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|Tuesday, September 6, 2011|
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I met with Holmes Report Managing Editor Arun Sudhaman last week and over sashimi he asked me what was shaking up communications in Asia. I pondered, sipped miso soup, and said 'Weibo'.
This form of short form communication - crassly referred to as 'Chinese twitter' - has certainly taken Chinese social networkers by storm and, in the process, had changed the way many Chinese companies were communicating. I saw this first hand during recent trips to Shanghai and Beijing.
Arun raised some more questions and his analysis was recently published. Here are the original questions and my responses - with special thanks to TT Yang and Shannon Pu from Text 100 China who helped immensely.
Is Weibo (Sina & Tencent) changing the ways companies communicate in China? In what ways?
The introduction of weibo has changed communications in China in three key ways: speed, content and measurement. Weibos such as those from Sina and Tencent allow people to post in real time, which requires both publisher and audience to react and respond faster than traditional PR communications. Many Chinese companies haven’t historically managed real-time communication – but increasingly there will be an expectation that they monitor and respond to inquiries through social media channels.
Weibo’s mainstream popularity and immediacy is forcing companies to pay more attention to this form of social networking. Given they only have 140 Chinese characters to work with, companies must think more carefully about how their audiences will react to their Weibo ‘tweets’. They need to create content designed to generate a response from their readers – ideally a comment or ‘retweet’.
Critically, the language must be that of the reader, not that of the publisher. Instead of measuring PR results by character count or by the kilogram of press coverage, Chinese companies are increasingly looking at retweets, interaction and audience reach as success metrics. Finally, the outcome is more important that the output.
Why is this happening with Weibo (as opposed to other social media platforms) and why now?
Weibos have come of age as they have several key benefits over other social networks. The format - 140 words – makes it easier and faster to create and share content. The two most popular Weibos – Tencent and Sina – also benefit from being owned by two of China’s dominant Internet companies (unlike their predecessors or competitors).
Whereas social networks such as RenRen and Qzone are chiefly used for entertainment, weibo are seen as a professional or intellectual outlets. The more sophisticated nature of weibo discussion (and its audience) has helped many B2B companies overcome their reservations about the importance of social media channels.
Discussion around recent public issues such as the Zhejiang train crash and the Red Cross scandal has accelerated Weibo participation and uptake. Corporate usage is likely to increase thanks to Sina’s recently-launched Enterprise Version Weibo. This adds marketing functions such as bulletin boards and videos on the home page and the ability to put the most important tweet on top.
Do you think companies could improve how they are using Weibo? How?
The popularity of weibo is forcing companies to question how they communicate. Whereas China has historically been a market in which good news flourished, companies must now be prepared for the likelihood of having to respond to criticism or negative feedback. There’s no way to absolutely control a discussion – but weibo presents an opportunity to drive a public conversation with an influential community. Those companies that use weibo as a way of broadcasting their press releases will soon realize that this is not the way to win the hearts, minds and even stomachs of their audiences. In one example, hot pot restaurant Haidilao managed queries over its ingredients in real-time using Weibo.
Are there any examples you can point to of companies using Weibo in a smart (PR) way?
Text 100 helps its client NXP manage its official Sina Weibo. While traditional media relations remains a critical part of the communications program, the NXP Weibo has quickly become an important way of interacting with almost 2,000 news media (including EE Times, China Business Journal, and Semi China) and industry influencers. Interestingly, 30 percent of our readers are NXP’s most critical audience – engineers. The Weibo takes an informal and conversational tone and has proved popular with NXP’s audiences. Beyond news and announcements, the Weibo has been used for product marketing. We recently used it to invite opinion leaders to use NXP’s e-meter product. The trial generated more than 500 comments and retweets within a week, creating significant product demand. - Jeremy Woolf, Text 100 Global Social Media Lead, Hong Kong
Editor's note: This post also appears on Jeremy's blog, Public Relationships.
Don't miss these great posts on Hypertext! Have an idea for a topic? Post a comment on the blog, tweet us @text100, comment on our Facebook page, or send an email to Text 100's Global Community Manager, Amber Rinehard.
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