When the Internet was not very developed, people could only find out what was happening in the world by listening to the radio, watching newspapers, or TV. But nowadays, with the Internet, you only need an APP called Weibo, and you can know all kinds of news from Weibo at any place at any time. People can even know what people all over the country are concerned about or what other people’s lives are like. Just like Weibo’s slogan: discover what’s new anytime, anywhere. Using Weibo, people can keep up with the latest happenings anywhere and anytime. That’s why Weibo is known as the Chinese version of Twitter. This article will be divided into five parts to analyze Weibo – Introduction of Weibo, structure and function of Weibo, primary fields of operation, how to make money, and crisis.
Weibo is a microblogging social networking service launched by Chinese technology company Sina Corporation in 2009. It is the largest microblogging network among Chinese users in China as well as overseas. in December 2016, Weibo had 313 million monthly active users, roughly comparable to Twitter, and an average of 139 million daily active users, 90% of which were connected via mobile devices. Weibo’s online version is one of the most frequently visited websites in China, ranking 9th domestically and 24th globally according to Alexa’s ranking in March 2017 (Zhang, 2018). Until now, Weibo has become an essential app for Chinese people.
Structure and function of Weibo
Figure 2: Screenshot of Weibo page
Weibo page is divided into five main sections. They are Home, Video, Discover, Message, and Me.
On the home page, Weibo shows some articles or photos published by the accounts followed by this account. By clicking the plus sign in the upper right corner, people can post their pictures or articles on Weibo. Of course, the posts can be shown to everyone, friends, followers, or even only to themselves, which is why Weibo will become a place where people can remember things or express their emotions.
The video page is similar to the home page, but the video page will only publish videos. People can watch videos posted by the accounts they follow and upload their videos.
The search page can also be considered an important part of the whole Weibo. The search page is divided into two parts, one is the independent search and the other is the hot search. Hot search is like a Twitter Trend that tells users what news or information people around the world are interested in or check out. Weibo makes a lot of money from this feature because of this hot search. Regarding autonomous search, just like Google, people can type in a keyword and search for all articles and even users about that keyword.
Figure 3: Screenshot of message page
The message page is usually divided into mentions, comments, and likes. If you publish a post and receive an interactive message from someone, you can see it on the message page. Sina Weibo also follows Twitter by allowing users to use the @ symbol and tag content with different hashtags to mention and interact with others. Weibo also has a built-in instant messaging plugin that allows users to chat online (Zhang, 2018). People can send messages to other users through the message function.
Finally, this page of me is the most initial and important part of the whole app of Weibo. All users need to submit their identification information to create a normal account. Depending on specific criteria, eligible users can also apply for an upgrade to a verified account (Zhang, 2018). When the post is displayed, the username of the verified account is followed by a symbol V. There are also three types of verified accounts, one with a yellow symbol V, which is a symbol of having more than 10,000 + followers. The red symbol V means that the user is a big fan of a certain field. The blue V symbol is only applicable to some enterprises or government certifications. Certified accounts have more influence and credibility than ordinary Weibo accounts.
Primary fields of operation
Weibo operates in two main areas; one is the search engine. As you know, the best search engine in China is Baidu. And compared to Baidu, Weibo is probably not a competitive search engine. But why Weibo will become the search software that people often use. The first reason is that Weibo has a lot of web resources. Since celebrities entered Weibo, Weibo has opened the era of web traffic. Through a large number of celebrities or bloggers who have a fan base, new users are driven into Weibo. The second reason is that Weibo is monitored by the Chinese government, and some sensitive or special topics will be blocked by the system and will not appear on Weibo. By searching for keywords, people can find some articles and bloggers that people want to follow.The other one is digital communication. Weibo is a big communication site. People can find someone on Weibo who has the same hobby or celebrity as they do. On the internet, you can find a sense of belonging, maybe you like something that not so many people like in the real world, but when you go to the online world, you can find enthusiasts from all over the world.
How to make money
Susan Shirk points “Today, most media institutions finance themselves through advertising revenues, they are profit-oriented.” (Poell, De & Zeng,2014). There are two ways to make money for Weibo, one is advertising and the other is VIP mode.
Sina’s full-year revenue was slightly above S$100 million, up about 17% year-over-year. Revenue growth came from both advertising and non-advertising (primarily from Weibo) (Newstex Finance & Accounting Blogs, 2017).
- Type 1: Directly associated advertising. Weibo will help Sina to better understand its users, including their online behavior and user characteristics, thus helping advertisers to better discover their target customers.
- Type 2: Popular Hot Search List. In the hot search list of Weibo, there are often recommended words. By cooperating with brands thus giving them a conspicuous traffic bit word, it achieves to give brand promotion.
- Type 3: merchant entry. Invite merchants to open a microblog and then open a mall on Weibo. This is similar to Facebook’s shopping mall, which allows third-party partners to open shopping malls.
Figure 4: Two advertising hot searches (circled)
- Type 4: Share traffic. Increase exposure and influence for some brands or celebrities by selling positions on the Hot Search.
By purchasing VIPs, users can get different functions from ordinary users. For example, VIP users can post 18 photos at one time, while ordinary users can only post 9. VIP users can change their nicknames, while ordinary users can only change their nicknames once a year. the levels of VIP are divided into one to seven. The highest VIP enjoys different benefits from the other levels.
The proliferation of advertising
Because most of Weibo’s profits come from advertising, there will be a lot of ads on Weibo thus leading to a flood of ads. All kinds of unvetted ads appear on Weibo, causing users to be disgusted by them.
The pressure of public opinion
Cultural psychology research suggests that East Asians have a strong tendency to engage in holistic, contextualized reasoning and external attributions based on contextual attributes (Alsini, Huynh &Datta, 2021). Because of the great influence that Weibo may bring to people, some bad public opinion will be brought to users by Weibo and users will get a lot of pressure. This also raises the question about content review. Weibo does not have a dedicated staff for content review, but only blocks some sensitive words. This has caused people to use abbreviations instead of sensitive words and post about sensitive topics.
The key difference between culture and technology companies in China and elsewhere may well be the role of government intervention. But in China, every large company needs the support of government affairs (De, Poell, Guohua & Yiu,2019). Due to government intervention, Weibo cannot monopolize the whole market. If it monopolizes the whole market, the government will warn it or even fine it. But how to be able to make users stay instead of choosing to go to another APP is a problem that Weibo needs to consider in the future.
While people enjoy the convenience of Weibo, they are also deeply affected by the impact it brings.
Zhang, X. (2018). Weibo. In The SAGE Encyclopedia of the Internet (pp. 959–961).
Poell, T., De Kloet, J., & Zeng, G. (2014). Will the real Weibo please stand up? Chinese online contention and actor-network theory. Chinese Journal of Communication, 7(1), 1–18.
De Kloet, J., Poell, T., Guohua, Z., & Yiu Fai, C. (2019). The platformization of Chinese Society: Infrastructure, governance, and practice. Chinese Journal of Communication: The Platformization of Chinese Society, 12(3), 249–256.
Trefis: Sina Earnings: Weibo Advertising Helps Sina Sustain Growth Momentum. (2017). In Newstex Finance & Accounting Blogs. Newstex.
Alsini, A., Huynh, D. Q., & Datta, A. (2021). Hashtag Recommendation Methods for Twitter and Sina Weibo: A Review. Future Internet, 13(5), 129–. https://doi.org/10.3390/fi13050129
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