If Weibo Closes, Where Will Brands Put Their Ads?

Digital landscape in China is changing and navigating between different players to use different platforms’ strengths at the advantage of a brand is not an easy task. Despite media’s attacks on Weibo, it continues to add monthly active users at 25% rate every year. Today, PLTFRM shares with you why a new brand, establishing its social media presence in China from zero should start with Weibo.

Why should new brands choose Weibo? 

The short answer is: Weibo is a media, while WeChat primarily is a messaging tool. These characteristics suggest that “China’s Twitter” is a more suitable medium for attracting attention to the new brand, constantly elevating the level of recognition, and establishing emotional response with the customers. Through high-quality content and users interactions, the brand can gradually transform its followers into loyal brand fans.

WeChat, on the other hand, is a more closed eco-system, with a relatively high threshold of marketing tools, with high customer-acquiring cost, which small-medium size enterprises don’t have the budget for. However, the above mentioned is relevant for new companies that try to build up brand’s social media presence from the ground with zero followers. If the company has strong, established offline channels, WeChat QR code, for example, is very instrumental in expanding followers base.

Weibo and WeChat are different platforms, both serving branding purposes well from different perspectives.

How to develop Weibo content plan? 
Every branding agency makes a ‘content plan’ for their clients, including yearly, monthly and weekly proposals. But the thing is, ‘Social media content plan’ is a kind of a false statement, because social media is an unpredictable environment.The core question of conventional advertising is ‘What the brand wants to say”? First determine this, then go into details about the time, place, channels, and message with which the brand is going to address target audience.But in the social media era, this core question turned into “What do I want to hear?”The first step of Weibo marketing for brands is to determine their target audience—down to gender, age group, hobbies, lifestyle and other details. Who are they? What do they like and who do they follow on Weibo? What can your brand give them? The key characteristics of social media are that it can be more than a reliable source of information about the brand. Used skillfully, this channel can help build emotional connection and resonance with the target audience.In China, over the past few years, Durex has became a sort of ‘golden standard of branding in social media”—and everybody aspires to achieve that level. This brand’s success in social media, however, is not explained by merely its skills to grasp the ‘hot topic’ of situational marketing.

Knowing how to leverage situational marketing to achieve exposure and high traffic in short time is one thing, but creating a long-lasting resonance is something else. Can your product satisfy the customer’s needs? Can the experience with your brand/product turn followers into loyal brand fans? Those are the questions every brand needs to ask, before requiring impossible from marketing campaigns.

How often should you post on Weibo? 
Attracting users’ attention is a primary goal of Weibo, and posting frequently is a pre-requisite. Judging from experience, a standard of Weibo posts for a brand is 3-5 posts daily.Diversifying content is another tool: rotating content between pictures, text, long-reads, short-videos yields good results.The most common Weibo post is picture+text. Along with the development of smart phones and rise of short videos popularity, and given that the brand’s product/service is suitable for this format, short videos can be a very useful marketing tool.
What are the common Weibo promotional methods? 
Among different digital platforms in China, Weibo is undoubtedly one of the most commercially mature ones with a number of advertising forms and marketing solutions that can help elevating brand awareness.Basic promotion types include ‘followers headlines’ (粉丝头条), which enables more followers to see your content, and ‘followers channel’ (粉丝通) allowing more precise followers targeting.KOL marketing is already at a well-established stage: data about the best performing Weibo accounts in different industries are open to the public, and inviting an opinion leader became a matter of one click.
In addition, Weibo provides keywords search, trending now rankings, hashtag campaigns, ‘red envelops’ and other solutions for any creative campaign brief.

How to increase exposure without spending a dime?

There are 3 common ways to increase traffic for free on Weibo:

  1. Make good use of Weibo content recommendation algorithms: adding keywords and hot topics to posts every day is helpful;
  2.  ‘Repost to win’ campaigns have been proved efficient to increase followers interaction, and get new fans. Organize one at least once in a while;
  3. Apply for “Weibo media master’ or other official certification, posting high-quality original content for a while.
We often hear the viral internet stars complaining that without an advertising budget, it’s very hard to make content visible on Weibo, unlike other platforms like Douyin, Toutiao, Zhihu, where the original content can go a long way with a push and recommendation from a platform itself.

To begin with, Weibo remains a leader among other non-messaging platforms in terms of users quantity. Weibo is also a KOL-centered platform, capable to magnify voices of ordinary users, but compared to other rising platforms like Douyin, Toutiao, Zhihu, it is more driven by paid marketing. 

On the other hand, however, quality content is scarce and valued at any platform. If combined with Weibo cost-free marketing tools wisely, good content still counts. Weibo marketing tools, both paid and free, are more diverse: Toutiao and Douyin have single paid marketing channel, Zhihu is not yet fully open to commercial cooperation, WeChat is more closed eco-system by definition, and KOL partnership of WeChat Moments advertising is only available for companies with big advertising budgets.
Can social media provide a brand establishment shortcut? 
Social media is not merely a tool to create hype around the brand. Every company turning to social media, hopes it can bring a real value and power to branding efforts, but the truth there is no shortcuts when it comes to establishing a brand.Successful branding is building a reputation, and we cannot directly control the opinions and evaluations of others about ourselves or a brand. Especially when social media came into the picture, and disrupted the usual ways, giving channels for every voice.Brand reputation stopped being a one-way street for a long time. Accessed in an equal manner, the brand’s product, offline space, website, slogan, spokesperson can give customers understanding of core value of a brand and they can judge the brand’s actions and philosophy. All the users feedback, both positive and negative, forms a part of the brand image, supported by social media.Weibo is only a social media platform, a very successful one with a lot to offer, but it can not provide a shortcut to establishing a brand.

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