Introducing Weibo, the ‘Twitter’ of China

By | April 4, 2015

weiboDespite having the world’s largest population and the second-largest
economy, social media in China hasn’t taken off as quickly as it has in
other developed countries.

Part of that has to do with the Chinese government. Although it may not
be as strict as it once was in terms of censoring the content it allows
its citizens to view online, it still is far more restrictive than most
European countries or the US. The Chinese government continues to be
serious about cracking down on dissent and keeping tabs on those it
considers to be enemies of the state.

Still, the Chinese are beginning to go just as crazy about social media
as people everywhere else in the world. And the biggest name in Chinese
social media today isn’t Facebook, Twitter or Google+. It’s a site
called Weibo.

Popularity of Social Media in China

Weibo has exploded in popularity in recent years. It currently has 176
million active daily users and 503 million registered users. While
that’s still only about half of China’s estimated 1 billion citizens,
that represents a 36% growth over last year.

The site is used regularly by about 30% of Chinese Internet users.
That’s about the same market penetration that Twitter has in the US,
which has prompted Weibo to get the nickname “The Twitter of China”.

The site is only a couple of years old, having been founded in 2009 by
SINA Corporation, which still owns 56.9% of the Weibo. Alibaba owns
another 32% if the company. Stock in the website has been publicly
traded on Nasdaq since last April.

Enter Oracle

This month, Oracle announced that its Social Cloud will provide the
publishing, engagement and analytical support for the site. The purpose
of the move is to boost Weibo’s usage outside of China, as well as to
grow the site within that nation.

Oracle also will provide engagement and analytic services for Instagram
within China. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and recently offered
the ability to post 15-second videos as well as images and photos, is
rapidly becoming one of the most popular sites among 18 top 24 year olds
in that country.

Who’s Using the Site

Like Twitter in the US, Weibo allows its users to follow posts from
their favorite celebrities, sports stars, political leaders, media
figures, businessmen and religious leaders. Users also can share their
own microblog posts with their own followers. It’s estimated that the
Weibo’s top 100 users have an estimated 485 followers combined.

But companies and commercial interests both inside and outside of China
are huge users of the site as well. More than 5,000 companies and 2,700
media companies are believed to use the site regularly.

Censorship on Weibo

One of the biggest differences between Weibo and western social media
sites is that Sina cooperates with Chinese Internet censors, setting
strict controls on the contents of its postings. Comments about
politically sensitive topics, as well as those containing blacklisted
keywords, are regularly deleted.

But when compared to other Chinese media, Weibo is relatively
permissive. Criticism of the Chinese government, while not encouraged,
isn’t as controlled on Weibo as it is on Chinese TV, newspapers or

Where Its Name Comes From

In Chinese, the word for microblog is “Weibo”. Sina Weibo launched it as
the service’s domain name in 2011. While other Chinese microblogging
services such as Tenchent Weibo, Sohu Weibo, and NetEase Weibo also
include the term, most people in China recognized Weibo as the leading
social media platform in the same way that the term “Facebook” is
synonymous with social media in the US.

When it comes to social media, 500 million Chinese social media users
can’t be wrong about Weibo.

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