Sina Weibo, launched in 2009, is one of China’s popular social media platforms. It boasts 600 million registered users, 446 million active users and has a user presence in 190 countries.
Often referred to as the ‘Chinese Twitter’, it does resemble a mash-up of Twitter and Facebook. Weibo is a multimedia microblogging platform where users can upload their posts, photos, videos, and other content, as well as follow other users’ and receive the latest news updates. Celebrities, brands, and key opinion leaders often leverage Weibo to share their message with a large audience.
Weibo is used by more than 30% of internet users in China. It offers incredible opportunities for businesses to engage with potential customers. If you are wanting to expand into the China market, it is an essential tool for marketing.
Marketing on Weibo
The public nature of the platform lends it to marketing and advertising. Weibo is a useful platform for brands and companies looking to increase brand awareness, improve popularity and gain followers in a new market. Weibo provides tools to launch campaigns, invite KOLs for cooperation and display paid ads.
To reach an audience in China, Weibo is a must-have asset as part of your social media marketing plan. China does not allow access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media popular in other countries. If you want to raise your brand awareness in China, Weibo is one of the best places to start.
Here are 5 steps to help you get started on Weibo marketing:
1. Create an official verified account
There are two types of accounts on Weibo:
- Personal account: it is only for individuals. Both Chinese people and foreigners can register on Weibo and use it.
- Corporate account: it is for companies, businesses and organizations.
To register an account on Weibo you’ll need the following information: email (or mobile phone number), password, username, location and verification code.
Once you have created a Weibo account and your business has been successfully registered, your account will need to be verified.
1.1 Advantages of verification
Verified official accounts for brands have a blue “V” displayed beside their profile picture. This lets users know that your business has qualified as a legitimate company and acts as a counter to fraud.
Weibo page verification
Verifying your business has multiple benefits. First, the blue V icon enhances your credibility and improves the trustworthiness of the account. Verifying an account requires legal business documents to be submitted and reviewed. This process is promoted by the site and users know that the icon is significant. The icon helps to attract target audiences more easily as well as gain trust.
Second, a verified account affords you some privileges, such as more space for detailed brand information, advanced page customization settings and additional services like mass messaging and a campaign management platform. Furthermore, Weibo ranks the relevant content of verified users higher.
1.2 Verification of an account
There are 3 ways to verify a corporate account:
- Verifying an account as a local company: for Chinese companies, the required materials include scanned copies of their Chinese Business Registration Certificate and a certified letter following a template that can be downloaded online. The verification process usually takes 5 days to go through the process of verification at a cost of 300 yuan (€39.05).
- Verifying an account via a dealer/distributor: if your company has a trademark registered in China, you can verify your Weibo account via your official dealer/distributor. You have to provide all the information about the company and certificates as well the certificate of the dealership and the Chinese business license of your dealer or distributor. After submitting all the documents online, you wait 7 days for the verification. The cost is the same as for Chinese companies.
- Overseas verification: if your company is operating abroad and your trademark is not registered in China, there are more steps involved. For overseas companies, the required materials include the company registration documents with a certified Chinese translation, an application letter and a third-party authorization letter, a Purchase Order Form, an official website URL, team contact information and a detailed introduction to the company’s products and/or services. Once you have all of these documents collected and translated, you will need to send them. The verification process usually takes 10 to 15 working days at a cost of US$800 to USD$1,100 (the verification service fee may vary by country or region).
2. Create an engaging and solid content strategy
Weibo is an open social media platform mostly used for trend-spotting, entertainment and news. Weibo users follow celebrities and famous bloggers, as well as discuss trending topics.
Many brands are posting marketing-related material daily, making it difficult to be heard among the thousands of ads. Therefore, it’s essential to develop a solid content strategy that incorporates media-rich content and powerful messages to deliver value to the viewer.
In terms of content format, multimedia content consumption on Weibo has seen sustainable growth, with the popularity of short videos, live streaming and Weibo Story, which are similar to the story function on Facebook and Instagram.
