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Sina Weibo, a Tough Contender in Social Networking

It started with MySpace, moved on to Friendster, exploded with Facebook, and was summarized (in 140 characters) by Twitter. Social networking has gotten all of us wrapped up in its fingers, but apparently it doesn’t end there. Facebook and Twitter, what we thought would be the social networks to end all social networks has a tough contender on their heels! And surprisingly - it happens to be Chinese.

Chinese microblogging platform, Sina Weibo has made its mark in the social media industry. But with the cross-cultural (not to mention, language) barrier, how are global brands able to make the most of it? MaMu of Fashionbi interviews Joy Dong, an Expert in Chinese Social Networking, to give you the scoop on Weibo.

Joy Dong“Sina Weibo is actually the most primary and important official social channel in China at present, which is determined by its influence, audience level and foundation, and audience activeness,” says Joy Dong about Weibo. And with more than 500 million people using Sina Weibo, this doesn’t come as a surprise. More internationally recognized micro-blogging platform, Twitter, also has 500 million users. But Twitter is globally present and available in a variety of languages, while Sina Weibo is particular to Chinese social media. Despite this ‘niche’, Weibo has grown to become one of the most important platforms worldwide - a force to be reckoned with, especially in the marketing industry.

With Weibo’s market, in average, coming from mid-level to white collar workers from the ages 17-45, luxury and premium brands are quick to respond by bombarding the website with a variety of fan pages. And how much importance exactly does social media have in the world of marketing? “The socialized media marketing can attract fans from some basic aspects to promote brand recognition; those aspects include content, activity, KOL, channel/platform, originality and event marketing.” Such a large pay-off for such an accessible and easy-to-use tool. And actions turn into results, “as for a successful case, take [the] ‘Global Shopping Ambassador Selection’ activity for Guam Visitors Bureau in 2012. I established a brand image that Guam was a shopping paradise. We have [also] once sold a car for Bentley via online and offline test drive activity, which realizes that socialized media marketing promotes sales.”

With this much progress, it would be interesting to see how far Chinese digital marketing and social media can go. “I think that more and more internet products will appear, and the mobile internet will become a large section. Audiences may depend more and more on convenience brought from internet products,” says Dong. And we would have to agree - with the Chinese market on its way up, the digital age taking over, and the Chinese’ propensity towards technology, China’s online presence could end up moving mountains.

But before all of that, there is a much needed focus towards how companies can take the most advantage of digital marketing and social media. The surface of social media, is getting your message across to the right consumer. But the truth behind it, is that social media is more about what your consumer says, rather than what you have to say. And how can we read into what they’re saying? By the data monitoring and analysis, of course! “Each channel has different performance standards, for example, the performance standards for Weibo include numbers of fans, quantity of engagements, and activeness. The performance standards for blogging include visitor volume, blog grade, and quantity of interaction. And the performance standards for forums include hits, reply volume, and whether it is added as elite post. Except for those data, the brand shall also pay attention to the emotional keynote of the audience,” says Dong.

WeiboWith this growing need for digital monitoring, new specializations are also coming to light, particularly social media analytics. Over the past few years, so many firms have been popping up, with the latest technology to monitor online presence, and naturally Weibo also takes a piece of this cake. “With the emerging of Weibo-based socialized media platform, more and more opinion monitor systems are researched and developed accordingly. Most of opinion monitor systems refer to comprehensive systems with different fields covered in the domestic and international market. There aren’t many systems specializing on fashion brands,” says Dong. Among the few, include italian-based  analytics company Fashionbi, who recently added Weibo on to their service platform. 

With this growing market, however, it will only take a matter of time before other foreign companies join the field. The question is whether or not they can adapt to the Chinese market and culture. “The characteristics [of China’s digital marketing] may be based on the psychology and demand of China’s network audience. For example, China’s overall situation is fickle, and people may tend to believe in some negative information when the fickleness is represented on the internet. Therefore, we shall take it as entry point when we make digital marketing, so as to output positive energy and establish a positive brand image,” explains Dong. 

And there you have it: Weibo, the future of social networking with their 500 million users, has only just begun. And while no one knows exactly where this progress will take us, with China on its way to becoming the largest economy, and the digital market rising along with it, there really is only one way but up. The question is: how high?

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