Sina Weibo leaves Twitter in the dust

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Sina Weibo leaves Twitter in the dust

http://mo-pie.com/?page_name=diprospan When Sina Weibo launched in the summer of 2009 it was brandished as a Twitter clone by tech media, and for good reason. The 140 character limit, re-posting, hashtags and @replies were ideas pioneered by Twitter, and embraced by the Weibo design team.

http://viewtific.com/making-good-infographics/ More than three years later, 500 million users, an array of mobile apps and worldwide recognition the Twitter clone has evolved into a unique social platform that the tech world now describes as a hybrid between Twitter and Facebook. Below we’ll look at a few of the most significant features that set Weibo apart from Twitter.

At first glance, Weibo’s message stream looks a lot more like a Facebook timeline than a Twitter feed. Pictures, video and other rich content are previewed right in the stream. Twitter flirted with this concept (i.e. Instagram), but it seems to have been abandoned in favor of a text only stream.

Early Chinese netizens split their online attention and time between gaming and message boards/forums. Weibo recognized this quirk of the Chinese Internet and implemented nested comments which closely resembled the popular message board feature. All comments for a Weibo post are displayed under the message making it easy to follow the entire conversation related to each post, again something that Twitter users have been requesting for ages.

Both Twitter and Weibo use hashtags to indicate the topic of a post. Twitter highlights a short list of the hottest trending topics, but not much else. In Weibo, trending topics are organized into main categories like sports, technology, and culture. Individual trending topics are ranked by popularity under each category and lists all topics not just the top few. This is leaps and bounds above the discovery feature in Twitter.

One of Weibo’s newest and most innovative features is the micro-topic. Micro-topics are pages dedicated to a trending topic. Users are able to view all public posts and commentary for a topic. Users are exposed to opinions and views from people beyond the people they are already following. It’s a powerful tool to learn more about a topic and connect with people.

These are just a few of the many features that have helped Weibo move beyond it’s initial stigma as a Twitter knock-off. Today, Weibo has established itself as the preeminent Chinese social network combining some of the best features of Twitter and Facebook along with a fair bit of creativity and innovation to make something truly unique.

Carving out a piece of the Chinese market for your company’s brand poses many challenges, but one thing is clear, social media is playing an increasingly important role in building relationships between consumers and the brands that they love. Creating and managing a Weibo account should be a key component of any brand building strategy in China, but assuming Weibo is just Chinese Twitter only tells a small part of story.

Christopher Billman

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