Launched in 2009, Sina Weibo is one of the biggest social media sites in China. It’s a microblogging site and is like China’s Facebook and Twitter combined. By Q3 2017, there were 376 million monthly active users, surpassing Twitter’s 330 million.
Weibo is mostly used for trend-spotting and entertainment and users like to follow celebrities, famous bloggers and Wanghong. Users also consider Weibo an additional source of news and information, and talk about the latest hot topics and social issues there. Multimedia content consumption on Weibo has also seen sustainable growth, with the popularity of short videos, live streaming and Weibo Story, which posts short videos or photos and videos in a slideshow format that disappear in 24 hours, like the story function on Facebook and Instagram.
In terms of marketing and advertising, thanks to its open and public nature, Weibo is good for brands and vendors to increase brand awareness, grow popularity and gain followers in the initial stages. They can make full use of all the resources on Weibo to launch campaigns, invite KOLs for cooperation and display paid ads. The Weibo Window feature also helps vendors sell directly on Weibo.
To reach out to mainland consumers, establishing a prominent presence on Weibo is a must. Here are 5 steps to help you get started on Weibo marketing:
Step 1: Account registration and verification
To start Weibo marketing, the first thing you have to do is to register an official account for your brand. For registration, you only have to go to this website and input the following information: email (or mobile phone number), password, username, location and the verification code. Here we have two recommended styles for a good brand username:
● Brand or company name + Location (e.g. @宝马中国 = BMW China)
● English name + Chinese name (e.g. @BVLGARI宝格丽)
The next step is verification. Verified official accounts for brands have a blue “V” displayed beside their profile picture, just like the blue verified badge on Twitter. Verified official accounts also enjoy some other privileges like more space for detailed brand information, advanced page customization settings and additional services like mass messaging and their own campaign management platform etc.
↑ Privileges of Weibo Verification
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 five to seven working days at a cost of 300 RMB.
For overseas companies, the required materials include your company registration documents with a certified Chinese translation, an application letter and a third-party authorization letter. The verification process usually takes 10 to 15 working days at a cost of 1,000 USD.
Step 2: Account customization
After registering and verifying your account, you can customize your Weibo page. You can do this by choosing suitable pictures for your profile picture, cover picture, banner picture and background picture and adding brand-related information on your account homepage.
↑ The customized official Weibo page of the 2017 Astana Expo
For example, you can integrate the QR code of your official WeChat account into your background picture. This way, Weibo followers can find the QR code and quickly and easily follow your official WeChat account as well.
Step 3: Developing a solid content strategy
Weibo is an open social media platform with many brands posting marketing-related material every day. Sometimes it’s hard to create effective marketing content that attracts attention and conveys messages simultaneously. Therefore, it’s essential to develop a solid content strategy.
For brands, there are four major types of content that they can post regularly on Weibo, including brand or product-related information, soft content, interactive content and KOL content. For example, FOTILE (@FOTILE方太) is one of the most popular kitchen appliance brands in China and it has attractive Weibo content. Besides brand news updates, they also post recipes regularly as soft content, launch UGC campaigns to engage and interact with followers and forward posts published by KOLs.
↑ FOTILE produces diversified, qualilty content regularly.
Previously, we also summarized five types of content for Weibo marketing that have proven successful. You can also check them out for more inspiration.
In terms of content format, as mentioned above, Weibo users generally prefer multimedia content, including short videos and live streaming. Weibo Story is also becoming more and more popular.
↑ Multimedia content formats on Weibo: picture collections, short videos, live streaming and Weibo Story (from left to right).
Step 4: Acquiring initial followers
A large follower base is an essential prerequisite for those looking to increase their brand awareness on Weibo, so growing followers is a primary goal for your initial Weibo marketing strategy.
Don’t expect users to find and follow your account on their own. Start with your pre-established connections. You can ask your family, friends and colleagues to follow your Weibo account and help spread the news. It’s also a good idea to add a Weibo icon linked to your account to your company website’s social bar. You can also add your Weibo account name on your name card.
↑ The official website of Kiehl’s HK has a Weibo icon displayed in their social bar.
In addition to your current database, you can also consider launching some giveaway campaigns, engaging KOLs to help you spread the word or launching paid ads to increase your exposure on the platform. You can also find out more tips here to help you increase your Weibo follower base.
↑ Campaigns, KOL promotions and Weibo ads also helps brands to increase followers.
Step 5: Rolling out campaigns, KOLs and ads
Now that you’ve accumulated a certain number of followers, you can aim at higher levels of Weibo marketing.
First, you can launch all kinds of marketing campaigns on Weibo. Weibo users participate in campaigns for fun, as a form of social interaction, and for the prizes offered by the advertisers. The most popular ones include lucky draws and UGC collection campaigns. They encourage user interaction, help to attract new followers, increase account exposure and it’s good for word-of-mouth marketing.
Given the popularity of multimedia content on Weibo, more and more brands now engage in producing creative short video ads and doing live streaming. Creative and distinctive video ads that tell intriguing stories stand out and arouse public resonance. For live streaming, it’s a common practice that brands invite celebrities and KOLs to participate in their special events to attract bigger audiences and get wider exposure.
In early November, a short video ad for China Merchants Bank went viral on Weibo and WeChat. The ad tells the story of a Chinese overseas student studying in the U.S. successfully preparing a dish with the help of his parents, who wake up at midnight, due to the time difference, just to take a video to show the major steps to him. The ad shows family closeness despite the distance with the aim of promoting their credit card designed for overseas students and their parents. Many viewers said they were moved to tears. Also, heated discussions arose about the over-reliance of young people on their parents nowadays.
In China, online influencers are powerful in affecting the buying behaviours of their social media followers. That’s why KOL marketing is important in your Weibo marketing strategy. KOLs can involve in a variety of promotional activities, including product trials, promotional code distribution, sponsored lucky draws, short video creation, participation in offline events and live streaming. Their involvement helps brands attract more potential customers and create a buzz on social media.
Moreover, Weibo offers different kinds of advertising options, including display ads, search engine promotion, Fans’ Top (粉丝头条, also known as Fans Headline) and landing page ads. You can choose a suitable one according to your specific needs and budget.
In conclusion, compared with the semi-closed platform WeChat, the open and public nature of Weibo ensures a higher level of exposure for brands. Also, information on Weibo changes frequently and has the potential to spread exponentially, which offers opportunities for brands to have their content seen by more users. However, the relationship between brands and their followers isn’t as strong on Weibo.
To sum up, Weibo is an ideal platform for marketing, advertising and new follower acquisition. For brands that want to market in China, get started on Weibo now.
What do you think of Weibo marketing? Do you plan to get started on Weibo soon? Leave a comment below. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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