I’ve been using Weibo for about a year now. Weibo, short form for micro-blogging, have been very popular in China and many overseas Chinese. Most Western online social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are banned in China; a recent story reported that the Founder of Twitter was unable to use Twitter in China.
Twitter and Facebook were seen as dangerous to keeping China stable and harmonized. We know they are responsible for a number of revolutions such as the Jasmine and Occupy movements in 2011. The Chinese government has every reason to be cautious with the use of social media.
Weibo hardly featured on Western news; partly because it is only written in Chinese. This uses the same concept of Twitter, 140 characters. What many Westerners do not understand is that 140 Chinese characters are a lot more than 140 English alphabets. It can be a whole paragraph.
Weibo is a little more complex than Twitter. Pictures can be modified on the site before it is posted, so you can add special Lomo effect or you can even post a mosaic of 9 photos as one. Your photos are also watermarked, so no one else can steal your photos and claim it is theirs.
You can also add a number of other things such as videos, (animated emoticons), poll, you name it. It is a lot more interactive than Twitter.
What he Western World is missing out is the conversation that goes on in Weibo. Aside from the repost of celebrity news, horoscopes, nail arts, fashion, food, is the stories of everyday life of everyday person. This included their thoughts on what happened in the news. The Chinese government may monitor the website, but it could take up to 1 hour before it is removed. Before it is removed, more than half a million people would have seen it. Screen shots can be taken and reposted as an image, making it harder for the officials to remove their posts.
There is also a vast economic benefit to local retailers and businesses that the Western World is not tapping into. In New Zealand, there is a huge number of international students, and students who returned to China, who are using Weibo and keeping abreast on what’s coming up in Auckland and New Zealand. The only official Weibo by New Zealand businesses are Air New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand and Zespri. All other New Zealand businesses are mainly Chinese owned, even those like Vodafone and 2Degrees, who have an account on Weibo, are operated by Chinese store owners.
The effect of Weibo is phenomenal. Asian Fusion, a South East Asian restaurant based on High Street, has been using it to promote their buffet to their Chinese community. Their Groupon deals were sold out in hours; their restaurant was always fully booked, and now become one of the most successful eatery in Auckland.
As I had previously written, the Chinese community posted stories about how they supported or participated in the Rugby World Cup. Weibo is also an important medium to promote social integration.
If you are a business who wanted to increase your business with the Chinese community and have been wondering why your Online Social Media failed – try Weibo. It is a much more effective way, both impact and economically.