In this article we will find out what Weibo is and how it works. This social, in fact, holds enormous potential for implementing your company’s digital marketing strategies and selling your products in China.

What is Weibo and how it works

If you are wondering what Weibo is and how it works, this article may clear your mind.

Sina Weibo is a Chinese social media owned by Sina, the largest news portal in China. Weibo literally means “microblogging,” in fact people often think of this social as the “Chinese brother” of Twitter. In reality Weibo is much more and combines the functionality of our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Even in terms of structure it is a kind of mix between the platforms we are used to in the West. It is, in fact, similar to Twitter, but in length the posts are closer to those of our Facebook (max 2000 characters).

Another difference is the hashtags. In fact, for both Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo (another microblogging platform owned by Tencent) hashtags are double. This means that they must be inserted at both the beginning and the end of a word (e.g. #hashtag#). This is due to the peculiarity of writing the Chinese language, which requires an ending tag to make up for poor punctuation.

Weibo at the top of the charts

We can consider Weibo one of China’s leading online platforms. In fact, there are more than 398 million active users in China in 2020 and it is expected to reach 418 million in 2021. Globally, however, it has already reached 480 million monthly users in 2019. These users belong to various social classes, but it is worth noting an interesting detail for Italian companies selling in the Chinese market. Weibo is, in fact, one of the tools preferred by the upper-middle class living in China’s large metropolises. A class that is usually inclined to spend on quality goods exported from abroad.

What users can do on Weibo

Weibo users can do many actions on social. These include “traditional” social activities such as sharing posts, photos, videos, external links, files, and instant messaging. You can then follow certain topics via hashtags (#), create microblogs and polls, and search for information or advice. Weibo also supports gaming activities and the use of promotions for online purchases on related e-commerce platforms. Finally, the ability to follow brands, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and companies without the need to register on the platform is crucial.

The recovery of Weibo

Some time ago the social seemed to experience some problems. They were related to competition from WeChat on the one hand and the problems of so many fake accounts on the other. However, Weibo has been able to renew itself in a strong and dynamic way. Currently the social is increasingly versatile and carries a policy of strong control over fake accounts.

Data confirms the success of this recovery: since 2017, Weibo users continue to increase. As indicated by Sina Weibo CEO Chao Guowei, the high number of users is precisely due to its versatility. Indeed, the social effectively manages to bring together features characteristic of various Western social networks.

The verification of accounts on this social

In addition to knowing about Weibo and how it works, you need to know that there are some ways to overcome problems that a brand might encounter. Verified accounts have a “V” next to their name to show that their information has been checked and confirmed by Weibo.

Often the accounts of actors and celebrities are cloned. But this can also happen to the accounts of companies. This problem can happen when companies use accounts already opened by others. As such, our advice is always to open the account from scratch and have it verified. This will avoid the risk of cloning and gain you more credibility among the brand’s followers.

moschino weibo

source: Weibo, verified page of Moschino

How to use Weibo for business marketing

How can it be used for the marketing strategies of a brand that wants to market itself in China? Weibo can be used in different ways depending on the needs of the company. First, its features make it useful for communicating quickly with many followers at the same time. In fact, it rewards “one-to-many” communication. For this reason it is preferred for:

– increased brand awareness

– boost on events and/or promotions

– referral to e-commerce platforms through external links

– initiating partnerships with key opinion leaders

– exploitation of word-of-mouth 

– investment in brand advertising (through display adv, search engine promotion and other advertising techniques).

Other useful functions for businesses

Sina Weibo has many other useful features to raise awareness of brands and interact with their community or target audience. For example, the Miaopai App allows users to share videos and record live streaming. In fact, live streaming has become one of its strengths in the wake of the success that Beyond the Wall has been having for the past few years.

A program was then launched within Weibo that allows brands to target their target market segment. The program offers recommendations based on user interests and stimulates more quality interaction between brand and consumer. This analysis is possible because the App is based on data sharing. “Dynamic data biology is the basis of Weibo,” claims CEO Chao Guowei.


What distinguishes Weibo from WeChat

You might ask why use Weibo when a varied and popular App like WeChat already exists in China.

Emanuele Vitali, co-founder of East Media, answers us, “Weibo has the ability to reach the general public more quickly and this explains its important follower numbers. Wechat, on the other hand, is absolutely essential for vertical communication. It has less follower numbers but absolutely unmatched impact and influence.”

In addition, the platforms are also used differently for Chinese cultural aspects. “With Weibo, the Chinese user exposes himself to everything and everyone. Because of its collectivist culture, he does it more reluctantly and more carefully, he exposes himself less. Whereas with Wechat, privacy is tighter because it was born and developed from a messaging app.”

Also from our reports for clients across industries what emerges at the Key Performance Indicator level confirms that:

Weibo: more followers, faster, fewer shares and interactions

Wechat: fewer followers, fewer reads, but more impact on Call To Action (CTA)

The question companies need to ask themselves in order to plan a successful strategy in the Chinese market is not whether to use one or the other social. Rather, they need to ask themselves how to effectively integrate the two platforms.

Why integrate it into your marketing strategy

China is a market to be discovered. While it may seem almost impossible to succeed in an environment so different from what we are used to, diverse and complex, it represents a consistent opportunity and a viable path.

The 13th Annual Report of the Italy China Council Foundation – ICCF – is Italy’s most authoritative and comprehensive guide to the political, economic and business access scenario in China. Download the excerpt prepared by East Media on Digital Marketing in China!