Sina Weibo is a popular Chinese micro-blogging site (“weibo” being the Chinese word for microblog), launched by SINA Corporation in 2009. It is often referred to as the “Chinese Twitter”. As of 2011, Weibo had almost eight times the users of Twitter at 140m. By Q3 2015, the company had 222m subscribers and 100m daily users, with the majority of them being on mobile devices (85%). Weibo has been in a very strong position in China, due to its self-censoring and resulting government acceptance. Its biggest competitor is Tencent’s Weibo.
Weibo mobile app
Key Sina Weibo stats
- Sina Weibo has 222m as of Q3 2015, with 85% of them being on mobile devices (Source: China Internet Watch)
- Current revenue is $125m, compared to $84m during Q3 2014 (Source: China Internet Watch)
- The majority of its revenue comes from advertising ($106m) (Source: China Internet Watch)
- Weibo users are equally male and female, with a majority of them born after 1980 (Source: Tech in Asia)
- Users are predominantly located across China’s coastal region with over half of users on monthly incomes above $500 (Source: Tech in Asia)
- 45.8% of Weibo users consider adverts very/useful (Source: Tech in Asia)
- 82% of users have purchased products online after using Weibo (Source: China Internet Watch)
- 44.4% said that ads on Weibo generally matched their needs (Source: China Internet Watch)
- WeChat and Tencent Weibo are Sina Weibo’s biggest competitors (Source: Instabrand)
Sina Weibo users are fairly evenly split between male and female, with 50.1% of men and 49.9% of women using the site. Most of its users (55%) are born after 1980, and 37% after 1990, making its audience fairly young. 30% of its current users are university students and 19.6% are white-collar workers.
Sina Weibo users are young
Its users are predominantly scattered across China’s coastal region. Guangdong has the most Weibo users (red), followed by the Jiangsu province and Beijing. All three regions have a strong middle class, many of whom are using Weibo.
Chinese regions with the most Weibo users
Compared to Twitter and Facebook users, Sina Weibo’s audience shares a greater love for mobile (67.8%). With 80% of all internet users in China accessing content from their mobiles and 50% of them on social networks, this may not come as a surprise. However, Weibo users generally spend more time accessing the service from their PCs (5.8 hours) compared to mobile devices (3.9 hours).
Weibo users are interested in mobile
Interestingly, Weibo’s audience is not opposed to adverts with 44.1% deeming them quite useful, compared to 19.6% finding them not useful. A third remain indifferent to ads.
Weibo users aren’t opposed to ads on the service
According to China Internet Watch, the majority of Weibo users like to access news content via the service, whilst almost 20% enjoy videos. 50% of its users take to eCommerce sites after noticing relevant information, promos and deals on Weibo.
Sina Weibo user behaviours
When compared to other social networks, Sina Weibo users are avid shoppers, with 82% having purchased a product online after site use.
Weibo users drive eCommerce
Among the top reasons why shoppers buy on Weibo are ads which closely match the consumer’s need, according to 44.4% of respondents. 40.5% also said that promotions drove their purchasing decisions and 35% did shopping on Weibo because a brand seemed trustworthy.
Shoppers purchase on Weibo because ads match their needs.
Taking a closer look at China’s shopping behaviour, the use of social networks truly stands out. In Mainland China, 55% of shoppers are being influenced by social networks in what to buy. Similarly, a large percentage (36%) of users in Hong Kong pay attention to their social networks. This is vital information for marketers looking to approach consumers.
Chinese consumers turn to social networks for shopping inspiration
As of 2014, WeChat ranks as the top social network in China with 600m registered users, followed by Tencent’s Weibo (580m) and Sina Weibo (556m).
WeChat outscores Tencent and Sina Weibo
Sina Weibo faces growing pressure to keep up with the competition. 37% of users who shelved Sina Weibo started using WeChat instead. WeChat is a strong competitor that offers more privacy which increasingly appeals to a younger audience. In addition, the chat app allows for direct mCommerce and financial transactions, a smart integration that makes it easier to use. However, WeChat is also an entirely different platform. Whilst Weibo allows for public discussion of topics, WeChat is an invite-only group chat among friends and family. It is much harder to build a following on WeChat than it is on Weibo.
Censorship is also a concern for some of its user base with Sina Weibo having begun to increasingly censor comments, discussions and free speech, resulting in many of them turning to other platforms. As an example, a 16-year old boy was arrested in Gangsu province after writing on Weibo that “government officials shield one another”. According to a report from China Internet Information Center, Sina Weibo lost 9% of users in 2013 due to privacy.
However, Andrew Collins, China and Digital Entrepreneur, argues:
“It’s abundantly clear that Weibo still maintains a strong foothold in the realm of Chinese social networks. Competition from WeChat, the real name registration act, and a drop in user volume are not good indicators of the platform’s success or failings. When honing in on actual user engagement and usage, Weibo still stands as one of the top mediums for news and conversation.”
As various media outlets have begun to forecast the death of Weibo, a quick glance at the company’s latest financial results will prove them wrong. In Q3 2015, the company reported revenues of $125m, compared to $84m from Q3 2014. Having expanded its advertising features to include advanced targeting, ad revenue was responsible for $106m of total revenue. Monthly active users reached 222m. Mobile ad revenues are taking up half of Weibo’s total ad revenues with Weibo Promoted Post, similar to Facebook’s Promoted Posts, being its most popular platform.
Recently, Sina Weibo announced plans to roll out an advertising platform in the first half of 2016 to help seek out new avenues to grow its revenue. It plans to add video advertising as well as geographic and demographic targeting options.