New insights on Sina Weibo for the Enterprise

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Following the popularity of its Weibo, or microblog (Chinese twitter), Sina introduced an enterprise version of Weibo last April, which was designed for corporations to better utilize it as a marketing tool with extra features such as a bulletin board, corporate videos and related linkages on display on the home page, detailed information on followers’ topic interests, and more. As the anniversary of the launch of enterprise Weibo approaches, Sina and CIC released a white paper to summarize the current situation and recent developments on how corporate entities are leveraging this platform. Below are some of the major takeaways from this white paper. (Note: the original white paper is only available in Chinese and can be found here.)

1. Food and beverage companies comprise the majority of enterprise Weibo owners, while IT companies have the most active followers

Currently, there are 130,565 enterprise Weibo accounts in total and food and beverage companies lead the pack of all categories with 50,000 Weibo accounts and outperforms the second category, automobile and transportation (7,549) by 562%. Other major categories include the service industry, e-commerce and IT. There are 700 million total followers of Sina’s enterprise Weibo and approximately 35% of them are considered active followers. Among the 22 industries surveyed, followers for IT-related Weibo accounts are the most active (45%), indicating that it is most effective for IT companies to leverage Weibo for marketing purposes.

2. Low interaction level, but rising opportunities

The interaction level for enterprise Weibos is not as impressive as the number of followers. Average interaction rate across all industries is 2.14%. Weibo accounts from the retail and shopping category are the most interactive with an interaction rate of 4.5%. These numbers point out that most companies are currently using Weibo as an information sharing platform and focusing more on follower generation than on engagement. Under this context, accounts that can effectively engage and interact with its key target audience will be especially influential. And it won’t take long for corporate owners to shift their attention from quantitative results to qualitative – measurements like levels of engagement and interaction will become increasingly more important, as well as measuring the interaction of followers that are considered target customers.

3. Diverse corporate Weibo function will bring out needs for in-house social media trainings and positions

Enterprises first started to leverage Weibo as a tool for building awareness and the purpose has diversified as it grows into the mainstream social media platform in China. The top 5 Weibo functions are: brand awareness building, PR and media relations, customer service, sales and recruitment, respectively. The specific functions of corporate Weibos make it a lot easier for people to measure the ROI of their Weibo investments. This also brings out a surging need for people from various facets of the business to learn more about the power of social media. We foresee more employee education as a necessity, and predict we’ll start seeing more Weibo /social media-related job openings spring up in the market.

4. Weibo is a highly effective marketing tool 

According to the white paper, the top three categories of enterprise Weibo content that most interests China’s “netizens” are information on new products, sales promotions and user experience sharing, respectively. The statistics show that the acceptance level of sales and marketing-related messages are quite high, meaning that Weibo is still an effective marketing tool. Apart from ensuring high engagement level on Weibo, it important for marketers to integrate Weibo with other corporate properties such as blogs or official websites to optimize the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. Another helpful tip is to create publicity within traditional media for digital campaigns to increase their credibility.

5. Weibo issue management is a must-to-have

The white paper points out that more than 50% of users consider Weibo as a channel for customer complaints. In 2011 we saw brands like Siemens, China Mengiu Diary Company, and Guei Zhen Tang, a Chinese pharmaceutical company which produces bear bile, face crises as a result of inappropriate handling of customer inquiries. This should be a wake up call for brands that might not be ready for this age of authenticity. The voice of the customer is powerful. It is essential for enterprises to get their social media policy and issue management systems ready, no matter whether or not they engage in proactive social media tactics.