Understanding Weibo and Baidu

So China has gone gaga for WeChat, and if you’ve read any of our previous articles on the topic, you’ll understand why. But before we can crown you as a Chinese social master, you need to know about the other big players in China’s digital world. Meet Weibo and Baidu, China’s answers to Twitter and Google. You will find both extremely useful for spreading brand awareness if you’re looking to make it big in China.

Weibo

China was hot on the heels of the #selfie phenomenon that took millions by storm through the means of Twitter and Instagram. In 2009, Weibo was launched by Sina Corporation, and it rapidly developed into a microblogging and public entertainment platform for people to share their lives with the masses. Just like on Twitter, you can post ‘moments’, photos, videos and other people’s posts on your own page, as well as sending private messages.

Initially, Sina used the same strategy with Weibo that they had used to promote their blogging platform: inviting celebrities to use it to garner popular interest. By the end of 2009, celebrities were sharing gym pics, posting their opinions and interacting directly with fans, making the public feel more connected with their favourite idols. Gradually, public use of the channel developed and it became the fastest way to receive news updates and celebrity gossip. Weibo was the top social media platform in China until the WeChat Domination of 2013. You can read more about the reaons why this happened here.

Since its glory days back in 2009, Weibo has been overshadowed by WeChat, but it still has 297 million monthly active users. In fact, most businesses and media channels have verified accounts, due to its quick and easy information distribution model. Owning a corporate account is a great way to publish company news, assist promotional campaigns and provide an information source for your customers, and building a Weibo reputation can have a huge impact on your brand.

Before you fire up your Weibo account, be warned that security measures on setting up a verified account have been heavily increased, due to fake celebrity accounts appearing to promote fraudsters’ products. You can tell if an account is an official one by finding a small V at the corner of their profile image: blue for businesses, orange for celebrities.

Weibo is a good place to follow celebrities, and it is a great place to create hot rising stars. A lot of people have achieved fame through Weibo, through posting pretty images, publishing interesting content, giving timely and critical comments, or showing off wealth and personality. These social stars also have a great number of fans and can be quite influential on the platform. For small or new businesses, they are a good example of how to gain success in the Weibo world.

One of the hot trends at the moment is having a personal account as a representative of your company – this person is likely to be your company’s CEO or opinion-leader. As with celebrity accounts, personal company accounts can help connect the public with your company.

For example, Ou Chen, the CEO of VIP.com, has 47.52 million followers on his personal Weibo account and is in the top ten ranking for most followed accounts.
You have the choice of free or paid promotion on Weibo. As with Twitter, using @ or # can flag up attention to the people you want to take notice of you. There is also a weibo showground, or a discovery section where users are shown the hottest posts from the last hour, day, month or category. Unsurprisingly, paid promotion guarantees more exposure, and paid advertising is not uncommon for Weibo users.

Celebrity advertising is also very popular, and many customers actually enjoy viewing celebrity endorsements. One celebrity, Zhiqian Que was made famous for his advertising posts on Weibo. He often begins his posts with a funny story, which he then links to a product in unconventional ways something many users find entertaining.

Baidu

If you believe your company will benefit from digital marketing in China, getting to know Baidu is essential, given it has been the leading search engine in China for a number of years. According to an official data resource, it is available to 95% of Chinese internet users, and is preferred by 76% of the total market share. Optimising your website on Baidu carries many similarities with SEO optimisation on Google, however it comes with its own unique quirks. For example, domain endings have more importance here: while .com and .net are available to you, using a .cn domain will ensure a much higher search engine ranking.

There are also strict guidelines set out by China’s censorship regime. If violated, your website can be removed from the Baidu database altogether. It is worthwhile to apply for a Internet Content Publishing (ICP) license as soon as possible as it does affect your ranking as well. This article on search engine land has a comprehensive analysis on how to get your website to rank higher on Baidu based on four different aspects: content, technology, laws, and tools.

You can also use Baidu for Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. The underlying concept echoes Google: Baidu will feature your website when customers search related words, and you pay the publisher when the featured ad is clicked. This service is only available to business users at the moment. Running these types of PPC campaigns can be tricky, especially for foreign companies with language barriers – in this case it might be good idea to use a third party to help you with the process.

Baidu has its own news, image and video sources, and it also has some exciting additional features which set it apart from Google. You can access the Baidu forum, where you can put questions forward to be answered by members of the public, like Yahoo Answers or Quora. Baidu Baike serves as a Chinese Wikipedia, and it is free to edit and create new pages which you can use to promote your business.

While Youtube is unavailable, there are a multitude of video platforms in China: Youku, iQiYi, Tencent Video to name a few. Accessing and uploading content to these platforms is generally free, and many viewers use them to legally stream a number of popular local TV shows. You can advertise on these video platforms using a banner, or by placing an ad at the beginning or end of a video.

This concludes our Chinese Social Media series, which has hopefully given you the tools you need to get yourself noticed by Chinese consumers. All that’s left to do is to register and get posting. And now that you’re a Chinese social media master, why not try out our Chinese Social Media Quiz again and see how you score?