More brands now engage in producing creative short video ads and live streaming, inviting celebrities and KOLs to participate in their special events to arouse public resonance and get wider exposure.
The platform, like Twitter and Instagram, uses hashtags to categorise and distribute content. A post has a better chance of being seen if it has a hashtag that places it in a certain topic. It can be a useful way to earn fresh views and new followers. However, a hashtag on Weibo is signified by “# #” instead of one “#”.
3. Acquire initial followers
A large follower base is an essential prerequisite for those looking to increase their brand awareness on Weibo: the more followers a brand has, the more likely its Weibo content is to reach its potential customers. Therefore, growing followers is the primary goal for the Weibo marketing strategy of most brands.
There are different methods to increase Weibo follower base:
- Utilizing current databases: when you first create an account for your brand on Weibo, it is difficult for Weibo users to instantly find and follow your account because they probably don’t even know of its existence. Therefore, it is important to first start by recruiting pre-established connections.
- Adding Weibo icon to the social bar of your corporate website: it’s a good idea to add a Weibo icon to your company website’s social bar so that people who visit your website are likely to go to your Weibo homepage and follow your account, where they can receive regular updates or the latest information about your products or services.
- Adding Weibo QR code on your offline promotional materials: it is useful to add the QR code of your Weibo on all your promotional materials, including business cards, flyers, and posters. When you give out these materials, people who receive them will have quick access to your Weibo homepage and they can know more about your brand or products.
- Launching giveaway campaigns and/or engaging KOL: you can also consider launching some giveaway campaigns and/or engaging KOLs to help you attract more potential customers and engagement on the platform.
4. Use key opinion leaders (KOLs)
Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) have a powerful promotional impact. In China, KOLs have a strong influence on society and are powerful in affecting the buying behaviours of their social media followers. That’s why KOL marketing is a great way to promote your brand on Weibo.
KOLs can be involved in a variety of promotional activities, including product trials, promotional code distribution, short video creation, participation in offline events and live streaming. Their involvement helps your brand awareness grow and increases your exposure on the platform.
5. Roll out online campaigns and advertising campaigns
When you’ve accumulated a certain number of followers, you can aim at higher levels of Weibo marketing.
First, you can launch marketing campaigns on Weibo. The most popular ones include lucky draws and repost campaigns.
Online contest on Weibo
You can launch online campaigns on Weibo for free. Your budget mainly depends on the prize you give to winners. Marketing campaigns can help brands to increase exposure and raise awareness. They are also an effective way to encourage user interaction, to attract new followers, and they are good for word-of-mouth marketing.
However, there is a range of advertising options, including display ads, search engine promotion, Fans Headline and landing page ads. The options and combinations of options have varying costs, so selecting the right option might come down to budget.
Display ads are the most common advertising option. They allow you to display advertisements on the landing page of the Weibo mobile app, or the search page of the website, as well as on Weibo home page.
Weibo display campaign
With Weibo search engine promotion, users can click the suggested keywords shown in the search bar, and relevant accounts and Weibo posts will be displayed.
Weibo search campaign
If you want a particular Weibo post to be seen by more people, you can promote it by using the Fan Headline function. The post you select will appear at the top of your existing followers or potential follower’s home page for 24 hours.
Weibo Fan Headline campaign
Similar to Fan Headline there is an advertising option known as Fan Tunnel. With “Fan Tunnel” you can promote a single post, app, or Weibo account and you can choose to target a wide audience or a niche group.
While some of the marketing options on Weibo seem unfamiliar at first, if you want to expand into the China market, it is one of the best and most simple options your business can explore. The trusted platform continues to have high user and adoption rates, and once you better understand the platform through use, it is easy to navigate and engage.
Weibo is continually changing and adding new features. It is important to understand how and why topics and brands trend in China to be able to enter the market. Weibo is a good touchstone for any business wanting to enter the marketplace, particular those with little or no experience in the Asia market.