The Weibo of 2018 is not the Weibo we used to know: Part 1

Weibo new changes 2018

For anyone marketing to China, Weibo will be a familiar term. This social media giant has risen from the ashes over the last few years even after many marketers predicted the prolific popularity of WeChat would drive it to extinction. Defying the sceptics, Weibo now boasts 376 million monthly active users (Sept. 2017).

As Weibo faces more competition than ever for consumer traffic and attention, it also faces increasing pressure from Xi Jinping and his desire for control over digital space.  This year, Weibo has been quick to learn and adapt, but has it been for the best? And how will this affect foreign brands using the platform?

In part 1 of this blog, we will give an overview of what happened for 2017 and discuss the first few points in more detail as well as how this will affect brands in 2018.

So, what were the key changes on Weibo in 2017?

Weibo Stories: Weibo’s Top Flop or hidden treasure?

Weibo stories feature has been rolling out slowly since April; initially, only KOLs could use the feature with few features and engagement capabilities. Even after Weibo stories was launched for all accounts and updated with AR, filters and interactive features, the function was slow to take off. Dior launched the first stories ad in September, followed by Adidas. Although there has been some uptake, Weibo Stories are still receiving a lot of support from Sina to help them gain more traction. Is this function a 2017 flop or a 2018 front-runner? Only time will tell…

What this means for brands: If used correctly Weibo Stories are a way to further connect with existing audiences, providing exclusive, time-sensitive content that provokes a sense of urgency and added value.  Brands have a unique opportunity to use new features to experiment with creative campaigns, proving themselves to be at the forefront of social media trends.

Chinese Weibo users are continuously moving towards short-video and interactive multi-media content, this could leave brands which rely on still image content at a disadvantage.

Weibo KOL Rules: Tightening the reigns or raking in the revenue?

June saw the overhauling of several key areas of Weibo. One of these was a series of rules launched to regulate KOL promotions. KOL promotions on Weibo much now be registered with Sina Weibo in advance, and Sina will charge KOLs a fee in return for pushing out promotion content. How big the fee is depending on the size of the KOL, recent promotional activity and the time of year.

Another core theme which popped up in the rules were levies or traffic penalties being weighed against content which links to non-Sina and non-Alibaba platforms, as well as long or multi-brand content.

What this means for brands: Although the proposed ban on outside links doesn’t seem to have gone through completely, brands operating on other platforms should expect longer waiting times for content approval and may need to allocate more feed ads or media budget margins for Weibo KOL Campaigns going forward. Controls for outside links are especially strict during key shopping times.

You can find the full list here: https://jingdaily.com/10-new-kols-rules-weibo-luxury-brands/

Our Part 2 introduction to Weibo in 2018 will be coming soon! In part 2 we will discuss Weibo’s super fan tunnel and how China’s 19th Plan affected Weibo users at home and overseas.

Can’t wait to learn more? See parts 1-3 in full by clicking here!

By Marie Tulloch, Account Director at Emerging Communications.

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