Weibo: What is it?
Weibo is one of the largest Chinese social media platforms founded in 2009. Its' core functionality is most similar to twitter, which is banned in China. Despite this, those who have used both will probably suggest the content is much richer on Weibo. Below we look into the core functions of Weibo, explain how you can get your business on Weibo and give our verdict on whether Weibo is a good way to promote your business to the Chinese market. Let's get going!
Weibo can be accessed on desktop, however 93% of users prefer mobile. Therefore in all the screenshots below we will use the mobile version.
Like all good social apps, Weibo has a newsfeed. The app also offers you a number of ways to filter the content you see. By tapping the following button, you're given an option to view content from pre-specified groups such as verified Weibo accounts and also you can create your own groups. Weibo doesn't stop here, by tapping the hot button, you are shown trending topics and can pick from categories such as nearby, highest rank, categories such as travel and you can even pick your own favourite categories. At the top of the newsfeed, Weibo have added and Instagram story like feature, which gives access to transient content. The screenshot below shows the newsfeed and a post from our friends at Visit Britain.
You may have guessed Weibo also lets users create posts. It is worth taking a look at some posts, as they differ in some respects from what we are used. Weibo posts are limited to 140 Chinese characters, which enables you to express more than 140 characters of English text. If you want to write more than this, it is normal to append more information inside your images or to publish a full article using the Weibo article editor. It is normal for posts on Weibo to have nine images. Often the images will be interrelated and give a number of angles of the same scene. Topics (#topic#) use hashtags on both ends of the word or phrase. You can like, comment, forward, @user, add location, image filters and favourite posts in familiar ways. The screenshot below shows famous travel blogger’s Post about Mongolia.
Notice how his Display picture has V in yellow circle. This represents that he has a verified personal Weibo. If the V is in a blue circle, this represents as verified business Weibo.
One of our favourite functions is the messenger. It allows followers to communicate with you directly in a private environment. It is important if you operate a Weibo that you manage the messages efficiently and do your best to help fans.
You may have thought we covered how users discover new content in the newsfeed section. However, Weibo have a dedicated discover button located at the base of the screen. Tapping this button Direct you to what seems an infinite display of trending content. You can use the search bar at the top to search the whole of Weibo. Often, by clicking an item in this section you will be taken to the #topic# homepage, as opposed to a specific post.
In the early days it was only possible to post video to Weibo via Youku (The Chinese Youtube). Things have come a long way since then and along with many other video integrations, Weibo have given video its own separate category on the bottom bar. This does not mean you cannot watch videos elsewhere, but rather a dedicated section for finding and consuming video content, complete with another Instagram story style section for viewing the latest video content from the accounts you follow. Perhaps Weibo felt the pressure from the rapidly growing Douyin (Tiktok) or maybe it was always in the pipeline, especially after investing in Miaopai. One thing it's sure the use of video has increased dramatically in China over last two years and it looks set to continue.
That covers all the core functions from the end user point of view. Of course with such big Company there are many smaller functions and, of course the full range of functions available to accounts such as advertising, Weibo wallet, red envelopes etc. Maybe we can discuss those in a future article!
Getting on Weibo
Relatively speaking, Weibo is one of the easier platforms to create an account. You will need to link the account to a mobile phone number. As you've seen with the screenshots above, Weibo does have an English version, however this does not extend to all areas of the app. We do not recommend posting in any language other than Chinese and if you are serious about building a following we strongly encourage you to verify your account, which in the UK can cost upwards of £1500 and can be a very painful process.
Weibo is a fantastic platform to engage with the Chinese customer directly. In most cases we prefer Weibo to Wechat, as your business will be more discoverable. However operating an account and building a following requires effort and cost. Alternatively, to get access to a Chinese audience interested in your region without the overheads, join your local Chinabuzz Region today and start connecting with China. To find out more about Weibo you can download our factsheet below for free which includes a selection of up-to-date statistics, pros and cons and more.