Canada’s Chinese Marketing Landscape: Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter [Part 4]

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Sina Weibo, released in 2009, is a Chinese microblogging platform and mobile application. The platform is, in essence, a hybrid between Twitter and Facebook. Weibo’s rise to prominence partly stemmed from China’s Great Firewall: a combination of legislative measures and technological restrictions which prevent access to western information sources including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Wikipedia, among others. While the government still has the power to censor Weibo content and has, in the past, pressured the company to ban LGBT content, the site has nevertheless become a place for people to initiate conversation focused on anything from daily activities to exposing the corruption of government officials.

Today, as one of China’s largest open platforms, it is a perfect platform for businesses to connect with their consumer base. As of January 2022, Weibo reported 252 million active daily users, representing an increase of 22 million active daily users year-over-year. The platform is especially popular among young white-collar workers and urban online populations.

Statistics show Canada’s Chinese Marketing Landscape: Sina Weibo can help you grow your business due to its average active daily users
The sustained growth of Sina Weibo in recent years

Although Weibo has seen significant growth in recent years, this wasn’t always the case. Back in 2017, the company implemented new rules making it mandatory to register real names with accounts and gave an ultimatum to users in September of that same year. This was at odds with the anonymity that had made many feel more comfortable having sensitive or controversial conversations online but ultimately did not impede the platform’s upwards trajectory in terms of user base.

This growth can be attributed to a large shift in video posting and views by Chinese consumers, with daily average views surpassing 2 billion for Weibo, in the fourth quarter of 2016. Many of these videos are live video streams, which have also contributed to the new and growing culture around Weibo. 

As a business looking to utilize Weibo, it is important to understand how the social media platform differs from other Chinese social media, particularly WeChat. When one talks about Chinese social media it is difficult to keep WeChat out of the conversation, which is fine, as it is crucial to understand how Weibo and WeChat are able to co-exist. While it is true that WeChat has outpaced Weibo’s growth, they fulfill two different needs in the market. WeChat acts as a hub for CRM and P2P transactions, while Weibo is an open platform, meaning all accounts are able to access and consume media quickly. This open format paired with short, quick, and digestible content makes Weibo an ideal place for businesses to brand themselves. 

What it means for Canadian Businesses

Weibo can be a great medium for businesses to improve brand recognition and brand loyalty. Companies, brands, and celebrities in China manage Weibo accounts to initiate regular interaction with their audiences. A company page can even sell products directly through the Weibo platform.

In today’s online environment, however, it is important to remember that those in the Chinese online community have high standards for content. To generate recognition and loyalty, it is important to provide content that is both interesting and engaging. Businesses can also gain insight from consumers through Weibo. Due to the conversational environment that Weibo pushes, brands can see what customers want and initiate real conversations with these consumers. 

Setting up with Weibo

When choosing an account, brands can choose from four different types:

  • Regular personal account
  • Regular company account
  • Verified personal account
  • Verified company account

The choice of account type depends on the direction and level of commitment that a business wants to put into its Weibo strategy. 

For most companies that are looking at China as a serious market, a verified account is usually the most beneficial. There are two scenarios which can play out for verifying a Weibo account, and which are needed depending on if the company is local to China or applying from overseas.

Scenario 1: Verifying an Account as a Local Chinese Company

Cost: Zero Cost

Required Documentation:

  • Detailed Information About the Company
    • Official Company Name
    • Weibo URL(Weibo link)
    • Weibo UID 
    • Industry Category(Group)
    • Industry Category(Description)
    • Website
  • Detailed Information on Business License
    • Registration Number of Business License
    • Company Location Address and Postcode
    • Set-Up Date of the Company
    • Term of Operation
    • Company Registered Capital
    • Company Legal Person’s Name
  • Detailed Information of Contact Person
    • Name of Contact
    • Contact Email Address
    • Contact Number
    • Contact Person Business Card of Registered Company
  • Scanned copy of business license and certificate of organization code in colour
  • Other documents might be requested: Weibo Verification team has the right to ask for other supporting documents

Processing time: 30 working days

Scenario 2: Overseas Verification

Cost: 1000USD ( 1000USD could be waived, if the client opens Weibo paid ad account FST and deposit more than $3000)

Required Documentation:

  • Company registration documents/business license and its translations in English
  • Third-Party Authorization Letter
  • Authorization Application Letter  – Signed
  • Purchase Order Form  – Signed
  • Official Website URL
  • Introduction of the Company About its Products and Services
  • Contact Person Business Card of Registered Company
  • Sina Weibo Community Management Regulations – Signed
  • Weibo URL(Weibo link) & Weibo UID (the client needs to have a personal account before registering a business account) 
  • Other documents might be requested: Weibo Verification team has the right to ask for other supporting documents. (e.g.: Brand Registration Document) 

Processing time: 30 working dates

Verified accounts come with benefits exclusive to them. For verified company accounts, their profile will be adorned with a familiar blue checkmark. This icon helps build trust and rapport between a company and potential followers/consumers. Verification also provides higher visibility when people are searching keywords that revolve around your brand. This puts your brand in higher priority in comparison to competitors that are looking to gain followers in the same area. Verified accounts have access to back-end data such as metrics based on followers. This data can be used by businesses to measure against objectives. Lastly, verified accounts can customize/personalize their interface, giving themselves a unique and memorable presence, an important factor in a competitive online space.

Although Weibo may not be as large as WeChat, the large user base cannot be ignored. When considering the fact that many popular western platforms are inaccessible in China, Weibo becomes an even more attractive advertising space. The open nature of the platform and its focus on shorter form video content could be the opportunity your company needs to reach demographics which are essential to the success of your business. Navigating Weibo as a foreign company is complicated, and making sure you have the necessary funds and documentation is another barrier to entry. Marketing agencies with experience navigating the Chinese ad market can make your life a lot easier, and that’s why choosing a talented organization like Periphery Digital will ensure your investment takes you as far as possible, all with less headaches along the way.

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