Weibo in China
China’s internet has been developing for more than 30 years from its exploration stage. The innovation has been continuously improved, which facilitates people’s access to information, communication and online shopping. The application of the internet has permeated every aspect of people’s life and played a guiding role in people’s lifestyle and ideology. Otherwise, the internet ecological enterprise is different from the internet enterprise chain reconstruction environmental enterprise value, that many Chinese internet enterprises are transforming to this aspect. They bring a lot of conveniences for people to browse current events and to shop online, with the correct profit model. With the Weibo is combining Facebook and Twitter here is a critical analysis will be discussing about the Weibo and its transformative effects on the China society.
While, in this essay, it will define what Weibo is, by providing an overview to the operations. Then, it will discuss the history of Weibo and the influences by the regulations. Also, it will explore the business model and the internet ecology of Weibo to address the Chinese society and political environment. Lastly, it will analysis the revolutionary internet transformations of the internet ecological enterprise, and the reasons of Weibo has been thriving under Chinese culture.
What is Weibo? What is the relationship between Facebook and Twitter?
Sina Weibo is one of the biggest social media platforms of China, and the word ‘Weibo’ in Chinese means ‘micro-blog’.
Weibo is often interpreted as China’s version of Twitter or Facebook, that these two services are blocked on mainland China. Weibo was launched in 2009, that is a crucial year for the development of China’s microblog (Wikipedia, 2018). But, after the riots in Urumqi in 2009, the Chinese government blamed a surge in the social unrest on the free flow of information and stopped Twitter, Facebook, and many local microblogs (Wong, 2010). It caused Weibo was introduced to a new social media platform that controls the information flow by tracking and blocking the sensitive contents or words.
While there are many websites are offering the same service as Weibo in China, but Sina Weibo is still the most popular website on Chinese networks. It can be seen in a data, that three years after its launch, it has more than 500 million registered users, and it is the vast majority of China’s 640 million internet users (Schaffmeister, 2015). Also, according to China Internet Watch, it has 340 million monthly active users, that especially popular in young people, to constitute a vast market and companies cannot ignore (CIW Team, 2017). Now, Usually, it contains a lot of information and trending content, and Chinese people used Weibo to get information, share and communicate with other users.
The data of monthly active users (MAU) and daily active users (DAU) of Weibo
Sina Weibo is often referred to as ‘Chinese Twitter’, but it is more versatile than Twitter. While, this platform’s capabilities are arguably a combination of Facebook and Twitter, that is ultimately unique. The main differences are Weibo allows brands to develop marketing strategies and even sell their products directly through the page (Ivanova & Wang, 2014). Besides, Weibo has the excellent and rich media format inside, and the other two’s interface is not as rich as Weibo, that can enhance the user experience through video, animated emojis and music (Yeo & Li, 2012). Also, users can insert polls without any plug-ins, and enter instructions and options to make others can choose one or more options.
Video concerning Weibo vs. Twitter
The historical development of Weibo
Like many Chinese internet products, it has been introduced to China as an imported product. Generally, it has gone through the following three major stages:
- The first stage – Weibo launched
Throughout the development of microblog in the world, the wave of information globalisation with the rise of web products has emerged as a kind of ‘mini-blog’ in China. At that time, Twitter was mature in 2007 and won various awards. The success of Twitter has raised the hopes for some Chinese entrepreneurs, that caused many Chinese websites like Twitter to keep appearing (Duchon, 2014). However, Weibo did not spread well in the early days of its birth, another website called Fanfou stand out (Obern, 2013). In the second half of 2009, in response to the government’s regulation of online speech, Fanfou deleted many posts, restricted sensitive keywords, suspended search, and all servers were shut down (Obern, 2013). The closure of Fanfou became the catalyst for the rapid development of Sina Weibo, and the function improvement becomes its rapid development of the most critical factors (Obern, 2013).
- Preliminary development of Weibo
When the company brings Weibo to the market, the management decided to add @ (means to tag someone), private message, comment and forwarding functions, which have become the most basic functions of Weibo. Also, it invited celebrities to settle in and verified them with the letter ‘V’ after the username, to highlight the identity (Zhang, 2015). It affects the growth of early users. Regarding product functions, it keeps moving, that has continuously launched a series of applications and functions inside, such as close friend group, to provide more personalised choices for users.
- Turning years of Weibo
According to Zhang and Negro’s article (2013), in 2013, the development of China’s Weibo took a turning year, and the user’s scale and use declined significantly, that is 22.8% of netizens reduced their use of Weibo, and the use of Weibo products only increased by 12.7%. The main reason is WeChat launched friends circle function in 2012, that means WeChat begins to occupy the market of Weibo officially (Zhang, 2015). Also, WeChat launched public platform as complete content ecology. It caused many celebrities to open their own WeChat public platform, and many users are attracted to WeChat.
However, Weibo still is one of the most popular social media in China, that had a considerable impact on Chinese society. With the gradual infiltration of Weibo into many areas of the community, it has gradually changed people’s way of information acquisition, social communication and life, and affected public opinion in numerous public events.
