Due to China’s strict internet censorship laws, the Chinese do not have access to the world’s most popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and more. Because of this, the Chinese have opted to create their own alternative platforms that comply with China’s strict regulations. One of these is the popular Sina Weibo, or put simply, Weibo. It is arguably China’s largest social media site already having garnered over 600 million registered users. Its users comprise mostly of Chinese from mainland China, and as the most populated country in the world, they certainly have enough users to sustain themselves. Also, the site is not only restricted to China, so interested users from around the globe may access the website.
Weibo is very similar to Twitter as it has many of the same functions. This includes features that allow a user to follow other users and groups, posting, messaging, and more. It also limits the users to 140 characters per post. However, in Chinese, 140 characters can contain more content than 140 characters in English can. Therefore, Weibo is usually used to microblog and contains more personal information than twitter does (Weibo literally translates to microblog). Rather than dropping witty, relatable one-liners as many Twitter users often do, those who use Weibo usually decide to convey more content.
Valued at over $1.6 billion, many companies use the app as a platform to market their products and services. Many businesses view the application as a way for them to easily communicate with their consumers. Celebrities also use Weibo as a way to promote and advertise themselves, and international celebrities even beginning to open their own Weibo accounts in order to get in touch with their Chinese fan base.
China’s most influential and popular social media platforms are Weibo and WeChat. Although both sites are competing to be China’s top social media platform, both applications have different characteristics. For one, Weibo users mainly use the site to follow celebrities and get alerts to breaking news stories. Meanwhile, WeChat users mainly go on the application to connect with friends and family. Weibo is also more commonly used when it comes to companies and brands promoting their products. Usually when a particularly interesting topic arises on Weibo, its followers will quickly spread word about it and create more buzz about the certain news or more opportunities for a brand and increase awareness.
One example of a news story that quickly spread through Weibo would be the falsifying of historical Japanese documents. On history books accounts distributed at a Japanese hotel was false information regarding the events that occurred during the Nanjing Massacre. A tourist posted a video of the book to her Weibo account where the information had attracted a lot of attention. The Chinese company that handled the hotel’s reservations also posted on Weibo that they would cease operations of helping the hotel until the right historical information was no longer distorted by the Japanese.
While the same dispersal of news could also occur on WeChat, it is more often used to connect people to friends and chat rather than following news, brands, companies, groups, and celebrities. In general, the advertising of products and services would go further on Weibo than it would on WeChat.
Weibo also has other competitors, most of which are other microblogging sites. However, out of all of them, Weibo is way ahead of the game. In its first year of operations, Weibo already managed to gain 503 million registered users, out of the total 640 million internet users that are in China’s hands. Even as the industry continues to grow and it becomes more difficult to maintain one’s place at the top of the sphere, things are looking pretty bright for Weibo’s future ahead.