This week marked my personal entry into the Chinese social media world. I’ve used WeChat to communicate as a messaging app, which was very handy while visiting China, but never really for general social media activity.
Enter Sina Weibo, a standalone company spun out of Sina Corp in March 2014. The network has just shy of 200M monthly active users and recorded close to $100M in revenue in Q1 2015 alone.
I created my personal account this week and have been on a binge ever since.
Chinese Twitter? Not Exactly
The word Weibo literally translates to micro-blog. It is the hub for real time news and live events in China, leading many westerners to compare it to Twitter.
In my first few days on the network, I began to see an interesting combination of features from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on Weibo.
Twitter: Weibo posts are 140 characters, and the feed is real-time and unfiltered (though there are plenty of single-click filtering options). All posts are public by default and content is linked by tags/hashtags.
Facebook: Specific post elements like comments and the thumbs up for a Like subconsciously put you in Facebook mode. Weibo has also integrated groups and an entire section for gaming apps, similar to Facebook.
Finally, the profile structure asks for a ton of personal info. I was prompted to enter my university, birthday, marital status, etc. It’s an interesting hybrid of a very detailed and very public profile.
Instagram: Weibo offers photo filters with trendy names like Champagne, LOMO, and Film.
But, on the whole, the busyness of Weibo’s web and mobile app actually contrasts the simplicity which sets Instagram apart.
Unique Elements of Weibo
Through trial and plenty of error, I’ve also noticed some very interesting aspects of the platform in my first week.
This is obvious but worth mentioning. Just about everything will be in Mandarin. There is a way to set your account to English which will change most of the headings and navigation. The mobile app is farther along than the browser version here. Google’s Chrome translation is good for contextual translations, but don’t take them too literally.
A Weibo friend let me know why my #hashtags didn’t work initially: You need to close them with another # to activate the hyperlink and make them discoverable.
You can also follow a specific hashtag so it’s accessible in your home feed later (I follow things familiar to me like #seattle# and #spaceneedle# so I can comment on posts that pop up).
Calling it rich is an understatement.
Users are prompted to upload nine photos per post, and it looks very awkward in the feed if you only come up with five or seven.
Tons of dancing emojis and stickers are added to each post. This is all on top of the common video, link, and music sharing post options.
Location, Location, Location
Everything is hyper geotagged on Weibo, especially from the mobile app.
I was surprised to notice that my posts often include the street in Seattle I was on when I posted with incredible accuracy.
Users have the option to chose nearby locations (similar to Swarm/Foursquare locations) or remove the location tag all together.
There are a series of influential badges you can earn as you come up the learning curve as a new user.
At the time of writing this I have gone from Lv1 to Lv4 in one day!
Unfortunately this is an area without English translations, so I have no idea what I’m doing to become more legit on Weibo.
If you have tips, tricks or questions regarding Weibo, give me a shout. We’ll be writing more about how brands and agencies can leverage the platform soon!