A Guide to Weibo for International Brands
For international brands looking to benefit from the Chinese cross-border eCommerce boom, understanding the major digital platforms is essential.
From building awareness to developing consumer trust, platforms like WeChat, Tmall and JD can make or break a brand in China. But to most foreign eyes, these platforms are extremely complex.
In order to help those brands navigate the complexities of Chinese Social Media, we’re going to provide a series of deep-dive articles explaining how the platforms work and why they matter.
The first platform we’ll explore is Weibo – a hugely popular microblogging website that has been referred to as ‘The Chinese Twitter’. But as we’ll shortly see, it is a great deal more than that.
A Brief Overview: Weibo in Numbers
Before we launch into the specific functions of the platform, let’s have a quick look at what the numbers say about Weibo:
- Weibo has roughly 521 million active users.
- Weibo boasts 56.8% of the Chinese microblogging market, and 86.6% of total microblogging browsing time.
- 40% of Weibo users are aged between 23-30.
- 94% of activity on Weibo comes from mobile.
Clearly, this is a hugely popular platform with a particularly strong following amongst young users. But how does it work, and what are those users actually using it for?
What Weibo Offers
The name ‘Chinese Twitter’ is no coincidence. As a micro-blogging platform, Weibo offers many of the same features as Twitter: users can post, share, respond to and comment on content of various types, and that is the platform’s primary function.
The very basic features of Weibo are therefore fairly familiar to Western audiences. Users set up a personal account, through which they access:
- A customizable ‘Home Page’, which features trending topics and content from pages the user follows
- A ‘Discover Page’, which acts as a search engine for the platform
- A private chat function, allowing users to connect directly
- Video stories, much like those we know from Instagram or Snapchat
So far, so familiar. However, Weibo has expanded far beyond this simple content sharing function to integrate a diverse array of extra features. This has turned it into a so-called ‘super app’, where users can do everything from buy movie tickets and play games to pay for their insurance and monitor their health.
Features like ‘Weibo Fit’ and ‘Weibo Wallet’ mean that many users rely on Weibo for vital aspects of their lives – not simply consuming news or following celebrities. And with the hugely popular ‘Game Center’, Weibo has become a big part of many Chinese people’s recreation time, too.
In a sense, Weibo takes familiar features of Western Social platforms and simply exaggerates them. For example: we recognise the concept of ‘following’ celebrities, brands and friends on LinkedIn or Facebook. But on Weibo, the pages you ‘follow’ are sorted into a variety of more specific categories, including ‘super following’, ‘celebrity’ and ‘colleague’.
How Weibo Benefits Brands
From a brand’s point of view, any platform where consumers spend a great deal of time provides opportunities. But Weibo offers a particularly strong opportunity for a few reasons.
First, users often deeply integrate the platform into their lives. Because they can connect their credit card to the platform and shop seamlessly for an extremely wide variety of products, it has proved a very powerful selling platform for brands: 82% of users have purchased products online after using Weibo.
But the platform also helps brands reach the right consumers with its targeting option: 45.8% of Weibo users consider adverts very/useful, and 44.4% said that ads on Weibo generally matched their needs.
Ultimately, Weibo is a great way for brands that are new to the Chinese market to make a big impact quickly. However, international brands will face a challenge when it comes to accessing their data.
Weibo’s Data Difficulty
In order to monitor their performance on a platform like Weibo, brands need data. Not only does this help them track how their advertising spend should be allocated and refine their targeting strategy – it also helps them understand their customers and ensure they build the right kind of brand experience and reputation.
However, international brands will have a tough time integrating Weibo into their existing CRM systems, social media management platforms and business intelligence tools. This is because doing so requires bespoke point-to-point integrations which are technically challenging, costly and time consuming to build.
For some brands, difficulties accessing data will make Weibo appear to be a dead end. Without visibility of their activity and the ability to harvest data, they risk wasting huge amounts of time and resources without bearing any real fruit. But that is only if they overlook the possibility of an out-of-the box solution.
INTEGRAT3’s Weibo Solution
At INTEGRAT3, we make accessing marketing data in Asia easy. Our simple solution enables brands to seamlessly connect their existing marketing systems to Weibo, without paying expensive developers for months of challenging work. And by removing those barriers, we unlock the possibilities of Chinese eCommerce for international brands.