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Weibo – THE Platform For Social Media Campaigns In China

Hailing from a Singaporean digital marketing background, Western social media influences were the name of the game as far as my generation is concerned.  Knowing this, social media marketing campaigns revolved very much around Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare – until I was placed in China, where all such channels were banned.

Being a social media nut with the constant need to connect even while on-the-go, I was introduced by colleagues and friends to China’s own social media – Weibo (Similar to Twitter, but better) and Renren (China’s equivalent to Facebook).

Until yesterday, I never seemed to be able to appreciate the beauty of Weibo (from a digital marketing perspective) despite acknowledging that it offers far better features than its Western counterpart. Two very simple reasons being – the majority of my friends are on Twitter, and I am personally an active Twitter user.

So what caused my appreciation for Weibo?

I attended the TechNode TweetUp event held at the Coffee Library in Guomao last Thursday- it was a cozy affair where Jeremy Webb, a strategist from Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence team, shared some insights on Weibo – from an agency’s perspective.

When brands and companies go to Ogilvy wanting to do a social media campaign, the first platform which comes to mind would be Weibo.

Why Weibo for marketing campaigns?

On Weibo it is free to run a campaign, whereas on other platforms such as RenRen, it costs 600,000 rmb to have a brand page. The math is easy. Weibo is free; so it is much easier to sell the idea.

What are the benefits of having a Weibo feed?

  1. Weibo acts as a direct communication tool to your audience, be it current or potential ones. Of course, you will need to monitor this tool in order to engage effectively with your audience, and not let it stagnate after creating the account.
  2. Weibo encourages viral marketing – But one would need to identify the correct influencers and user behavioral patterns. With this, you will be able to effectively promote your campaign and also understand what compels them to share.
  3. Weibo offers a much more dynamic experience compared to Twitter – Take advantage of the entire visual experience, include pictures which can be viewed on the tweet itself to better promote your brand.
  4. Weibo facilitates discussion around content – People are able to include the original content when they reply or forward someone’s tweet (which allows you to make better sense of what’s going on rather than just reading the replies). In this manner, it allows you to build quality communities around your brands.

As much as Weibo can be an ideal platform to create a successful social media campaigns, there will always be challenges that Jeremy describe as being a “pain in the ass”.

Often, digital marketing firms are tempted to create millions of fake accounts following brands and celebrities. However, it becomes a major issue when the fan engagement and counts fall significantly after the campaign ends, or when brand managers find out that certain accounts talk exclusively about their brand and nothing else – which makes it pretty evident that the accounts are fake, right?

That aside, in order to get engagement, prizes (奖状) are offered as another marketing hook. As much as this guarantees engagement, people take advantage of such opportunities and organize themselves to win these prizes. At the end of the day, you get fans who are merely interested in your prizes.

So looking at the pros and cons of Weibo, obviously it can be a vital tool for any marketing department here in China – or foreign departments on the outside reaching in – but it must be acknowledged that it is a tool that must be mastered to be used effectively.  Basically, it’s like life. If you take the quick easy route, you’ll end up with a short-lived solution, but if you are willing to put your nose to the grindstone and build a true ecosystem within Weibo, you will have one of the most powerful marketing tools available in China. Your choice.

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