“No. And also no Youtube, twitter, Instagram…”
I am Ursula from China, working with Social Media in Denmark. Whenever I start a conversation around Chinese social media, it probably goes like this. This blog post is not written to criticize the Great Firewalls or censorship in China, but to give you an overview of the most popular social network in China called Weibo.
Sina Weibo, micro-blogging in Chinese, is a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, combined with other popular Chinese blogging functions. Users can post relatively personal stuff to share with friends, but also they can follow and interact closely with their favorite stars, opinion leaders, brands and organizations. To put (or replicate, to some extent) all functions into one platform/ product seems to be a symbolic Chinese character, the more the merrier. Basically everything works on Weibo: status updates, photos, videos, blog posts, polls, files, messages, games, reviews, find people nearby and so on. Moreover, after Alibaba Group (the largest e-commerce group in China) acquired an 18% stake in weibo, cross-linking between e-commerce, the social network and simplified pay systems it generated new ways of B2C and C2C business. On the other hand Weibo is now being criticized by too much advertising and a massive overload of information.
Weibo has 500 million registered users – 290 million being monthly PC users and 106 million mobile users. Weibo users tend to be 20- to 40-year-old, well educated people with an above average income. Also they stick rather strongly to weibo, as research show that 26,7% users visit weibo at least 3 times a day. However, they pay most attention to social, political, entertainment and funny topics, e.g. the number 1 popular Weibo account is owned by the film star Chen Kun, who has 74 million fans (fans is the term Weibo uses for ‘followers’). In terms of hot topics today, 50% is talking about entertainment & gossip with an average engagement of 198.798 fans. Facing such giant numbers of audiences and the potential reach it is critical for marketers that they know how to handle and profit from these popular accounts.
Some unique and popular tactics, marketers can adopt
1. Tone of voice
- Playing cute (卖萌): Basically everyone is playing cute. This is not among close friends, but a brilliant way to communicate with customers and other audiences. Words like ‘darling’, ‘sweetie’, ‘honey’, cute and funny stickers, gifs and short videos are naturally good ways to draw attention to your brand and generate likes, comments and reposts. In addition playing cute unconsciously breaks down barriers and encourages a closer relationship with the fans. Since China is known to have a culture of highly collective, power distance, uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation, playing cute works to build trust and close relationship with customers.
- Tsukkomi (吐槽): Tsukkomi is originally a Japanese wording that means irony or sarcasm, or to criticize something in a sharp, bitter or humorous way. It works well with real-time hot topics, such as air pollution in Beijing and Single holiday (popular days for marketers). Tsukkomi seems as a way for netizens to get rid of the ‘cruel world’. Since China is experiencing rapid development and social changes, limited resources, dense population, pollution and fast-paced life put pressure on people. Therefore adding tsukkomi to hot topics in content will cause a tacit response from fans.
2. ‘Fans’ economy
A survey shows that 57% users follow an organization account because they want to get information on discounts and sales, while 74% expect good customer service. Therefore it is also important to offer good services and e.g. gifts through Weibo. It is common to see posts saying ‘repost and @three friends, you will get a chance to win gifts’. Recently, it has even become known that bloggers will send money directly to followers who comment and repost.
3. Important days for marketers
When we approach November, the annually biggest online-shopping holiday ‘Single Holiday’ is just around the corner. Single Holiday is on November 11, like cyber Monday, which is created by marketing companies to encourage online shopping. Nowadays Western holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Eve are also popular days for promotion. Traditional Chinese holidays like Spring Festival (Chinese new year), Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-autumn day are also a good time for creating some buzz.
To sum it up Weibo is the most important social platform for brands to be on in China, because of its large audience base and its pioneer advantage. However other platforms like Wechat and Zhihu are also promising and popular social media platforms in China.