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What keeps Weibo winning in a rapidly changing digital landscape?

By Rocky Chi | Head of planning

Emerging Communications

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The Drum Network article

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June 4, 2021 | 6 min read

Over 850 million people in China have used Weibo in 2021 so far, making it the world’s largest social media marketing platform.

Its huge social outreach, loyal user base (over 500+ million) and multi-faceted content is certain to keep you ahead of the curve in China’s fast-paced digital market.

Emerging Communications look at the impact of Weibo and its usefulness in understanding the Chinese consumer’s journey.

Emerging Communications look at the impact of Weibo and its usefulness in understanding the Chinese consumer’s journey

Some marketers see it as an essential resource for reaching your target audience in China. We look into what keeps Weibo at the top of its game.

Weibo’s humble beginnings

On average, Chinese consumers each tend to own over eight social media accounts. Users have access to sophisticated and powerful social accounts like WeChat, Douyin, Little Red Book and China’s most established digital platform - Weibo.

Launched in 2009, Weibo is a stalwart channel in the social media marketing world. It’s the largest microblogging platform in China, and its name directly translates into English as 'microblog'.

From its humble beginnings as a site for users to share their experiences, Weibo was one of the first social media sites to emerge in China. Since then, it's grown into a multi-functional social giant with undeniable influential power.

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Weibo content

Users of the platform aren’t limited to China. There are thousands of registered users living in Europe, the US and elsewhere in the world, sharing their life experiences with friends and family back home and abroad. In fact, in the UK alone there are estimated to be over 500,000 Weibo users.

As well as its ability to reach Chinese audiences globally, it supports content and conversation across a broad range of industries from education to beauty, property to homeware and everything in between.

The diversity of subject matter options available allows brands to be truly creative when developing content that’s relevant, varied and resonates. Combining this with key opinion leader (KOL) views that encourage conversation and collaboration, Weibo can also help brands build credibility and drive sales.

Multi-functional appeal of Weibo

The power of Weibo’s reach isn’t the only thing that makes it a vital channel for brands. Its range of functions are second to none, giving options for all kinds of content and campaign output.

Interestingly, Weibo has a strategic partnership with Alibaba and is continuously growing its e-commerce capabilities, making it a big contender in the social-commerce market battling it out against platforms like Little Red Book and WeChat Mini-programs.

Weibo hosts a number of celebrity and KOL accounts and is a staple channel for the Chinese fan economy. Fan groups have the power to drive activity from same-day sell-outs of new products to nationwide bans on websites that are "damaging" to the image of their favorite pop culture idols.

Why brands use Weibo

Often overlooked and underestimated by brands new to the Chinese social media market, Weibo can achieve exceptional results if it's used well.

Content on the platform can be used to drive traffic to other more expensive or hard to reach channels by capitalising on Weibo’s viral communication style. It's fast-becoming the go-to platform for research and entertainment.

Compared with other channels, Weibo offers a low-cost starting point. Extensive targeting capabilities can mean better ROI compared to other platforms and it has the ability to reach an affluent user base across a range of age groups.

For Chinese consumers, nothing beats recommendations and Weibo’s ability to distribute brand-related content should not be undervalued. Brands need to be aware that this can work both ways and they should strive to satisy their customers as unhappy customers can create a PR crisis in a matter of hours.

Brand sentiment and reputation can be made or broken on Weibo - which only strengthens the argument that it's a channel worth paying attention to.

Want Weibo in your strategy?

Weibo is a master of reinvention and a true survivor of China’s digital evolution. In an ever-changing Chinese digital landscape, Weibo has kept its huge user base engaged with real-time news, consumer insights, gossip and trends and remained a keystone channel in successful digital strategies.

It's crucial now, more than ever, to adapt and evolve marketing to stay relevant. For brands new to Weibo or those wishing to refresh their existing strategy, specialist guidance is the most effective way to navigate the complex Chinese marketing landscape.

An understanding of the Chinese consumer’s journey and how Weibo impacts this is the key to brands excelling, combined with learning which campaign and content options will best serve defined objectives.

Click to download our China influencer marketing guide, complete with latest statistics, trends and our expert recommendations.

Rocky Chi is head of planning at Emerging Communications

Digital Advertising Agency

Content by The Drum Network member:

Our mission is to fuel the growth of world-leading brands by building profitable relationships with Chinese audiences globally. Our unique insights into Chinese consumers, social themes, market trends and digital landscapes drive potent campaigns that successfully target, engage and sell.

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