Sina Weibo is one of the most popular Chinese social media platforms, often called “Chinese Twitter”.
Many of you are accustomed to social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But in China, everything is different, and you will have to master the most popular Chinese social media if you want to develop your brand in China. Even though WeChat is the most popular one, there’s also another app that is especially popular in China: Weibo.
In this blog post, we will describe some of the key features of Weibo, and we will give you some tips and advice for the most effective Weibo marketing strategy.
What is Weibo?
Launched in 2009 by the Chinese technology company Sina Corporation (新浪), Weibo (微博) is one of the biggest social media platforms in China. As its name indicates (“micro-blog”), Weibo provides micro-blogging services and is often compared to Twitter. However, it has evolved into a microblogging hybrid with Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, and YouTube over the years.
How does Weibo work?
Weibo is really similar to Twitter and other social media in terms of functionalities.
These are Weibo’s main features, which are really similar to Twitter, or Facebook. However, there’s one thing that is not available on Twitter: Weibo’s Hongbao (kind of like a digital wallet).
Thanks to this wallet, you can make payments within Weibo for any product someone shares or links within the app. You can also pay loans, and insurance, buy movie tickets, or even book an online appointment with a doctor. All you will have to do is link your credit card or Alipay account to your Weibo account.
Weibo: A Resounding Success
As of 2023, Weibo has more than 50% of the Chinese microblogging market in terms of active users, and 86.6% in terms of browsing time over Chinese competitors such as Tencent and Baidu. It has more than 580 monthly active users and millions of posts per day, making it the largest Chinese-language mobile portal.
Weibo allows users to upload videos, audio, music, photos, Gifs, and attached URLs (Uniform Resource Locator). Users can also follow other people and celebrities, send and receive messages, and use keywords to do research.
Weibo for business
Good commercial content on Weibo can be a lot more impactful than on Wechat. With Weibo, it is easy to share and get viral. It is an open social media, everyone can see other users’ posts and comments, which encourages people to comment and share their experiences about the products they had tried and the brand. It’s perfect for a variety of marketing campaigns, including new product releases, influencer campaigns, buzz marketing etc.
It is a must for many industries because people still refer to Weibo to evaluate the credibility of a brand. So, if you are in B2C especially, Weibo is a must-have.
Weibo is projected to increase to 613.7 million monthly active users by 2025. Weibo has approximately a 2.8% increase each year.
Who are Weibo users?
This is an important factor to bear in mind for your brand and product placement. Indeed, Weibo is also a highly active and animated platform and users expect a high level of engagement/quicker response time, from brands and KOLs.
Chinese internet users, especially Generation Z, often use Weibo to discover trendy brands and the latest promotions from key opinion leaders. Each day, there are around 130 million words and 1.5 million videos and live streaming published on the platform.
If we look at the distribution of online celebrities on Weibo, we can see that the most popular categories are humor, fashion, and beauty.
Start by Creating Your Weibo Official Account
Given the fact that there are a lot of celebrities, KOLs, enterprises, and government authorities opening accounts on Sina Weibo, Weibo has a verification policy to avoid impersonation and ensure that the account and the person behind it are authentic (it is similar to Twitter and Instagram’s verified accounts).
For celebrities, the “V” badge is orange, and for companies or organizations, it is blue.
How to open a Weibo official account?
Registering a Weibo business account allows companies to engage with Chinese audiences, promote their products or services, and build their brand presence. Here’s a step-by-step guide to registering a Weibo business account:
- Visit the Weibo Registration Page: Go to the Weibo business registration page specifically designed for overseas businesses.
- Choose the Account Type: Select the appropriate account type for your business, such as a corporation or an individual business owner.
- Fill Out the Registration Form: Enter your business information including the company name, contact details, industry type, etc.
- Upload Required Documents: You’ll need to provide documents to verify your business identity, such as a business license, ID of the legal representative, and other relevant certifications.
- Select the Verification Method: Depending on your location and business type, you may have different verification options. Choose the one that applies to you.
- Submit Your Application: Click on the “Submit” button to send your application for review. The verification might take from a few days to a couple of weeks.
- Pay the Fees: If applicable, you might need to pay registration or verification fees. This will depend on the type of account and your specific business needs.
Please note that the specific process and requirements may vary depending on your location, business type, and the current policies of Weibo.
It may be beneficial to consult with a local agency or professional who specializes in Chinese social media to guide you through the process. We can help with language barriers and understanding local regulations as well as navigate the account management platform for all your Weibo marketing campaigns.
Why you should have a verified Weibo account?
In China, the majority of the population is quite concerned about fake products and fake accounts. Thus, they will be more likely to follow and like Weibo posts from verified accounts. So, if you want to do business in China effectively, you’ll have to register as a business, then get verified on Weibo (and all the other popular social media platforms, as a matter of fact, if you want to be taken seriously).
