When talking about social media in China, you may have heard about WeChat and Douyin (also known as Tiktok). However, in terms of size and popularity, Weibo certainly stands out.
Weibo (微博) is a Chinese microblogging website, much like Twitter or Facebook. After its launch by the Sina Corporation in August of 2009, it quickly made its name as one of the biggest social media platforms in China.
In 2014, Weibo filed under the symbol of WB (Nasdaq) and became a publicly-traded company. However, in September of 2020, the company announced its intention to go back to being private. Particularly due to rising tensions between China and the United States.
Weibo is “China’s Twitter.” However, it is much more than Twitter. Rather think of it as a combination of Twitter, Facebook, and perhaps even Instagram.
Its four key features are detailed below.
- Personal Account with Sharing, and Commenting. Like most social media platforms, Weibo allows you to open a personal account. From there you can post text, images, videos, and gifs. To that end, your followers’ feeds get these posts and the users can share and like them.
Profile pages feature:
- Number of visitors
- Engagement data
To separate celebrities, public officials, and brands from their regular users Weibo uses different colored icons. Celebrities and public personalities display an orange V while brands and companies sport a blue V.
2. Customizable Homepage. On Weibo’s homepage, you find two sections at the top: Following, and Hot. First, in the following section, you see the posts that accounts you are following share. Then you can like, comment, and share.
Second, under the Hot section, Weibo recommends content you may be interested in. This is based on searches, following history, and the content you interact with.
Other sections such as Nearby and Ranking List, show targeted content pertaining to the category selected.
3. Discover. The discover page functions both as a search engine and a trending topics listing. It groups interesting stories or events under categories such as Sports, Entertainment, and News. It also lists the top 50 trending topics of the day.
4. Video. The video page features the most popular videos. Video content is grouped together and categorized under groups such as “Celebrities” and “News.”
Personal vs. Business
Weibo offers a variety of different account types. However, this article focuses on personal and business accounts.
One of the key differences between personal and business accounts is the type of verification. As mentioned above, organization accounts (businesses & brands, governmental bodies) receive a blue V sign. In addition, these accounts get a verification title. This is a clear categorization of your type of account (e.g. Food Brand).
Companies should verify their corporate account as soon as possible. This prevents copycat accounts. Verification helps build trust and reputation with your audience when posting brand-related content. Furthermore, this helps reduce the danger of scams. However, Weibo is generally good with prompt censorship or deletion of scam accounts. Additionally, verified accounts get advanced customization features, as well as mass messaging.
To get verified on Weibo, you must go through a verification process and provide official documents to Sina to prove the legality of your operation. Once approved and verified, your business account will receive the exclusive blue V.
Corporate accounts on Weibo provide more professional-oriented features compared to personal accounts. For example, fan service, event center, data center, and an ad center. As well as data analytics and CRM tools.
Another interesting option is to get a Weibo VIP Membership. This option is a way to upgrade accounts and increase functionality. Brand accounts appear more “official” as they “distance” themselves from regular Weibo users. The special crown badge on the profile sets the account apart.
A Weibo VIP Membership offers exclusive customer care, with a dedicated customer service team. In addition is a “Priority Referral” status, which grants more opportunities to appear on people’s “Recommended” homepage. This is a great feature for marketing purposes. Finally, you will have a customizable cover image, exclusive templates, and further special badges.
How Much Power Does a Weibo Corporate Account Wield?
If you want to market your products in China, opening a corporate Weibo account is vital. This is because it is the only way to get verified as a Brand. The verified status allows you to build credibility as a brand and as a business, and it helps followers find you more easily. Followers share content from verified accounts more. Because they consider verified accounts more trustworthy.
On Weibo, businesses use their corporate accounts to improve brand awareness through advertising and other promotional activities. Furthermore, brands foster interaction with their audiences by posting brand-related content. Such as short posts or links to articles or a website.
Industry tip: if you have WeChat articles already up, you could post them on Weibo by taking a long screenshot and publishing it as an image post. This is an option that is becoming increasingly popular.
