Stephy Liu
Feb 23, 2012

Five things you need to know about how brands use weibo in China

Stephy Liu, senior client service manager and digital strategist at MSL China, shares five typical types of communication styles via weibo, the impact these styles have on the brands that employ them, and how to move toward strategic use of the platform.

Stephy Liu
Stephy Liu

1) Aimless

These so-called zombie accounts are often the result of little planning for long-term content, or a basic failure to grasp the real benefits of a long-term microblog. They can often be identified by the disparity between the number of followers and the number of forwards per tweet, the lack of personality and poor response to comments or questions.

If the number of followers by the brand has been faked, the weibo should be shut down immediately to avoid an online crisis. If it is simply the case of poor content, the brand should take a step back and look to understand the basics of weibo communications first and foremost.

2) Traditional

The majority of corporate weibos fall into this category. These microblogs reflect ‘old-school’ PR methods: shortening press releases or other corporate content to 140 characters and maintaining a formal tone of voice. 

This corporate conservatism and fear of experimentation can, in our opinion, have an adverse effect on the brand as they are often made fun of online. In other words, something is not necessarily better than nothing. Instead, marketers should imagine they are talking to an old friend and take on a relaxed tone and clearly define traditional communications content from social media communications content.   

3) Content-driven

A content-driven weibo effort shows that the company has a fundamental grasp of social media and how to leverage it for communications efforts. The brand tells interesting stories and develops a close rapport with followers.

Content is rich and varied, specially crafted, has a blend of text and pictures and an informal tone of voice. A content-driven weibo, whilst ticking many boxes, can increase its engagement and influence through competitions, interesting discussions, votes, or a weibo app. 

4) Interactive 

In order to reach an interactive weibo status, the company must leverage an experienced weibo team that is capable of launching content that actively drives interaction, interesting activities, and engaging discussions that hook followers and foster a close and lively relationship with them. At the highest level, this level of interactivity should allow the weibo to rely mainly on user-generated content and drive internet word-of-mouth.

5) Strategic

The highest-value microblogs combine content interactivity based on the brand personality to drive a targeted and measurable online marketing effort. Such efforts are aligned with sales and branding objectives to become long-term, sustainable business tools.

In order to achieve this, the weibo team must have firm objectives, a sustainable strategy, a well-defined online brand positioning, and a detailed execution plan for content and interactivity. The content should align with other social media, traditional advertising, PR, and other marketing efforts. 

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