After that, everyone will see the little tick on the right of your profile picture and your profile will gain more visibility.
Applying for a verified account on Weibo
After registering on Weibo as a business, it is necessary that you get it verified. It will give you access to more tools and give you more credibility with your followers.
If you are a foreign entity you’ll have to pay an entry fee of $1000 against $300 if you have a Chinese business license. After registering a personal account, you have to submit documents such as application letters, company registration papers, etc. translated into Chinese. Afraid of the paperwork? We can help you with registering and creating a verified Weibo account.
The Best Ways to Promote Your Business on Weibo
As you have seen, Weibo is one of the most popular social media in China. Thus, it will be extremely useful for your business in order to reach a wide audience and promote your brand. The best way to be present in the Chinese market would be to create both official WeChat and Weibo accounts.
Weibo content tips
Like any website, viewers tend to be attracted to posts on which there’s a picture or a video. Thus, you will have to focus on the visuals of your brand and share as much visual content as possible.
Furthermore, don’t forget to put multiple hashtags and tags in your post, in order to gain visibility. You should use hashtags directly related to your brand or field, but also some trending hashtags.
For example, if we look at this post from L’Oréal Pro, it has respected all of the criteria: video, hashtag directly related to L’Oréal, trending hashtags, and tag.
Target your audience
Like in any country of the world, targetting your audience is essential for an effective advertising and marketing strategy. It will allow you to attract the desired audience without wasting time and money.
Most of Weibo’s users are young, so you should target them to promote your brand, by posting creative, dynamic, and colorful content with pictures and videos.
Take part in shopping events
When planning your advertising and marketing strategy, you should take into account Chinese special events during which you will be able to multiply your sales (11.11, Valentine’s Day, Golden Week, Halloween, etc).
This is an example of Qiduoduo’s post on Weibo, during Halloween. In fact, the young generation tends to celebrate Western events over the years, which is a tremendous opportunity for brands to promote their products.
Localize your content
Localization is a service used to adapt a product, page, or app to a specific market. A localization strategy is based on customers’ behavior, purchasing habits, and general cultural differences in each country in which it operates.
When a company enters a foreign market, it becomes difficult to offer buyers a specific customer experience. Therefore, defining country-by-country location ensures that Chinese customers benefit from the same experience as they would in another country while keeping their habits.
Creating your Chinese Website should be one of the first steps in your localization marketing strategy. A website tailored to Chinese consumers will offer credibility to your brand as consumers search for products on Baidu or e-commerce platforms.
Marketing localization is one of the components of making a company successful in China. When entering the Chinese digital market, it is important to fully grasp the unique dynamics of the localization process.
If you want to ensure that your brand message stays intact and prevent unnecessary brand damage, invest in our team with marketing and localization knowledge that can effectively convey your brand message to the local audience.
GMA offers a valid solution through local SEO review, high-quality translation, and localized engagement to customers, so if you want more information about that, you can contact us.
Community Management is the key
It is crucial to keep in touch with your Weibo follower by answering their questions, and suggestions but also by keeping your Weibo page alive. Post content that is clear, easy to read, and easy to share. Your post will get only a second of attention so seize the opportunity.
Be sure to know how to effectively promote your products, as Weibo users are looking for discounts and commercial offers. Any marketing or content collection campaign needs to be completed with well-organized community management so that the target audience trusts your brand and you gain good e-reputation during the process.
Focus on building brand awareness
Weibo is, along with WeChat, one of the most important tools to increase your brand’s awareness when establishing in China. Weibo follows trends, challenges, and news and brings together a lot of users who may be interested in your brand. Thanks to hashtags and Weibo campaigns, you can build a real community around your products and gain visibility in China.
Advertising on Weibo
In terms of functionalities, Weibo is akin to Twitter with micro-posts, hashtag functionality, as well as content/video links making up the majority of posted content. Apart from Weibo marketing campaigns done organically, you can also set up an ad account and start using Weibo paid advertising for your benefit.
In terms of advertising infrastructure, it is more akin to Facebook than any of its rivals and it is arguably a better platform for advertising than WeChat:
- Targeted and very specific so that more than 500 million daily active users can be focused on your advertisement
- More cost-effective, with a lower minimum ad price than WeChat, it is recommended for A/B testing
- Weibo is an Open Network, which allows a better exposure and more creative Weibo marketing strategies
You also have to take into account that Weibo benefits from a profitable partnership with Alibaba when it comes to e-commerce ads. However, if you were planning to advertise to non-Alibaba e-commerce apps, you should know that the app has been putting a limitation on that practice.
