Weibo is akin to Twitter with over 540 million registered accounts and 523 million monthly active users. The name literally means ‘Micro Blog’. Launched by Sina in 2009 it is really a mix between Twitter and Facebook in terms of functionalities. With 2 billion daily videos’ visualizations now on Weibo, it is hard to ignore the role that it plays in a comprehensive Chinese marketing strategy. Weibo has a young demographic, 50% of them are under the age of 30.
Here we’ll describe some key features and some marketing strategies to implement on this nifty platform.
Weibo is a Platform for Brands & Businesses
Weibo is a 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; 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 462 million monthly active monthly, 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.
Weibo 2020 Q3 Data
- Weibo (NASDAQ: WB) shares are up 0.8% premarket after Q3 revenue and EPS beats. Q4 guidance has revenue from $355M to $365M compared to the $340.52M consensus.
- Key metrics: Monthly active users, 523M (+37M); mobile MAUs as % of MAUs, 92%; average daily active users, 165M (+33M).
- Advertising and marketing revenues, $276.8M (+77% Y/Y); other revenue, cash from operating activities, $110.6M; cash and equivalents, $737M; capital expenditures, $4.4M.
Year on year growth has become a defining feature of China’s digital world as we witness increased uptake & most importantly increased engagement rates. These figures are possible because of Weibo’s positioning as the number one ‘buzz platform’ in China. It has become the go-to platform in terms of content-driven sharing. KOL’s with their extensive followings are focused around the Weibo eco-system.
In addition, I would comment that the +77% Y/Y revenue from advertising is due to a super-smart ad infrastructure in terms of targeted in-feed posts for user accounts following similar brands & businesses, this more targeted approach (not offered by WeChat) has allowed brands to grow their followings at a more substantial rate and led to increased spending.
A resurgence in Weibo’s Popularity among Chinese Netizens
On 9 April 2013, Alibaba Group announced that it would acquire 18% of Sina Weibo for $586 million, with an option to buy up to 30% in the future. Now Alibaba owns 32% of Sina Weibo.
With Alibaba’s backing, the platform has become very relevant for brands and e-commerce businesses in particular. Some people thought that WeChat would have eclipsed Weibo, but after increasing the character limits for posts and the live streaming function, it remains a mainstay in the Chinese social networking ecosystem.
A Boom in Live Streaming
A boom in live streaming played a significant role in Weibo as it merged with MeiPai (a popular video app), so now a lot of bloggers, celebs & new users 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 where Chinese influencers posts content to their followers.
KOLs allow companies to position their brands and reach a huge audience. Not only they encourage followers to reply and comment, but they also play a very important role in convincing the user to become a consumer.
Weibo: A Highly Active Platform
There are over 100 million daily posts and 68 thousand posts published every second. More interactions equal more exposure for your content. Users are encouraged to upload pictures, 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 are discouraged.
When publishing a post on Weibo, concise, interesting, and clear posts with content such as photos, videos, memes, and GIFs are preferable. They convey information and act as an incentive for readers to share the post.
Hashtags are used with two hashtags (# hashtag #), instead of one. This peculiarity is due to the Chinese writing method that does not include spaces between words.
Alibaba Fuels Further Social Commerce
The rise of ‘social commerce’ in China has been without precedents, and Alibaba owning a third of Weibo is another step towards this change. It will have an impact on the fact that external links can be posted but likely further on e-commercial promotions and e-shopping infrastructures via Weibo itself. Watch this space for how Weibo performs on annual China’s Singles Day. For example, shopping Bonanza now it is affiliated with this e-commerce giant.
A Powerful Platform for Kols
Weibo has often been more associated with Influencers than any other 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 work simultaneously with a-number-of influencers to create an ‘echo chamber’ effect.
To set up on Weibo as a business, you need either a Chinese Business License or you must adopt a third party business hosting strategy.
Guide for Foreign Brand to begin on Weibo
Official accounts need to be set up & verified. Verification is important, without it, you have limited access to the platform. It is also important to give authority to the brand or business in consumers’ eyes.
