Weibo: Top Social Media Trends for 2021

A five-part handbook on China’s biggest social media platforms and innovations

In the past year, Chinese consumers demonstrated remarkable resilience, transforming readily with media, retail and in particular, digital. This acceleration has been spearheaded by China’s young generation, reshaping what consumer culture looks like on a global level. A click of a button, a tap on a screen or an emoji post can collectively direct the future of any given organisation, institution and even government. And, with almost a billion citizens in total having access to the internet nationwide, social media is no longer a recreational pastime. It’s become a function central to their day-to-day lives, delivering connectivity, convenience and contributing to China’s new normal.

Bringing together platform highlights, ones to watch and expert opinion from the TONG Activation team, this five-part series addresses emerging technologies, innovations and consumer shifts happening across China digital today and tomorrow.

Sina Weibo 新浪微博 - commonly known as Weibo - was launched by Sina Corporation in 2009. It's the second largest social media platform in China with around 523 million active monthly users recorded in the third quarter of 2020 alone. Weibo can be described as a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, containing features of both platforms. Primarily, it’s known as a microblogging platform for users to get news updates, capture the conversation and find out more from their favourite brands, celebrities and influencers.

Platform Highlights

Durability and User Loyalty:

As 2021 becomes a digital land grab with more players and platforms fighting for attention (Bilibili, Little Red Book, Zhihu and Taobao’s newly launched platform Guangguang), Weibo remains to be the second largest social media channel in China continuing to attract considerable traffic.

“Companies and corporations in the West will never ignore Facebook or Instagram when creating marketing strategies for their business” TONG’s Senior Activation Manager Laura Deng explains, “and much like this, Weibo should not be overlooked by those eager to establish a greater presence in China’s social media landscape”. Weibo hosts a large number of active and loyal users and therefore acts as a suitable medium for all kinds of brands. Weibo’s resilience and influence remains a key channel for digital planning and communications in China.

Affordable Advertising:

Weibo is a major consideration for any marketing strategy as it offers more options for affordable and precise advertising. Advertisers can tap into its huge audience and even bigger content library, with average organic views on Weibo clocking in at 10%-15% per post. While this may be daunting for some businesses, paid formats help to accelerate visibility and audience reach. There are three types of paid ads options on Weibo: Weibo Tasks 微任务, (predominately used by KOLs or influencer marketing strategies), sponsored posts 粉丝头条 (used to promote to current followers or potential/targeted followers) and Fensitong 粉丝通 (advertising mostly used by a company or organisation).

Building Consumer Trust:

A lot of Chinese consumers tend to carry out due diligence on certain products or labels before purchasing. Official presence by companies on Weibo is still important for this purpose so consumers do not have to rely on organic or KOL content alone. A verified account on Weibo will provide more trust and credibility for brands, its products and its commitment to the Chinese market. And, with the ability to link to Tmall stores, WeChat stores and official websites via a Weibo page, the channel synergises with the wider digital ecosystem whilst continuing to focus on its USP’s for fostering discussions and opinions.

The Weibo Landing Page Showcasing Brand Utilitising the Platform for Advertising by Ashley Galina Dudarenok
The Weibo Landing Page Showcasing Brand Utilitising the Platform for Advertising by Ashley Galina Dudarenok

Ones To Watch

A Platform for Entertainment:

Weibo is known as a destination for news, entertainment and gossip. Sometimes, brand-led content can appear to get lost amongst it all. However, it’s still an essential channel for businesses to consider, especially when it comes to announcing big activations, celebrity collaborations, trending discussions and vocalising values. Moreover, it is frequently used by members of the entertainment industry to track trends, upcoming talent and new voices across the platform.

An Increasingly Female Audience:

Over the past two years, we have seen an increase in more women using Weibo as a platform for entertainment. While back in 2018, there were 56.3% male Weibo users and 43.7% female Weibo users, in 2020, the female users grew to 49.9% which is only set to rise further throughout 2021. Local and international brands have been leveraging Weibo in their strategies for connecting with China’s female consumers. For example, Chanel features regular content across their official Weibo account, including runway shows, campaigns and interviews with their female brand ambassadors such as models He Cong贺聪 and Liu Wen 刘雯.

On top of this, topics surrounding female empowerment, and sub-topics including motherhood, body positivity and women’s health, have become more prominent on Weibo. A prime example of this is how Chinese lingerie and loungewear specialist NEIWAI captured the trend in 2020 by launching several campaigns championing female empowerment. In addition, Net-A-Porter, having launched on Tmall last year, also used Weibo to profile and celebrate three Chinese women including musician Lexie Liu 刘柏辛, comedian Jin Jing 金晶, and fashion influencer Ximeng Dasao 西门大嫂. A strong narrative on self-expression and diversity of women in China today, the brand encouraged audience engagement by allowing followers to submit questions for the three talents.

Brands aside, China’s domestic ecomm giants such as Tmall have utilised Weibo for connecting to female audiences. ‘Challenge for Colorful Female Life’ was a 2019 campaign launched on Women’s Day that became immensely popular, recording over 320 million views. The retail superpower also saw success the following year through their ‘Own Yourself, Love Yourself” campaign which spotlighted renowned females influencers like Lamu Yangzi 辣目洋子 to share their views on self-love. As a result, the hashtag received 600 million views in the lead up to Women’s Day.

No Body is Nobody Campaign by NEIWAI on Weibo, 2020
No Body is Nobody Campaign by NEIWAI on Weibo, 2020

This is part three of a five part series on Chinese social media platforms covering WeChat, Bilibili, Douyin, Weibo and RED. To read the other four articles, visit our Intelligence page.

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