China’s Weibo microblogging platform is on the up and up, with around a quarter of the population thought to be using it. Last year the platform grew its user base by 17%, with further growth expected over the next few years. Newcomers, such as video clip sharing site TikTok and the ever-present WeChat, may continue to dazzle audiences but Weibo remains a solid platform for connecting your business to target audiences and pushing your content out to establish your brand’s presence in China.
To compare Weibo to Western platforms is usually to draw a false equivalency. Weibo offers more features than Twitter; combining some elements of YouTube and other platforms popular in the West such as Instagram and Reddit. Encompassing a variety of content formats on the platform including video, photo and live streaming means it has a broad appeal to many types of user.
Many of Weibo’s content creators focus on entertainment. There’s content from TV networks, social media influencers, celebrities and sports teams.
Weibo also has an active community of businesses that can attract a successful following on this platform. This includes B2B brands such as Intel and Cisco, which have both created audiences and run campaigns on the platform.
Weibo’s an appropriate platform for business because it’s a common tool Chinese consumers turn to when they want to get information or explore topics. It can help you build brand awareness, as well as support your efforts to understand the Chinese audience. Once your account on the platform is verified, Weibo will sort your profile into the relevant categories. This can help you connect with the relevant special interest groups and your target groups.
It’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed when faced with the plethora of platforms offered in China’s social media space. You’ll hear about the many millions of users on platforms such as WeChat and QQ and feel that perhaps it’s enough to confine your activities to just these platforms.
But it’s important not to limit your brand to social messaging platforms such as these. WeChat, China’s highly popular messaging app, is limited in terms of the possibilities it offers your brand for creating and publishing content. Weibo is the superior platform for publishing and pushing out content and lets you broadcast to a much wider audience than either WeChat or QQ.
If you’re at all active in China, you’ll understand how competitive this market is. Whatever sector you’re in will no doubt have a lot of competition both from local business and other multinationals trying to penetrate this promising market. It’s the same online; any brand trying to get its content out there will face a huge struggle to gain customer attention in a crowded online space.
Learning how to cut through this noise and create a winning Weibo strategy requires more study than can be contained in a single blog post. But let’s start with the basics. Firstly, you must set your account up in a way that’s likely to succeed. You need to set up a verified brand account.
That’s much easier to do if you’re a Chinese company than a foreign one. You have two options available if you’re not a native company: register a Weibo account via a local distributor, or go through the rather tedious (and costly) verification process for foreign companies.
Once you’ve cleared the registration hurdle, you’ll need to create a well-crafted profile. Pick your brand account name and write a clear description of your company’s proposition.
There’s room for visual creativity with your profile and header images and background visuals. Make sure to add local contact information for your company, as this supports trustworthiness, and add any links to things such as your eCommerce site. It’s often a good idea to add a QR code, as these still work well in China. If you’re a celebrity brand, or just think it’s appropriate, you may wish to pay an additional fee to access VIP status.
The content challenge
Once that’s all over, the hard work begins! Creating a winning content strategy on Weibo is an ongoing challenge and a long-term investment. Your content for this platform needs to be engaging and of value to your audience.
You’ll want to focus on rich media content such as video and photo – remember short video clips are particularly popular in China at present. There’s room for marketing and messaging but your content needs to always engage, entertain, and deliver value to your customers.
One tip we can offer is to make use of the search tool Weibo offers, as this will help you understand and discover communities of interest on the platform.
Explore how tagging can support your profile and remember the convention on Weibo is to start and end a tag with hashtags, unlike on Twitter where you don’t need a closing hashtag (ie #Weibo and #Twitter). It’s worth exploring using guest bloggers and consider partnering with local influencers – it’ll help with your content strategy and connect you to a wider audience.
Look for opportunities to host topics. Although most areas are pretty saturated, in some niches there may be opportunities to host a particular topic for the week. Your profile can be qualified to do this by posting a weekly piece of content using that topic’s hashtag. This can help boost your visibility and authority in that space. It’s also wise to invest in targeted onsite advertising to increase your visibility.
Weibo offers data insights via a dashboard you can customise. Make sure you get to grips with your available analytics, as they can offer valuable insights into how to improve your performance on the platform.
Make certain to stay on top of any queries that come in via the platform too – you need to have a customer service strategy in place, with the necessary language skills to respond quickly.
Weibo’s not an easy platform to master and it’s hard to make yourself heard above the cacophony of China’s online space. This platform continues to offer huge opportunities to reach audiences but creating winning content for Weibo is a significant challenge for any brand. If you’re willing to commit time and effort to this space, you may eventually reap rewards and come to understand your Chinese audience better.