on Zhihu

Zhihu is designed with personalized user experiences in mind. If you look at each menu on the platform, you’ll notice that the pages are curated in different categories to effectively align with users’ interests.

Besides the features already mentioned above, the platform has three distinct interfaces, each aimed to cater to the varied preferences of its audience:

  1. Homepage: This area displays content recommendations influenced by the accounts and topics users choose to follow, ensuring a feed that resonates with personal interests.
  2. Discover: In this section, you’ll see trending conversations and discussions. It allows users to explore subjects that capture their curiosity, offering a gateway to the platform’s most engaging and current debates.
  3. Topics: Dedicated to organizing content by subject matter, this interface allows users to explore specific areas of interest, making finding content that matches their inquiry or area of expertise easier.


Zhihu’s Website Homepage

Zhihu’s Website Homepage


Opening an Official Business Account on Zhihu

It’s free to open a personal account on the platform. However, users can only access digital marketing and advertising tools through paid channels or by opening a Zhihu business account.

Back then, only the government, major news outlets, non-profit organizations, and academic institutes are allowed to have an official account status in Zhihu. However, in 2021, the platform finally allowed foreign brands to submit an international business license as part of the enterprise account registration process.

The registration and verification process requires a fee of around 300 RMB or $40. If you initially joined the platform through a personal account, it’s important to note that you can’t switch it to a business profile.


Opening an Official Business Account on Zhihu


Here are the steps to set up your enterprise account below:

  • Register: Use a company email to activate your account.
  • Account type: Choose between an enterprise, government authority, and other organization accounts.
  • Company information: You need to fill in your company information. Primary documents include enterprise name, business license (with picture uploaded), operator name, operator’s ID number, account name, account icon, and industry.
  • Account verification: Once approved, you will be given a blue badge. The annual verification fee is 300 RMB.
  • If you’re unsure or unfamiliar with this process, consulting with local experts who handle social media account setups in China is the best solution.


7 Best Strategies to Utilize Zhihu Effectively For Your Brand

1.   Post In-depth Articles Related to your Industry

Marketers should remember that Zhihu thrives in community-driven engagement. Although you can work with industry experts to increase brand awareness, posting articles using your official account can help keep the conversation going even after the collaboration is long over.

You don’t have to discuss your brand directly when writing articles on Zhihu. Leverage your industry’s trending topics and latest trends to attract your target audience.


Qualcomm’s Column on Zhihu

Qualcomm’s Column on Zhihu


Take Qualcomm’s content marketing strategies on Zhihu as an example. The US-based equipment company has been utilizing the platform’s column section to educate its readers about the latest developments in telecommunication technologies.

The brand once sponsored a Zhihu weekly magazine edition and discussed being a 5G technology leader in today’s modern era. It garnered 43,000 unique readers and received excellent feedback.


2.   Localize Your Zhihu Marketing Content

Zhihu is a valuable platform full of potential customers with higher purchasing power than other social media users. To raise brand awareness amidst this tough crowd, you must conduct market research diligently. You must understand the importance of resonating with your local audience.

Samsonite understood the need for brand localization when they launched a brand account on Zhihu. Not only did they adopt a locally written name, but they also participated in timely discussions like the 11/11 Shopping Festival and CNY to foster a better connection with the Chinese market.


Samsonite’s Official Brand Profile on Zhihu

Samsonite’s Official Brand Profile on Zhihu


3.   Collaborate with Industry Experts & Key Opinion Leaders

With Zhihu boasting over 43.1 million content creators ready to answer questions about your brand, it’s a no-brainer that collaborating with the right KOL or industry expert can generate high-quality traffic and interest for your brand.

On Zhihu, the focus is not merely on collaborating with any high-profile influencer but rather on partnering with individuals whose expertise and credibility align with your brand’s values and message.

They could be external experts in your industry. Engaging these individuals in your campaigns adds authenticity and trustworthiness to your brand’s image on the platform.


4.   Conduct Search Engine Optimization

Chinese consumers are tech-savvy online shoppers. So, while it’s crucial to align your marketing strategies with the requirements of massive local search engine platforms like Baidu, remember that Zhihu has its own built-in search function.

If you want to take advantage of its social search functions, begin by ensuring that your Zhihu profile is fully optimized. It includes using relevant keywords in your bio, descriptions, and content, terms that your target audience will likely search for.


Audi’s article on Zhihu’s SERP

Audi’s article on Zhihu’s SERP


SEO isn’t just about keywords and links. It’s also about engagement. Active participation in relevant discussions, answering questions related to your field, and consistently posting high-quality content can improve your content’s ranking on the platform.

Articles and answers posted on Zhihu can also appear on top of major search engines. They can drive traffic to your platform page and, by extension, your website or e-commerce platform.

To capitalize on this, create content that addresses common questions and topics in your industry with valuable insights and information. Use backlinks wisely to connect Zhihu users to your official website for deeper engagement.


5.   Launch Paid Advertisements for Lead Generation

Advertising in China, especially on a high-engagement and community-drive platform like Zhihu, can be tricky. You must select formats that align with your product’s features, opting for a blend of direct and indirect advertising approaches.

