China has more than 700 million internet users, and more than 90% of them accesses the web via their smartphones (Source: China Internet Network Information Centre). Among them, Sina Weibo, the most popular micro-blogging platform in the country that has been named ‘Twitter of the East’, is the preferred way of communication for media services such as Chinese newspapers, radio and TV stations.
According to Sina Weibo, with an estimated 340 million active users per month in 2017, an increase of 30% from the previous year, there are now more people using Weibo than there are using Twitter, which is blocked in China and has about 328 million active users.
So what’s Weibo, exactly, and what can it do for marketers like you, and how can you effectively map out a Weibo marketing strategy? Weibo allows you to post less than 2000 Chinese characters (used to be 140 before they changed it to 2000 in 2016) each time. Accounts on Weibo are segregated into regular users, individual users that are verified (orange V icon), companies and businesses that are verified (blue V icon) and paid VIP members with additional functions.
Weibo users are able to upload images and videos, insert links, create polls and votes, play games, project Weibo feed onto a real wall during offline events, live broadcast events and performances via its new live streaming app Yizhibo, or “Yi” in short, upload video snippets and even make money via advertisements, paid postings or subscriptions. Users or followers of your account can share your content with their own network.
In 2014, e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba which owns 31.4% of Weibo, introduced “Weibo Payment”, and users can start to shop, browse products (‘Weibo shops’ are linked to external Taobao shopfronts) and pay online instantly using the service.
In comparison with WeChat, another popular Chinese social media platform, Weibo is more public and most of its published posts are visible to the public, versus WeChat posts on Moments which are only visible to users that are friends or connected.
We’re convinced that Weibo is a reasonably cheap and effective mean of building brand awareness and loyalty among any new or existing brands, and getting a Weibo marketing strategy up is not as tricky as navigating its social media counterpart WeChat, which has a more complex platform. Let’s take a look at how we can map out a quick strategy within 30 minutes.
(1) Identification of Your Objectives
As with all marketing strategies, it is vital to first decide what you want to achieve for your brand and business before getting in-depth into the strategy. This would help you map out the angle and formulate a better direction for your Weibo marketing strategy. Different companies usually have different objectives, some wants to first create and build brand awareness, while others want to let potential customers know about their products and services, while some others want to dive directly into getting sales and leads. Others might want a more specific objective, such as, for instance, increasing their product’s revenue by at least 30% in China’s Tier 1 cities within 1 year. The more specific you are, the better and easier it will be for your strategy later on.
Different strategies go with different objectives – for instance, getting direct purchases on your site would work better for a sales-drive objective, while tagging an attractive promotion or coupon to your post would be great for driving website traffic. That said, we still need to do A/B tests because different products/services, different landing pages and different copywriting will yield starkly different results.
(2) Who Are Your Target Audience?
Who are your existing target audience? And which new segment(s) of the market do you want to target next? For example, if you sell dairy products, and all along your customers have been mothers or parents, you might want to try targeting another segment of the market with another product – the elderly who needs such products for calcium and bones.
Deciding on what your target audience and products or services are will make it much easier for you to map out your Weibo marketing strategy for the next few months.
(3) Competitive Research and Analysis
Again, before you start any marketing campaigns, it is wise to first assess and analyse your competitors, whether they are direct, indirect or replacement competitors. Know your competitors intimately and together with the information of your target audience, you can then craft a great Weibo marketing strategy with these information in mind.
Besides analysing your competitors’ Weibo presence, followers, tweets and the content they post, you should also check out their activities on other social media, and see the types of content they post, and what kind of content gets the most traction or none at all. It will help you in identifying opportunities and develop a more efficient Weibo marketing strategy.
Be sure to check out some Weibo analytics tools to help you understand your potential customers, like Weibo Votes, a polling system that you can use to create surveys and collect data from your audience.
(4) Map Out Your Weibo Marketing Strategy
After deciding on the above, now it’s time to map out your actual Weibo marketing strategy by the month. This would also include a content posting plan, as content is very much the soul of Weibo and is what keeps your audience engaged with your brand.
For example, you can set up a simple table and plot in the information you have. Assuming again you are a manufacturer of dairy products in Australia, here’re a sample table with some ideas for you.
|Date/Objective||Weibo Marketing Strategy and Content Direction|
|Jan – Mar 2018/Get at least 500 more followers by end of Mar.||
|Apr – Jun 2018|
|Jul – Sep 2018|
|Oct – Dec 2018|
After developing your strategy, there are several ways to increase followers for your Weibo account, such as following influential Weibo accounts, KOLs or celebrities, or promoting your Weibo through other channels such as your website, name cards, emails, printed materials, off site events and activities.
(5) Planning Your Weibo Marketing Strategy
This is so important that I feel it needs to be a topic by itself. Actually, it’s so important that I consider it to be the key driving force behind your Weibo account and getting it the followers it deserves.
