Weibo is akin to China’s Twitter with over 600 million registered accounts and 220 million monthly active users. The name literally translates as ‘Micro Blog’. Launched by Sina in 2009 it is really a merge between Twitter and Facebook in terms of it’s functionality. With 143 of the fortune 500 companies now on Weibo this platform is hard to ignore the role Weibo plays in a comprehensive Chinese marketing strategy.
Here we’ll unpack some key features and marketing strategies to implement on this nifty platform in China:
A Platform for Brands & Businesses
Weibo is very relevant platform for brands and businesses. The statistics speak for themselves with over 224,000 verified company users. The platform is an ‘open network’, this means users can see posts from anyone else, they do not have to be connected first.
As a result Weibo lends itself more to content sharing, visibility and community building, despite having a smaller user base than WeChat (which is a ‘closed’ network).
There are over 220 million active monthly users, each user follows on average 120 official accounts.
This is far higher than the average of 50 followed on WeChat with a more established (and even expected) brand and business presence.
A Re-Surgence in Weibo Popularity
On 9 April 2013, Alibaba Group announced that it would acquire 18 percent of Sina Weibo for $586 million, with an option to buy up to 30 percent in the future. Now Alibaba owns 32 percent of Sina Weibo.
With Alibaba’s backing the platform has become very relevant for brands and e-commerce businesses in particular. It was thought that WeChat would eclipse Weibo but after increasing the character limits for posts and the platforms embrace of live streaming it remains a mainstay in the Chinese social networking ecosystem.
A Boom in Live Streaming & Influencers
A boom in live streaming played a significant role in Weibo’s developed as it merged with MeiPai (a popular video app), a lot of bloggers, celebs & new users now access live streams here. It has also become a powerful marketing tool with hosts of online influencers galvanizing a lot of attention.
Weibo is the platform of choice for Chinese influencers to posts content to their followers.
A Highly Active Platform
There are over 100 million daily posts. More interactions equals more exposure to your content. Users are encouraged to upload photo’s videos, polls, follow trends, official accounts and engage with other users. Weibo is frequently used as a platform for sharing content links and commentary but please be aware that with Alibaba’s influence external links outside of their online group being discouraged.
Alibaba Fuels Further Social Commerce
The rise of ‘social commerce’ in China has been unprecedented, Alibaba owning a third of Weibo is another step towards this. It will impact upon what external links can be posted but likely further the way for e-commercial promotions and e-shopping infrastructures via Weibo itself. Watch this space for how Weibo performs in the annual China’s Singles Day shopping Bonanza now it is affiliated with this e-commerce giant.
A Powerful Platform for Online Influencers
Weibo has often been more associated with Influencers than any other rival platform. This is partly because it is an open network (as mentioned earlier, users can see posts from anyone), they are therefore able to attract a following with greater ease. It is also because of the advent of live streaming and the monetization of live streaming on the platform.
KOL’s or Influencers offer a way of growing by tapping into the large, existing communities of followers they have built up. Different influencers target different demographics and you will find a large range of different cyber celebs to suit a range of budgets. The best strategy is to simultaneously work with a-number-of influencers to create an ‘echo chamber’ effect.
To set up on Weibo as a business you need either a CBL (Chinese Business Licence) or must adopt a third party business hosting strategy..
Official accounts need to be set up & verified, verification is important, without this you have limited access to the platform, it also is important to validate the brand or business in the eyes of the consumer.
Once a user gets through the verification on the internet, a colourful V will be added behind their username. An orange V is for people while a blue one is for organizations and companies. Also there will be a graph and a declaration on its user page to show the verification. There are several kinds of verifications: personal verification, college verification, business verification or organization verification.
Via an official account you can build community, publish updates (no limit), launch marketing campaigns based around content, influencer posts & cross promotional links.
Ensure you engage with followers intelligently as part of any campaign.
For many brands Weibo is great tool for communication here are the main ways to stay active and engage with users behaviour on China’s top microblogging platform:
Setting up a Welcome Message;
Once you launch an account and a user follows you they will receive a welcome message, it is important to customize this at the first point of engagement.
A quality welcome message will include
- A call to action
- Introduce the company & brand
- Detail what users can expect from the account
- Include relevant cross promo links to WeChat
It is important to consider how the end user will benefit and outline this from this first point of contact to incentivize repeat engagement.
Answer Consumer Messages
Chinese customers like to send messages to official Weibo accounts & have now come to expect customer services offered on the platform. It is important to directly address any queries in the comments, reply individually if possible and adopt a highly conversational approach.
In China brand influence on social networks is far more normalized and part of the fabric of a users experience, in terms of engagement you need to shift gear.
Many businesses handle enquires in-house or assign a separate customer service team.
Re-post Fan Posts
If fans add you or comment about you in their post you will receive a notification, this vital user generated content which you can re-post on your page. Highlighting other users engagement further fuels topics of relevant conversation about your brand.
By bringing followers into your official posts you also highlight what they say, in China user to user brand references are very important for instilling trust and developing reputation.
Targeting Relevant Pages/Accounts
A key strategy is to engage with targeted groups & accounts, this can be very targeted and allow you to tap into similar communities. You can post and engage with other industry players on Weibo and also comment on their posts. A large part of branding on Weibo is asserting your expertise & authority.
Positive Reputation is your Greatest Currency
Weibo is typically thought of as a powerful ‘branding’ tool in China. The Chinese buy brands not products. When investing into your image and content you need to budget for quality copywriting, the right tailored aesthetic and a coherent approach to targeting your demographic in Mandarin Chinese.
Ensure that your page aesthetic and formatting is right, you can also feature a customized, branded design on the account.
Too conclude, Weibo is a powerful tool for image, branding, cross promotion and increasingly sales (with Alibaba’s influence..) Weibo is again on the rise and as the most open network in China is a key platform to consider for your launch in China.
Having said this you cannot rely wholly on Weibo, it needs to be part of a comprehensive campaign where all the elements interconnect and support one another. This includes:
- A Baidu Presence
- WeChat Promotions
- Weibo Promotions
- Chinese Media Exposure (PR)
- Tapping into Chinese forums and targeted communities.
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