Sina Weibo, released in 2009, is a Chinese social media website and mobile application. The application in essence is a hybrid between Twitter and Facebook. Weibo’s rise to success stemmed from China online censorship ban, preventing access to multiple online western based platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google, just to name a few. While the government still maintains a level of censorship over Weibo, the site has become a place for people to initiate conversation ranging from daily activities to pointing out corruption.
Being one of China’s largest open platforms it is a perfect medium for Businesses to connect with their consumer base. Weibo reported 297 million monthly active users as of September 2016, a year over year growth rate of 34%.
In recent years Weibo has shown significant growth, even with the growth of WeChat. This wasn’t always the case for Weibo. Back in 2015, rules making it mandatory to register real names with accounts made many feel accountable in an environment meant to promote conversation. Many thought that this would lead to an eventual decline in Weibo users. Although for a period of time Weibo saw a declining user base, the application has revitalized itself, reaching a higher user base and higher stock value then Twitter. This growth can be attributed to a large shift in video consumption in Chinese consumers, with daily average views surpassing 2 billion for Weibo, in the fourth quarter of 2016. Live video streams can be seen as a large contributor to this growth.
As a business looking to utilize Weibo, it is important to understand how the social media platform differs in the landscape of Chinese social media. When one talks about Chinese social media it is difficult to keep WeChat out of the conversation – it is in fact, crucial to understand that both Weibo and WeChat are able to co-exist. While it is true that WeChat has outpaced Weibo’s growth, they fulfill two different actions. 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 paired with content being small, quick, and digestible makes Weibo an ideal place for businesses to brand themselves. When it comes to getting news, Weibo is currently the top ranking source of news for internet users.
Weibo is a great medium for businesses to improve brand recognition and brand loyalty. The only caveat being, in today’s online environment, those in the online community have a higher standard towards content. So 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 conversation with these consumers.