What you need to know about Weibo Stories

Marketers across North America and Europe will be familiar with social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest to name but a few – but to succeed with the complexities of Chinese online marketing, it is essential to be familiar with Weibo and its latest ‘Weibo Stories’ pilot, which is currently being tested on a limited, invite-only release.

What is Weibo?

Sina Weibo is one of the most popular social media and microblogging sites in China, comparable in style and functionality to a Twitter and Facebook mashup. Marketing professionals in the West who wish to engage with the Chinese market must understand the power and position of the site as it is favoured by over 30% of internet users and has a market penetration akin to Twitter in the USA.

Constantly evolving

Like Facebook, Twitter and the other social sites that users are more familiar with in the West, Weibo is constantly evolving and innovating to push out new user features that will engage and encourage ‘stickiness’ amongst its audience. The latest pilot is called Weibo Stores and it is designed to gain a powerful share in China’s burgeoning online short video market.

An invite-only pilot

The feature is being tested by invite-only amongst the site’s celebrity users and vlogging stars (Wang Hong). Currently, testing is being limited to iOS, with plans to roll the feature out to Android once testing has been completed and deemed to be successful. From the user’s perspective, the stories feature is similar to Instagram – allowing users to share online video or photo content with their network, which then disappears within 24 hours. Owners can save their Weibo Stories post privately after the 24-hour publication limit. The ‘disappearing content’ feature improves the stickiness of the site – ensuring that users engage with the platform regularly and supporting Weibo’s ‘gamification’ strategy which rewards users with badges and medals.

The user experience

In terms of user experience, the mobile app will be akin to Facebook, featuring a single top row of icons. The user will activate their camera by clicking the ‘my story’ icon and then choosing to take either a photograph or a short video of up to 15 seconds. The feature also offers users the chance to ramp up the visual impact of their content, with captions, stickers and filters – as well as the ability to post comments and share private messages. There is also an auto-save setting for favourite published content.

High potential value for marketers in China

For marketers engaging with a Chinese audience, Weibo is an essential channel – particularly in the B2C market. It is important to remember that Facebook and Twitter are both blocked for use in China, although Weibo is akin to both – with a feature set that resembles Facebook’s media rich layout.

The platform is constantly evolving and it is just one of many popular social media portals and channels, each with their own distinct demographic and purpose. Content is restricted and cultural context must be carefully understood by western businesses keen to market to Chinese audiences online. However, brands that do business in China can enjoy success if they can expertly create a social marketing mix that employs the right platforms, messages, audience engagement strategies and positioning.