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The social media movement is alive and well in the mainland, but you wont hear people raving about Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. Unbeknownst to most American’s and Westerners, China is a nation of netizens, who take to blogs, forums and chat boards just like the rest of us. They clamor for the new Iphone5 (which is unavailable currently in the mainland) and hash tag (#) like its going out of style. But like most things Chinese, they do it their way, using a homegrown social media site called Weibo.
Weibo (also known as Sina Weibo) or 新浪微博 (Xīnlàng Wēibó) is China’s most popular social media website. While officially a”micro-blogging” site, it is a stylized hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, and draws more than 30% of Internet users in the mainland. While Weibo is often likened to Twitter, it absolutely dwarfs Twitter in magnitude and user base (Click for Article), touting more than 200 million registered users as of August 2011.
Weibo is more for entertainment purposes than for news and expressing controversial opinions. While microblogging is very popular in a society facing the ills of environmental degredation, crowding, and inflation, most weibo keywords and tags are pertinent to pop-culture, celebrity, jokes and what I call “lol catz” hysteria. It’s really a safety release valve (or tourniquet) for many of the social issues building in China today.
This is at least partially due to governmental crackdown on social media cites of late, especially during the Jasmine Revolution and Arab Spring movements. Due to the Internet censorship in China, Sina Weibo sets strict controls over the posts on its services. Posts with links using some URL shortening services (including Google) or those with blacklisted keywords (or any use of the Tibetan language) are not allowed on Sina Weibo. Other keywords or touchy topics are then manually trolled for by “watchdogs” who find, report and block/censor cites arousing any dissidence. Big brother can be hiding behind any firewall or IP address.
According to iResearch’s report last spring Sina Weibo attained 56.5% of China’s microblogging market based on active users and 86.6% based on browsing time over competitors such as Tencent Weibo and Baidu’s services (both large search engines, similar to Google in the US). Further, among Weibos top 100 users (think most “followers” on Twitter or most “likes” on Facebook) had over 485 million followers combined. Furthermore, Sina said that more than 5,000 companies and 2,700 media organizations in China uses Sina Weibo.
Sure China has an unfair advantage: more active internet users than any other country (and growing). They don’t have the litany of social media site options that we have in the states, just one site to rule them all. Instead of sharing info between Facebook and Google or activating Twitter/GChat widgets, Sina Weibo cuts out the middle man and produces an end-to-end product with absolute control over data accumulation, marketing/adverstising and revenue streams. Simply put, Weibo is a micro-blogging monopoly. Still, I urge you to join if you’re in the mainland.
Until then…follow Steve on Twitter: @seeitbelieveit