Weibo and WeChat dominate the social media landscape in Chinese society, especially with Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube being blocked from use. Westerners might find the names Weibo and WeChat rather similar, and even get the two muddled, but for marketers working to reach Chinese audiences, it’s important to understand the differences between the two platforms and how they are used.

Weibo

Weibo is a microblogging network, a bit like Twitter if we must have a Western comparison. In fact, the word ‘weibo’ translates as ‘microblog’. It has around 600 million registered users (although not all of these are active), and 400 million businesses on board, with the bulk of its revenue coming from advertising and marketing.

People use Weibo to connect with friends, find news and information from trustworthy sources, research brands, share experiences and check out reviews.

It is generally considered easier to broadcast messages to a wider audience on Weibo compared to WeChat.

Some features of Weibo include:

  • It operates on a ‘one-to-many’ basis where one person or company may have many followers.
  • Messages and advertisements are more public on Weibo than on WeChat, and are more likely to go viral.
  • It allows thumbnail pictures and media to be used with posts.
  • Users are more able to view the activities of people they are not necessarily connected with.
  • It has a limit of 140 characters for posts, and makes use of hashtags around topics / subjects.
  • It is used as a source of news and information on products, services, places to visit and so on.
  • The platform gets used by key opinion leaders (KOLs) – trusted experts on specific topics, often with a large following. This means users may be drawn to a product or service as a result of a recommendation by a KOL.
  • It allows for scheduling of posts at different intervals.
  • It can be used on desktop or mobile.
  • It comes with analytics so marketers can measure the effectiveness of campaigns.

You can register for Weibo online or via the smartphone app.

WeChat

WeChat has around a billion registered accounts, and 600 million users. It has been likened to mobile Facebook, but the closest western equivalent is possibly WhatsApp – the message app for smartphones.

People use WeChat to gather news and information about products, travel destinations and experiences, and to converse with friends.

Some features of WeChat include:

  • It is used on mobile phones rather than on desktop.
  • It is largely designed for chatting, conversing and relationship building.
  • WeChat is more private in nature than Weibo – facilitating one-to-one connections, with one-to-many connections being on a much smaller scale than Weibo.
  • It comes with a number of free apps.
  • The platform can be used to create brand stores.
  • It has limited visibility compared to Weibo, which may make it harder to get a big following. However, it allows for more in-depth content and discussion, targeted marketing, and possibly also a more loyal following. It may also facilitate a more personalised service and higher quality of customer care.
  • Marketers may be limited in the number of posts they can publish each day or week, depending on the type of account they have.
  • Comes with the ‘Moments’ feature for private conversations between friends, where even comments by non-connections are not visible.

In order to market on WeChat, you need an official account which interested users can subscribe to. Providing high quality relevant content is important to maintain your subscribers.

The key difference between the two

Essentially, Weibo is more open, fast and visible, while WeChat is more private and relationship-focused, which possibly makes it more suitable for targeted marketing and gaining a long-term loyal following.

Whether you use one or both for marketing depends on what you want to achieve. To find out more about which platform might be right for your marketing efforts, feel free to contact one of the highly experienced team members in our China Online Marketing division.

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