Anyone who knows a thing or two about China definitely hears about Weibo, the "Chinese Facebook + Twitter" style social media.  Since China bans most of the western social media websites, it gives great opportunities to the local companies to copy and grow, many of them became the tech giants in China - Weibo is the most well-known of them.  The deceased former Israeli president Shimon Peres had a Weibo account that probably run by the Israeli embassy in China,  which has 4 hundred thousand followers.  





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Weibo claims to have 500 million registered users; however, this once a raising competitor of Facebook has been declining in recent years.  Why does Weibo lose its stickiness?  And where do the users go? And what can other social platform players learn from it?

1. Weibo doesn't provide the feeling of privacy

If you take a look at Weibo homepage, it displays the hot topics on Weibo, and lots of other stuffs keep popping up in your timeline for commercial purposes.   People feel they're surrounded by gossips, and they have no way to block the commercial content they don't like - profit before user experience.  When you get to read some popular celebrity's twits, it's inevitable to see some vile comments.  Many early users have lost interests in wasting time to read in such a mess, and according to some Chinese report, as high as 60% of users are inactive.

2. Weibo is full of "zombie users"

The number of followers is a popularity indicator for any public figure, so the service of adding fake followers is in high demand.  In Chinese, it's called "Zombie followers". Some computer engineers find a way to abuse Weibo's APK to help people receive fake followers.  According to an individual research in China, each celebrity has 17% of zombie followers in average.  It brings some frustration to the honest users who don't feel getting enough attention on the social media, and they just lose interest after some time.

3. Weibo's algorithm promotes vulgar contents

Low-level, R-rating images spreading the platform.  It's not a media to spend quality free-time anymore.

4. The raising of WeChat and WeMedia

WeChat is the Whatsapp of China, but it has far more functions - transfer money, shopping, pay bills, apply passport, run a mini online store - you can do all of these besides texting and voice call.  People feel more secured to keep their closed social circles, and WeChat provides just that.  WeMedia is a place for individual, organizations and government agencies to open their own news channels (it's actually a column), it provides the interface which looks like online news, and users can subscribe the channels they like.  It's a great opportunity for people who like to express themselves in writing and vlogging, it also shares advertisement revenue to the writers.

Digital media changes rapidly in China, the competition is more fierce than the west.  I recently receive a request from an acquaintance to help him purchase some hundreds of Weibo accounts (zombie users) for marketing purpose. Apparently,  this guy hasn't caught up the trend.

(Yael Hsu's office runs professional Chinese social marketing and digital marketing.)

 


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