Despite some signs that Sina Weibo is losing some of its appeal and possibly the top spot in China’s social media landscape, it still remains an extremely important platform for effective brand marketing.
At its height, in the mid-2013, Sina Weibo claimed 600 million registered users with over 60 million daily active users. There is an ongoing debate around the exact reason of Sina Weibo apparent downsizing, commonly mentioned reasons range from increased state censorship to the emergence of more dynamic competitor, Tencent’s WeChat.
In addition, it also seems that Sina Weibo is losing its “cool” factor, similar to what is happening with Facebook in the West.
Nevertheless, marketing brands on Weibo, if done correctly, can be very efficient and cost effective. Owning to its enormous user base and established brand name in China, Sina Weibo, just like its Western equivalent, Facebook, simply can’t be ignored.
Advertising and brand promotion on Weibo is quite different from Facebook and Twitter in the following ways:
- On Weibo there are no any targeted advertisements which show up anywhere outside of the newsfeed stream. This means that Weibo is much more similar to Twitter – all the messages, including the ads, show up in-stream. Essentially, advertising this way becomes more about content marketing. On the other hand, it is generally more difficult to capture the target audience accurately enough.
- Weibo’s in-stream advertising product is called “Fensi Tong” which has two pricing models: first one is CPM (cost per thousand impressions) which is currently priced at 5 Yuan per CPM. The second model is based on number of interactions with the ad: clicks, forwarding the ad, following the advertiser and saving the ad. This model uses bidding system, which similar to Google AdWords with the minimum bid currently set at 0.5 Yuan per interaction.
- The advertising model that is unique to Weibo is based around KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Those are individuals who have millions of followers and their posts, in effect, become the advertisements that attract a lot of impressions and retweets. There are several levels of KOLs on Weibo marked with a capital “V” of different color after their names for different user types. For example, the orange “V” stands for an individual user while the blue “V” is reserved for group user such as a company, an organization or a media outlet. Reaching out to KOLs in your field and developing relationship with them is always, by far, the most efficient brand building strategy.
Here are a few tips on how to build your Weibo marketing strategy for maximum efficiency:
Setup attractive Weibo page
Setup an attractive Weibo page. There are several Weibo templates that are free to use but it is always better to use your own unique themes that should match your corporate colors. Browse Weibo pages of famous brands to get some ideas and inspiration for your own design;
Post engaging content
Make sure to have your content relevant and frequently updated. You can also pre-write posts to be automatically published by an app like t.pp.cc. Refrain from dry promotional material, instead, write original and engaging posts. Keep in mind that the most shared content on Weibo is jokes, so injecting some humor would also be a good idea;
Post videos on a regular basis. People love watching and sharing clips but make sure that you don’t post links from Youtube as they wouldn’t show to a user from China. Here is more about sharing videos;
Monitor posts’ quality
Make sure your posts are proofread by a native Chinese speaker. Never ever use automatic translation for your English content! Such posts would look ridiculous – poorly written content is a major turn off for your audience;
Reply to comments
Engage with the audience by replying to comments and make sure to address negative ones as well. Always stay polite and professional in your comments but if some comments are truly abusive you can file a complaint to Weibo admin;
Engage with selected followers directly
In some cases use private messaging feature to reply to some of your commentators and followers directly. This would build trust and boost your credibility;
Just like Twitter, Weibo uses #hashtags to trace topics. If you use them effectively your posts may get better visibility too. Check other relevant posts to see which hashtags are popular at the moment;
Sync your updates across all channels
Share your Weibo tweets on your website which can be done automatically with plugins and external services. This would bring more traffic and more followers;