Once a user gets through the verification on the internet, a colorful V will be added behind their username. Orange V is for people while the blue one is for organizations and companies. There will also 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 a community, publish updates (there are no limits), and launch marketing campaigns based on content, influencer posts & cross-promotional links.
Here are the main ways to stay active and engage with users on China’s top microblogging platform.
A Stylish Account for Watchmakers WeWood, we’ve taken a strong community-based approach with interactive content to drive sales and engagement.
On Weibo, engagement is key to success
For many brands, Weibo is a great tool for communication. Here are the main ways to stay active and engage with users on China’s top microblogging platform.
Set up a good welcome message
Once you launch an account and a user follows you, he/she will receive a welcome message: it is important to customize this as the first point of engagement.
A quality welcome message will include:
- A call to action.
- Introduction to the company & brand.
- Description of what users can expect from your account.
- Relevant cross-promo links to WeChat.
It is important to consider how the user will benefit from you and outline this from the first point of contact to incentivize engagement.
Pharma Deal Promoted Welcome Message Promoting Healthy Values – Links to their Pharmaceuticals.
Answer consumers’ messages
Chinese customers like to send messages to official Weibo accounts & they expect an immediate answer. 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 it is part of the fabric of users’ experience in terms of engagement.
Many businesses handle enquires in-house or they assign a separate customer service team.
Re-post fan’s posts
If fans add you or comment about you in their post you will receive a notification, this vital user-generated content can be re-posted on your page. Highlighting other users’ engagement will fuel relevant conversations 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 a good e-reputation.
Target relevant pages/accounts
A key strategy is to engage with targeted groups & accounts; this can be much targeted and allow you to tap into similar communities. You can post and engage with other industry players on Weibo and comment on their posts. A large part of branding on Weibo is about asserting your expertise.
Weibo Lucky Draw and Contest
Contests and lucky draw are classic Weibo campaign. They are great for engagement and virality. When getting started it helps a brand grow its following. Once the brand already has a following and superfan, it can work directly with super fans to run the campaign.
Weibo beginner guide of Advertisements
There are four ways to advertise on Weibo: Display Adverts, Weibo Search Engine Promotion, Fan Headlines, and Fan Tunnel.
Display ads are mainly placed in the search section, on the Weibo home page, and alongside new posts. Weibo allows a targeted approach through keywords selected on user searches.
Weibo Search Engine Promotion gives companies the opportunity to pay an economic fee to appear among the first search results. This is a very effective way to give visibility to your account.
Fan Tunnel is the most targeted and intelligent way to reach new consumers and followers. It functions as a “headline” that appears at the top of the news section on the home of targeted audiences defined by age, gender, region, interests, and even device types.
Fun Headlines: Sponsored posts or accounts will appear at the top of the follower news section for 24 hours. This increases the likelihood of re-sharing. The post will appear as “推广” (Promoted) or “热门” (hot) at the top of the feed. It is a way to create engagement and increase the number of followers.
A positive reputation on Weibo is a must in China
Weibo is a powerful ‘branding’ tool in China. Chinese people buy brands, not products. When investing in your image and content you need to opt for quality copywriting, the right tailored aesthetic, and a coherent approach to targeting your audience in Mandarin Chinese.
Ensure that your page aesthetic and formatting is the best; you can also feature a customized, branded design on the account.
To conclude on this Weibo Guide for Beginners:
In conclusion, Weibo is a powerful tool for image, branding, cross-promotion, and increase sales (with Alibaba’s influence).
Weibo is again on the rise and is the most open network in China and it is a key platform to consider for your launch in China.
Having said this, you cannot rely only on Weibo. It needs to be part of a comprehensive campaign that includes:
- Presence on Baidu
- Promotions on WeChat
- Promotions on Weibo
- Chinese Media Exposure (PR)
- Tapping into Chinese forums and targeted communities.
We are a specialist social media and digital marketing agency based in China.
We work across the whole spectrum of Chinese digital media, for more info please contact our friendly, native experts.
Interested in Weibo, see here:
- A Guide to Weibo Advertising
- Is Weibo still a relevant social media to promote your brand in China?
- CREATIVE IDEAS FOR KOLs MARKETING ON WEIBO