The Weibo’s revolutionary business model
So far, the most significant impact of Weibo in Chinese society, is it can quickly spread information that might be covered up. It makes the Weibo has a monopoly position in China’s micro-blog market and has become a more revolutionary medium than other similar media anywhere else in the world. The business model in Weibo is exploring further profit to keep the platform running. It has been made public include sharing advertising or other revenue with micro-bloggers and third-party application developers (Wang, 2012).
Firstly, advertising is an essential and majorly source of revenue in Weibo. There are two ways to get advertising in China. The first one is, as long as you have lots of followers, you can release an advertisement for the business, and you can get money from it. It caused a new profession came out – bloggers, who can do lots of direct advertisings every day. In other words, it is the social influence of celebrities, that if those celebrities promote the products, many fans will believe the product is good to use and will buy it (Weibo Marketing, 2017). Also, more and more enterprises have entered Weibo to expand their brand influence, that is particularly important for enterprises to control the negative impact (Li, 2015).
A sample display the advertising in the discover page of Weibo
Otherwise, the platform has mastered your detailed information, that know your hobbies, your gender and so on (Digital Marketing. n.d.). It caused their advertising precision is high, advertising click-through rate is high, that is not just Weibo, also like the same as Facebook. But, compared to search engine advertising, Weibo advertising is not an effective way to generate direct transactions. It seems to lack a more efficient way to get profit because it offers a more interactive experience.
Weibo’s internet ecology
Internet ecology is an organised system in which interactive agents rely on information technology to influence and support each other to operate (Looi, 2001). The popularity of Weibo represents a new challenge to the country’s information control system, that is disseminated helps netizens publicise and express their dissatisfaction with the negative consequences of income inequality and official corruption and so on (Sullivan, 2012). It caused the government has done quickly adapt to the changing internet ecosystem, and use the regulation to limit the dissent, to keep control of the society (Pen America, 2018).
According to its definition (Weibo business platform, n.d.), that the business partner refers to the interface and access provided by users through the open platform of microblog, that provides the accounts with services. The partners need to apply through the website in Weibo. All partners need to helps Weibo to keep running – AdMaster, CIC and so on, those partners were used to data insight, advertising marketing, application development and operations hosting (Weibo business platform, n.d.). Besides, the users of Weibo can be everyone, who just need to sign up an account with personal detail.
While China has the Great Firewall to regulate the domestically internet and to block the access to selected foreign websites (Roberts, Margaret, 2018). For domestically competitors, there are companies such as RenrenWang, Zhihu, QQ space and so on, that are providing similar services in China as micro-blog to post your daily life and own opinions (Sullivan, 2014). For international competitors, there are companies such as Facebook, Twitter and so on, that are famous social media website all around the world.
The regulators of Weibo can be separated into two sections. The first one is the self-discipline mechanism, that is the fundamental role (Guo, 2015). It combines the self-consciousness of netizens, the self-gatekeeper of media journalists and the self-discipline of Weibo operators inside (Guo, 2015). The most crucial point of the self-awareness of netizens is moral. For the self-gatekeeper of media, journalists consciously abide by professional ethics, which the news information should be released without verification. For the self-discipline of Weibo operators mainly refers to the technology, that plays a vital role in the management and restriction of the content.
The other one is the heteronomy mechanism that includes strengthen legislation and regulate by the law, enhance the network law of users education, establish a scientific and effective administrative supervision system, and mobilise social forces the blog regulation (Kuang, 2018).
Below is a diagram of Weibo’s internet ecology:
Why Weibo is successful that based on its Chinese cultural background?
Sina Weibo exemplifies the critical convergence of Chinese media and cultural backgrounds.
The comparative study of Fong and Burton (2006) shows the essential differences between Chinese and American consumers in the cultural background. That is Americans’ trust is based on their knowledge and experience of the product, but Chinese value their network more and the exchange of interests between the same network members (Li, 2012). Also, the Chinese find their main sources of information in their reference groups, where the interactions are seen as ‘relationship enhancement behaviour’ (Zhang, & Negro, 2013). Besides, the situation in the US is more individualistic, and participants might be more vocal online, that is they are more used to provide more information (Li, 2012).
It supports another study that is ‘collectivist societies regard information sharing as a way to share favours, while individualistic societies tend to focus on self-reliance’ (Fong & Burton, 2006). In other words, Weibo users are more inclined to share and disseminate little content than Twitter users. By combining with culture, it can promote more effective social relief mechanism, such as China tends to rely on its networks. It can be seeming as China attaches great importance to collective responsibility and draws on the background of Confucianism, that reflects the real Chinese culture and society in the virtual world (Durriya & Zahid, 2013).
While, Weibo and the relationships of the specific social structure, whose are to ensure the security, trust and particular roles. It shares some essential features of social systems – overlapping conceptualisation of information and sustainability, change and emergence, order and chaos. It caused the development of Weibo and ‘has many of the superficial characteristics of social networks’ (Hammond & Glenn, 2004). Of course, the relationships are just the example of the Weibo success story of the importance of Chinese culture and society.
Overall, Weibo is an essential form of internet transformation. It has made the microblog became popular in China, and many people would like to use it to get news and information. It links the users and the companies or the bloggers closer to each other and introduces a new way of advertising as personal promoting. Also, it shows the Chinese cultural background to the world, to help other countries’ people to know more about Chinese society.
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