Weibo is China’s microblogging site, similar to Twitter. As of 2017, it has more users than Twitter making it one of the most prominent social media platforms in the world. It is also China’s most distinguished and efficient mass-marketing tool and its usership is approaching 500 million.
Weibo is not a direct carbon copy of Twitter—Weibo has different features adapted to the Chinese context:
- Expanded Focus: On Weibo, instead of viewing content from people you follow, you also view trending topics in your newsfeed. When things go viral or international publications talk about trending topics in China, chances are that it emerged on Weibo. Here’s an example of something going viral on Weibo: someone posts a noteworthy video that causes people to comment on the situation, often in relation to Chinese society. Subsequently, the video causes more people to comment and the frenzy is picked up by the press or stifled by the state.
- Incorporated Media: Weibo incorporates stories of images, short videos, and hashtags, similar to Instagram. The platform is generally where the sharing of memes, content publication and rapid dissemination of information takes place. Recently, 360 panoramas and 360 areal videos have become popular on the platform as China rapidly embraces VR/AR technology.
- Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs): Commonly known as Influencers, these internet celebrities are very active on the platform. Most of them, especially in art, fashion, travel—anything culturally related—launched to prominence on Weibo. For example, Tao Liang, also known as Mr. Bags, managed to acquire over 3 million Weibo followers through his keen interest in luxury handbags.
WeChat requires marketing—that’s where Weibo comes in.
Weibo is a perfect mass-marketing tool because it is an open platform that disseminates content in an accessible way. Both platforms require riveting content and engagement in order to retain followers, however, Weibo can attract followers while WeChat requires the user to search for the company on their own.
Marketing on Weibo is more effective than marketing on WeChat as it can attract followers unfamiliar with your brand. Weibo’s marketing platform allows users to target specific demographics and interests. Marketing on Weibo is more cost effective compared to WeChat. While WeChat does allow ads on Moments and embedded ads in articles, they are rather expensive and foreign entities are not permitted to use it to advertise, unless a marketer works with a KOL. WeChat account posts are limited to account followers who need to actively follow your account or see a repost of your content by someone within their network.
Meanwhile, Weibo allows marketers to directly target users based on their interests. When users register a Weibo account, they select certain topics pertaining to their interests. This is one of the most popular and straightforward ways to find an audience, however, is as with any social media company’s marketing platform, big data can be collected and leveraged to narrow down targets. Companies like Weibo have the ability to hold each user’s big data from their online activity and can help marketers direct ads to users who are most likely to be enticed.
Weibo is a platform that can be used to drive followers to your company’s WeChat, or directly to your site.
Weibo can execute four different types of campaigns:
- Display Adverts: inputting keywords that link to user searches--ads come up in user’s feeds and direct them to a company’s homepage.
- Fan Headlines: targeting your existing followers by boosting your content to the top of their newsfeed and their connections who may also be potential targets.
- Fan Tunnel: the best way to rapidly grow a following, you can promote a post or your account and will appear on users’ news feed, targeted by their specific interests.
- Weibo Search Engine Promotion: using targeted keywords to increase the visibility of your account when a search correlates with your keywords.
Content is king when building and retaining a following on any social media platform. Frequent and engaging posts should be localized to the specific Chinese audience—direct translations of what is popular in America will not always resonate with audiences abroad. Aside from quality content, there are several mass-marketing strategies on Weibo:
- Weibo ad campaigns: As with most international social media platforms, Weibo offers companies the ability to advertise and boost posts. This method helps companies achieve greater online exposure.
- Weibo Stories: Utilizing Weibo stories, similar to Instagram stories, can be enabled to showcase companies’ events and products and to attract interested followers
- 360 and VR Media: 360 media refers to videos or pictures that offer the viewer the ability to look at the whole picture through different perspectives albeit in the same position in 3D. This can be further enhanced by virtual reality, a technology developing and being popularized in China faster than anywhere else.
- Multimedia: Weibo supports multimedia including GIFs, video clips, external links and images, and 360 panoramas. The incorporation of multimedia make posts more visually attractive.
- Promotions: Raffles and giveaways are very popular on Weibo. Companies looking to expanding their following or enhance engagement generally follow the standard share-to-enter promotion model.
(from left to right: 360 panorama, GIFs, Raffle)
The British universities frequently offer good examples of Weibo accounts with good follower engagement.
The Chinese internet is like an oceanic ecosystem: Weibo is the ocean and WeChat is your aquarium. To stock your aquarium, you need nets built of relevant and engaging content tossed into the ocean. There are many different types of nets and many different types of fish. It’s important to remember that successful marketing strategies on Twitter might not always directly translate over to Weibo and vice versa. The Chinese audience has unique tastes and demand localized content: they need to understand and trust your brand. In the 21st century, this comes from building up Guanxi (relationships) on social media.