A powerful Weibo tool is Weibo Window, which is a cooperation with e-commerce platforms like Taobao. This feature allows corporate accounts to open a Weibo “window” to sell products directly from the site. This is a crucially important feature as it allows you to add a revenue source in the form of Weibo by directly boosting your sales from the site.
A powerful feature is for businesses to connect with influencers to boost sales from within the platform. Weibo calls this a “content-driven marketing platform.”
How to Open a Weibo Window Account
While most companies use Weibo for promotional purposes, it’s important to not ignore its e-commerce potential. This will help boost sales, retain customers, and increase brand awareness.
Opening a Weibo Window account is an incredibly user-friendly experience.
This feature allows both corporate accounts and regular users to sell products on their page directly on the site, through a partnership with relevant e-commerce platforms like Taobao.
To open a Weibo Window page, follow these easy steps:
- Go to your “Personal Center” on Weibo, and look for “Fans Service”
- In the “Business Tool” section, find “Weibo Window” and click on the “My Weibo Window” page
- Manage your Weibo Window by adding products
- Take a look at the “Manage Orders” and “My Revenue” pages
How Is Weibo Used for Marketing?
Some features of the platform may be useful for marketing. Let’s have a look at how Weibo can be used for your marketing activities.
Managing Corporate Accounts
After opening a corporate account, you can immediately customize it with captivating headers and banners. Then, add an introduction with your company details, and background pictures.
Once customized, you need to start posting high-quality interactive content in order to engage your audience. Of course, this could be posts about upcoming launches and events or informational content on your brand and products.
Make sure your content comes in all different forms, such as text, pictures, videos, or external URLs. For example a link to your store or website.
Another interesting feature is live streaming, which is incredibly popular in China. Get your team together to live stream an interesting event or even something fun and interactive for your audience.
Remember to use @ to tag parties (accounts) related to your post, and relevant #hashtags# (# before AND after a word). Tagged accounts will generate more views for your posts and hashtags will place your post on pages dedicated to that topic. Of course, this is where it will be searchable and findable by new potential followers.
Regular text posts on Weibo have a 140-character limit (Chinese characters). And, they are ideal for posting short-form content such as updates or engaging statements or questions.
If you want to publish long-form posts, you have three options.
- Publish an article on your website and link it to a short Weibo post with hashtags.
- Share a WeChat article by taking a long screenshot of it and posting it on Weibo as a picture post.
- TouTiao translates to “news headline.” And, it’s a feature similar to WeChat where your article will appear as a headline with an image on your feed. Then, users click or tap on the headline so they get the actual article. This feature is particularly interesting as you could customize your article page to not allow non-following users to finish reading until they follow your account.
Promotional Campaigns on Weibo
Businesses can make use of some special Weibo features to allow them to fulfill their marketing needs. Promotional campaigns are a great way to use Weibo, and they are a cost-effective way to broadly reach audiences. They are categorized in 2 groups.
- Repost Campaigns: similar to Retweet campaigns, you can engage your followers by getting them to repost any of your content in exchange for incentives. Users reposting your content will get your posts seen by a wider audience, and your incentives will help foster brand loyalty.
For example, say you’re a company that sells specialty food products. You could incentivize your audience to repost your content by selecting a specific number of people who reposted to be “winners” of free products of yours to try out.
2. Content Creation Campaigns: you can incentivize your followers to create content for you by offering prizes in exchange for creative posts where they outline how they use your products. Keeping with the gourmet food company example, you could ask followers to post on Weibo about their favorite way of adding your products to their daily snack routines. You can then pick a number of your favorite posts and send the winners a product of yours for free, or alternatively a gift card for your store.
Content Marketing (KOLs and Celebrities)
Brands often sponsor KOLs and Celebrities in exchange for posting about their brand or products. You choose KOLs whose brand image fits your company image and positioning. Then reach out to see if they’d be willing to post about you in exchange for a sponsorship fee.
There’s a reason why this form of sponsorship is incredibly popular not only in China but in the West as well. That said, KOLs create huge exposure for your brand. Introducing their audience to your products will generate a massive number of sales leads.
Yet another way to get exposure through KOLs is to use those accounts that write about products in exchange for money. Any account with more than 10,000 followers and at least 100,000 monthly page views can sign up for this program. They can register on the platform and will get authorized to write if they pass all requirements necessary.