Direct ads can highlight critical benefits and boost brand appeal, whereas indirect ads should aim at sparking conversations and generating buzz through user engagement.


Chanel’s Brand Topic on Zhihu

Chanel’s Brand Topic on Zhihu


For instance, the renowned luxury brand Chanel leverages direct advertising on Zhihu to showcase its selling points while still fostering community discussions by initiating topics related to its products. This strategy enables the company to achieve an impressive impact in the local market.


Here are popular advertising formats in Zhihu that you can incorporate with your advertising goals:

●     Pop-up Ads

These ads greet users when they open the Zhihu app, featuring interactive elements that can swiftly direct them to a page they choose. Pop-up ads are designed for immediate impact and quick user redirection.


●     Newsfeed Ads

These formats are seamlessly integrated into the user’s feed. They offer a more in-depth advertising experience than pop-up ads. They blend into the natural flow of content consumption, providing detailed information in a less intrusive manner.


●     Display Ads

Display ads on Zhihu are versatile. They often appear as banners, videos, or even within search results. Typically positioned on Zhihu’s internal search pages and homepages, these ads are strategically placed to catch a user’s eye while navigating related content sections.


Zhihu ads types


6.   Utilizing Hashtags in Zhihu

Hashtags serve as a powerful tool to increase the visibility of your content on Zhihu. By incorporating relevant hashtags, you can ensure your articles and answers are discoverable by users actively searching for those topics.

You can integrate relevant hashtags in your posts, answers, and articles to connect with users seeking industry-specific information and discussions. You must utilize popular and trending tags within your niche if you want to maximize your content’s reach.


Tags on Airbnb’s Zhihu Article

Tags on Airbnb’s Zhihu Article


From the screenshot above, you’ll see how Airbnb incorporated industry-related hashtags in their article, like “Travel” and “Homestay.” This strategy ensures that your content is seen by users with a genuine interest in your industry or subject matter. It increases the likelihood of engagement.


7.   Engage Actively in Q&A Sessions

Posting premium branded content or launching advertisements are not the only ways to generate traffic for your brand. As you navigate a community-driven platform like Zhihu, providing insightful, helpful answers is critical to building a positive reputation, establishing authority, and opening the window to interact directly with potential customers.

Your answers can foster trust and loyalty among platform users, helping your brand gain a solid foothold and credibility in Zhihu’s online community.


Airbnb answering questions and topics on Zhihu

Airbnb answering questions and topics on Zhihu


Why Should You Use Zhihu For Marketing in China?

●     SEO and Online Visibility

Major Chinese search engines often favor content from Zhihu because of the platform’s high domain authority. Most prominent industry players like Sogou and Baidu consider its Q&A format, articles, and topic categorization inherently SEO-friendly. These factors make it easier for the systems to crawl and index their content.


●     Diverse Content Formats

Beyond traditional Q&A, Zhihu supports various content formats, including articles, videos, and live streams. Through these features, brands craft comprehensive content marketing strategies that engage users across different categories.


●     Viral Potential Through Community Engagement

Engaging with the community by answering questions, participating in discussions, and creating shareable content can increase a brand’s visibility on Zhihu. High-quality contributions have the potential to go viral, further boosting local brand awareness and industry credibility.


Who Should Use Zhihu For Their Brand Marketing Strategy?

While Zhihu does offer innovative digital marketing techniques to raise brand awareness, it’s worth noting that its user base includes individuals seeking professional knowledge and niche-specific topics. Here are specific brand categories that may thrive in the platform:

  • Brands seeking to be thought or industry leaders
  • Businesses targeting affluent and highly educated audiences
  • Companies in fields like technology, science, healthcare, legal, and education
  • Brands focusing on improving their search visibility in China


Quick Q&A

Who are Zhihu users?

Zhihu users are often educated millennials from high-tier cities with strong purchasing power. Around 83% of its user base is younger than 35, with a large portion holding at least one academic degree. Its community is recognized for its analytical mindset, often dedicating substantial time to providing thorough responses to questions.

Do you need a Chinese business license to open a Zhihu account?

Individuals are not required to have a Chinese business license to create a profile on Zhihu. Anyone can register for a personal account using a phone number or connecting with other social media accounts.

However, the platform does have this requirement for businesses looking to establish an official presence on Zhihu. Foreign companies can submit international business licenses.


Your Trusted Zhihu Marketing Partner in the Chinese Market!

Utilizing Zhihu for your brand’s content marketing strategy includes having relevant knowledge about your target audience. Remember that the platform has a highly educated user base, so quality content production is not something you can skip.

At Sekkei Digital Group, we can guide you through the platform’s every twist and turn, unlocking your brand’s full potential and ensuring resounding success in this dynamic landscape.


Sekkei Digital Group Services


Whether it’s setting up a Zhihu account, writing articles, or launching advertisement campaigns, SDG has your business needs covered! Contact us today to learn more about navigating this highly engaged platform and using it to your brand’s advantage.



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