Types of Ads on Weibo
Here we will list only the two most popular and effective types, but if you’d like to learn more, check our Weibo advertising guide for creative campaigns with the use of paid advertisement.
Weibo Fan Tunnels
Fan Tunnels are the most targeted and intelligent way of reaching new consumers and followers. You can use this to promote either a specific post or simply just your account. It works like a ‘headline’, appearing at the top of the user’s news feed.
This Weibo advertising method is particularly effective to build a large community quickly, which is highly appreciated by new brands in China. Fan Tunnels focus on Weibo’s community, not just existing followers. It will put your content at the top of news feeds based on targeted audiences defined by age, gender, region, interests, and even device types.
You can specify the interests of followers and target other accounts for similar niches. You can select users who follow specific fashion news and fashion-related posts to be targeted for example.
In terms of budget, Fan Tunnels works with CPM (Cost Per Mille). The lowest price would be 5rmb for 1000 views.
Display Ads on Weibo
Display ads are traditional but certainly still effective, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Display ads come in various dimensions on different pages. They are optimized for both the mobile and web versions (although mobile is predominantly used).
When users click on the ads they are redirected to the advertiser’s homepage. Pricing depends on the page placement, size, and keyword association.
Weibo allows a targeted approach with keywords selected for visibility based on user searches, you can also feature displays on other relevant accounts that boast followers in the same niche.
Display ads are mainly put on the search page (in the discover section), on the Weibo homepage as well as on the side of the user’s news feeds (akin to Facebook Ads).
Furthermore, it is also possible to advertise your brand on the opening page. It means that your ad will appear as soon as users open their Weibo.
You can either choose a static ad or a video ad, however, video ads tend to retain users’ attention longer.
KOLs: A good way to gain visibility on Weibo
Discover the benefits of creating and promoting content through influencer marketing! Many KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), operate on Weibo to give brands the visibility and success they deserve. Whether it’s videos, photos, or challenges, the possibilities are endless to increase your brand’s visibility in China.
Although KOL marketing is not considered paid advertising in it’s traditional understanding, it’s a paid form of promotion that we really recommend in China.
As of 2023, a micro KOL could have approximately 200 thousand impressions per post on Weibo whereas a top-tier KOL could have one million impressions per post. Based on the number of followers and influence scale, KOLs are classified into four different classes in China: Top-tier, Mid-tier, Micro, and Longtail.
Our Weibo Case Studies
Balance is an Australian water brand focusing on the health benefits of the local flora. The water brand is infused in subtle ways with indigenous plants so that the taste of the water is. The brand is growing quickly over the world and they chose GMA to promote its water in China.
The main challenge for Balance Australian Water is that Chinese distributors do not look for products but for a brand since it is easier to sell. Therefore, marketing the brand to the public has double benefits: getting wider coverage of your water brand in the general public and the interest of Chinese distributors.
In order to promote the brand, we had to work on e-reputation and visibility. Our first step was to create Balance Australian Water a presence on Social Media: WeChat and Weibo and make sure they rank on Baidu with tools such as PR, Q&A, a Baike Account, etc.
- + 8000 Followers on WeChat
- WeChat H5 shared in +200 groups
- 5 keywords ranked on Baidu 1st page
- Weibo +200% Views
- Weibo +20k followers
- 5PR /month
- Exhibition with PR on 30 Media Outlets
- Co-Branding with multiples Brands/Coffee shops (ex: Oatly)
Smiley on Weibo
Smiley is an award-winning company, a TOP 100 global licensing company, registered in over 100 countries. It has about 260 licensees and leading retail partners that have joined Smiley’s happy revolution, creating a unique collection of Smiley-branded fashion, accessories, home, food, stationery, and entertainment items.
They needed GMA for their Weibo account creation & management thanks to social media campaigns & KOLs campaigns to increase their brand awareness. We also handled their e-reputation through press releases in China.
Results on Weibo
- 1,049 Posts
- 1,580,000 Views
- 21,268 Followers
- 4 Reposts from KOLs
- 4 Press Releases (VOGUE, Tencent, GQ & Rayli)
Contact us to get started on Weibo
After reading this article, you can see that Weibo is an open social media channel where Chinese people can get the latest gossip, follow trends, and find information about specific topics. Thus, it is an excellent marketing tool for brands to grow their awareness and become viral, as well as for paid advertising.
Our agency can will help you create your Weibo Official Account, Paid Advertising Campaigns, Content creation, Fan Headlines, Fan Tunnels, and so on. We have more than 10 years of experience and a team of Chinese and foreign experts ready to share their experience and know-how with you to create the best Weibo marketing strategy for your brand.
So, if you want to know more about Weibo or social media in China, do not hesitate to contact us!