Once they get their authorization, they can log in and choose what they want to write about, and if the product’s brand receives a sale through their post, they will get a commission.
Companies marketing their products in China will not incur any costs apart from commission fees paid on products sold. The benefits of this strategy include the fast spread of information about you, increased sales, and boosted brand awareness.
Weibo offers several paid advertising solutions to businesses on their platform, including display ads, search engine promotion, and newsfeed ads.
- Display ads. Specifically for this type of ad, you pay for performance, rather than a flat rate, as they run on a pay-for-click basis. This category includes banner ads, pop-up ads upon opening the app, all in the form of videos, images, or gifs. Customizing them with buttons (e.g. “click here”) linked to your store or website makes them extremely useful for marketing purposes.
- Search engine promotion. Featured in the discover page, this is a function where it allows businesses to “buy” a given search keyword or topic. So, their page (or website or store) will appear at the top of related search results. This will generate more sales leads and brand awareness. Companies can also do the same thing for the Hot Topic and Trending pages.
- Newsfeed ads. These ads are integrated in the discovery page feed. They are pricier, but they are worth it. With this option, businesses get to customize their posts around a news topic using text and media content. These ads create campaigns to reach specific ad goals. Such as more website visits, more sales, or more followers. Add a trigger button like “follow”, “buy now”, or “visit store.”
On top of its many features, something else that may be useful for marketing activities is Weibo Advertisement Analytics.
To monitor their marketing performance on Weibo, businesses have access to data analytics in the Account Management Center. This tool includes data such as follower demographics, post performance data, and the number of account views.
Some extra features include auto-replies to private messages as well as mass messaging.
As of March 2021, Weibo boasts 530 million active monthly users, rendering it China’s second biggest social media platform after WeChat. This shows a decrease of 4% year-over-year, but an increase of 2% quarter-over-quarter. Most users use the Weibo mobile app, representing over 94% of all users.
Weibo’s average daily active users reached 230 million in March of 2021, which shows a decrease of 5% year-over-year and an increase of 2% quarter-over-quarter.
That said, the company has enjoyed huge financial success. For example surging stocks, profitable ad sales, as well as high revenue and profitable quarters. As of the first half of 2018, it surpassed the $30 billion (USD) market valuation mark for the first time.
Weibo is one of China’s most popular microblogging platforms. It is popular among people for fun and networking purposes. However, it can also act as a great tool for businesses’ marketing activities.
Since businesses can open corporate accounts, they have access to some extra features such as verified status and mass messaging. Additionally, they have advertising solutions that boost brand awareness, foster brand loyalty, and generate sales leads.
When using Weibo, it is important to communicate what your precise needs and goals are with your marketing team. This is so they can take the most advantage of Weibo’s marketing solutions for both efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.
GAB China Case Study
One of Gab China’s top clients is one of the world’s top luxury watch brands. Gab has Weibo campaigns on a monthly basis to grow our client’s account. Since we took over the strategy for their Weibo account in 2020, their account has grown 174.6% in one year.
Targeting Weibo followers for luxury watches can be very effective for building brand awareness. When compared to the targeting for ads on WeChat, Weibo ads are broader in their range.
Here are 4 tips on how to boost your luxury advertising on Weibo:
- Target Audience: when choosing a target audience, it’s wise to choose Weibo accounts that have followers belonging to a similar target audience that you have currently, or that you hope to have in the future. This is done to increase your social assets and even connect with celebrities and their fans.
- Image Content: when using image elements in your advertisements, it’s wise to include multiple pictures in order to boost engagement. This is also to encourage user-generated content by sharing photos.
- Video Content: to make your video content as impactful as possible, it’s important to make the first 5 seconds of your video extra attractive in order to capture the viewer’s attention and keep them watching.
In addition, it’s recommended to use the “video card” format to activate the “follow” and “follow while watching” buttons in your advertisements in order to increase your follow rate.
- Weibo Super Fan: this is the most inexpensive Weibo advertising product typically used to obtain followers; however, the targeting isn’t as specialized as “Weibo Headline”, which is a more attractive advertising product ideal for targeting luxury consumers.