China’s Weibo microblogging platform is on the rise, with about a quarter of the country’s 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 like video clip sharing site TikTok and the ever-popular WeChat may continue to dazzle audiences, but Weibo remains a solid platform for connecting your business to target audiences and pushing content to establish your brand presence in China.
Comparing Weibo to Western platforms is usually drawing false equivalence. Weibo offers more features than Twitter, combining elements of YouTube as well as other Western platforms like Instagram and Reddit. Weibo encompasses a variety of content formats on the platform—including videos, photos, and live streaming—which offers broad appeal to many users.
Many of Weibo’s content creators focus on entertainment, including content from TV networks, social-media influencers, celebrities, and sports teams.
Weibo also has an active community of businesses that attract a successful following—like B2B brands such as Intel and Cisco, which have created audiences and run campaigns on the platform.
Weibo is an ideal platform for business because it’s a tool Chinese consumers turn to when they want to obtain information or explore topics. This platform can help you build brand awareness and better understand the Chinese audience at large. Once your account on the platform is verified, Weibo will sort your profile into relevant categories, which can help you connect to relevant special interest groups and target groups.
It’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed when faced with the plethora of platforms offered in China’s social-media space. Millions of users can be found on platforms such as WeChat and QQ, and you may feel it’s enough to confine your activities to just these online spaces.
But it’s important not to limit your brand. WeChat—China’s highly popular messaging app—is limited in terms of creating and publishing brand content. Weibo is the superior platform for publishing and pushing content and lets you broadcast to a much wider audience.
If you’re at all active in China, you already know how competitive the market is. No matter what sector you’re in, there’s undoubtedly a lot of competition from local business and other multinationals trying to penetrate this promising market. The same is happening online. Any brand trying to put out content in China faces a huge struggle to gain customer attention in the crowded online space.
Learning how to cut through this noise and create a winning Weibo strategy requires more detail than can be put into a single blog post. But let’s start with the basics: You must set your account up in a way that’s likely to succeed via a verified brand account.
This is much easier to do if you’re a Chinese company. If you’re not a native company, you have two options: 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 offer.
There’s room for visual creativity in your profile, header images, and background visuals. Make sure to add local contact information for your company—as this supports trustworthiness—as well as links to your eCommerce site, and more. It’s often a good idea to add a QR code, as these are still frequently used in China. If you’re a celebrity brand, or think it’s appropriate, you can also pay an additional fee to access VIP status.
The content challenge
Once that’s done, the hard work begins! Creating a winning content strategy on Weibo is an ongoing challenge requiring long-term investment. Your content for this platform needs to be engaging as well as valuable to your audience.
You’ll want to focus on rich media content such as videos and photos. Remember: Short video clips are particularly popular in China right now. There’s room for marketing and messaging, but your content needs to always engage, entertain, and deliver value to your customers.
Here’s a great tip: 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 thatWeibo convention is to start and end a tag with hashtags (unlike Twitter, where you don’t need a closing hashtag: i.e. #Weibo). It’s worth trying out guest bloggers and considering partnering with local influencers. This can help with your content strategy and connect you to a wider audience.
Look for opportunities to host topics. Although most areas are pretty saturated, some niches still have opportunities to host a particular topic for the week. You can qualify your profile to do this by posting a weekly content piece using the 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 customize. Make sure you become comfortable with your available analytics, as these 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 din of China’s busy online space. Remember that this platform continues to offer huge opportunities to reach audiences, even if 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 can succeed in reaping rewards and better understanding your Chinese audience.