Weibo, or Micro-blog, is becoming the brightest new star of social network platforms in China after Twitter detonates its explosive development in America. Due to its increasing popularity, more and more companies are striking to take advantage of micro-blog service to broaden their business network and build their brand. As Weibo is becoming an increasingly fierce battlefield for businesses wanting to promote their products and services, Chinese companies have entered a new era of marketing, that is, Weibo Marketing. Weibo Marketing can be defined as the marketing process by which companies and non-profit organizations influence their potential customers by disseminating, sharing and collecting information through Weibo platform in order to fulfill such marketing functions as market research, product promotion, brand marketing, consumer relationship management, public relations crisis management and so on (Hu and Song (2011:15-16)). The author of this paper believes that the increasingly important role of Weibo Marketing can be attributed, at least, to two elements: the wide prevalence of micro-blogging and the distinctive features of Weibo Marketing. Therefore, this paper will examine the current situation of Weibo in China and the distinctive characteristics of Weibo Marketing in order to seek explanations for the growing importance of Weibo Marketing, and finally offer some suggestions for companies to improve Weibo Marketing. ⅠWide Prevalence of Weibo in China
The increasing importance and popularity of Weibo Marketing can be firstly attributed to the prevalent usage of the platform itself. In this section, the paper will examine the current situation of Weibo in China from two perspectives, that is, major players and users of China’s micro-blogging. 1. Major Players of China’s Micro-blogging
China's major web portals such as Sina, Sohu, NetEase and Tencent have all started micro-blogging services. Figure 1 shows the results of an iResearch study about micro-blog industry in China in 2010 offered by iResearch in its “Microblog Industry & User Research Report”. According to the study, Sina takes 56.5% market share on active users basis and 86.6% on browsing time basis in 2010 China’s micro-blog market, which tends to show that Sina Weibo is the definite micro-blog leader in China (iResearch (2011:8)).
Figure1. Micro-blog Industry in China in 2010 (Source: iResearch (2011:8) “Microblog Industry & User Research Report”. http://report.iresearch.cn/1549.html#) 2. Weibo Users in China
Over the last year, micro-blogging has become wildly popular in China. According to the results of the latest research by CNNIC, the amount of Chinese netizens has almost reached 500 million and micro-bloggers 200 million by the end of October, 2011. What is more, in China, as many as 54,362 firms, 1,337 media companies, 5,269 public organizations and 9,300,000 celebrities have opened their own account through Sina Weibo by November 10, 2011. 2010 China’s Weibo Market White Paper released by Sina on September 9, 2010 shows that China’s micro-blog market will continue its high-speed expansion and is expected to cover 280 million users by the end of 2012 and 460 million users by the end of 2013, when China’s micro-blog market will enter its mature stage (cf. Hu and Song (2011:6-8)). Ⅱ Unique Features of Weibo Marketing
Apart from the wide prevalence of micro-blogging in China, Weibo Marketing’ intrinsic features have also contributed a lot to the opening of this whole new marketing dimension. According to iResearch’s analytic data illustrated in Figure2, among the five listed major marketing approaches in China, microblog marketing currently is with the lowest cost and performs best in these three important indexes: influence, interactivity and accuracy (iResearch (2011:12)). Based on this research, the paper summarizes the distinctive features of Weibo Marketing as follows....