As you now have 2000 Chinese characters to post your content, it is not so limiting as before where only 140 characters are available. Besides the textual content, you still need to take some time to search for appropriate images, videos and links. Images and interactive videos give your posts a higher chance of getting noticed.
Content-wise, look at what your competitors are posting and what are the responses like, and search for similar content to disseminate on your own feed. It doesn’t even have to be just Weibo; you can look at other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and see what works for their audience and try a similar tactic and track. You might or might not get the same response, but it doesn’t do any harm just to try.
Here are some suggestions on what to plan for your content on Weibo. Just focus on your audience by providing great value to them, with ideas, humour, interesting news and attractive promotions.
Events, Activities and Festivals
There are immense potential for you to play around with content on Weibo. For example, there is Weibo Events which you can use to host certain events, competitions and contests on Weibo itself.
You can also create some original content to attract more attention to your Weibo account, especially during special Chinese festivals and major events in China, such as Chinese New Year or Chinese Valentine’s Day. Create a funny meme that sparks tons of laughter, or a viral video that triggers emotions in your audience and make them want to share it with their friends and followers willingly. Sometimes, all it takes is a dash of genius to add creativity to your campaign and create a buzz in your industry.
Giveaways, Promotions and Discounts
On Weibo, giveaways, promotions and discounts are the number one way that businesses are using to engage their audience – it is a great tactic to get new followers too.
Drop in one or two special promotions for your customers and you can perhaps use the viral marketing strategy of asking your followers to share it on their timeline to get some free gift or extra discount on your products, or even a chance to win a prize in a lucky draw for attractive products or services.
KOLs and Influencers
To increase your traffic and brand awareness, you can look into engaging a few Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in your industry, or try and establish a relationship with celebrities that support your products and/or services. In China, the advice, reviews and suggestions of well known personalities and Internet celebrities are very valuable and the Chinese audience usually listen to them and trust their recommendations. Also don’t ignore certain Weibo KOLs that are not celebrities – they may not be as well known but they certainly have large follower bases with suitable audience that could be very good for your brand.
When Do You Post?
In general, it is also critical to post when your potential customers or followers are most likely to check Weibo, mostly between 10 to 11am or 4 to 5pm daily, said one source of research. Another effective time slot is said to be 9 to 10pm after they have finished putting the children to bed, with a little free time to themselves. That said, do not take our words for it, and do an analysis of your audience yourself over a week or perhaps a 24-hour period to identify which are your best times to engage your audience.
Also, be aware of any upcoming public holidays, events or activities that can lead to a spike in social media users trailing their accounts to search for places to visit, or restaurants or F&B outlets to visit. Some other holidays such as Chinese New Year might contribute to a slight drop in users, as the majority of the Chinese are busy with house cleaning and preparation.
There should also be guidelines and standard operating procedures put in place to help your team manage users or bad feedback or comments in different tricky situations.
(6) Decide If You Need Any Weibo Advertising
Next, decide if you want to invest in a targeted Weibo advertising campaign, which is one of the channels that I considered to be best for creating brand awareness in terms of ROI.
And because Alibaba now owns a part of Sina Weibo, there are more advertising opportunities for you to tap into and drive conversions and sales. Currently, there are four main kinds of Weibo advertising you can consider, and they are:
- Display Advertisements – Banners of different dimensions that are displayed on different pages of Weibo.
- Search Engine Promotion – Keyword-triggered ad on the search bar on Weibo.
- Fan Headlines – Segmented into Posts, Others’ Posts and Accounts, these headlines promote your Weibo posts and accounts based on the daily updates and social networks of the target audience.
- Fan Tunnel – A kind of advertising that allows you to cater to a larger audience as it get them from Weibo’s user base. You can even nail down your audience by age, region, gender, interests and more.
More often than not, a combination of these strategies would work best for your brand, but it’s vital to customise each strategy too, for your brand based on your cost allocation and what you expect to get out of it, in other words, your ROI.
(7) Sychronize Your Weibo Marketing Strategy with Offline Campaigns
Sometimes, you could sychronize your Weibo marketing strategy with offline campaigns such as print advertisements, TV or radio advertisements. You can even integrate it with your offline events and activities. For instance, if you are having a series of roadshows over a weekend, link your Weibo with your roadshows and let contestants or customers passing by your roadshow booth take part in a Weibo contest, broadcast on a bigger screen on site. Give out attractive prizes for everyone who follow your account, or engage with your brand, and reward them on the spot.
(8) Analysis and Recharge
Finally, and perhaps also one of the most important steps in your Weibo marketing strategy, is to monitor and track your Weibo campaign and activities carefully to know what is working and what does not work. For example, check if any of your strategies or posts are getting higher than normal engagement, and if it’s wise to reactivate that event at a later period again. Weibo also provides official tracking tools for corporate accounts to track their Weibo activities, so you should make full use of those tools to analyse your Weibo data to further optimize your account, improve your postings and performance.
Commit to increasing your brand awareness by actively engaging your audience, posting regularly and you will soon have a successful Weibo account with your desired followers and ROI.
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