Three reasons why Tencent Weibo is now on my business card

A few weeks ago I had my Tencent Weibo handle printed on my business card, along with my Twitter and Sina Weibo handles.

I did so because for a long time I’ve been convinced Tencent Weibo is an important platform that will soon rival Sina Weibo. Putting it there is a way of starting a conversation with the marketers I meet about how we should be taking this platform more seriously.

For those less familiar with social media in China, Weibo is the dominent SNS/content-sharing platform in the country right now. The platform shares many features with Facebook and Twitter and is used in same ways as these platforms by both users and brands. There are 2-4 other Weibo platforms, of which, by the way, none are mentioned on my business card.

So, why am I so enthusiastic for Tencent Weibo?

1. In terms of functionality, the platform is as good as Sina Weibo. In fact, there are great features that Tencent had before Sina (photos that don’t get buried in brand feeds, for example) and others that Sina has yet to copy (built-in photo collage functions, Twitter-style public lists, and so on).

2. Tencent Weibo has loads of registered users. Credible estimates have this number around the 200 million mark. Fine, they might not be as active as they are on Sina Weibo, but still…

3. Tencent Weibo has loads of active users. Admittedly, one way Tencent is able to achieve such high registration numbers is thanks to its ability to channel traffic from its dominant instant messaging platform, QQ.  This has led to lots of zombie fans and, arguably, a less engaged user base. Yet estimates have the number of active users on Tencent still high, at around 115 million. More importantly, for me, my own observations of online activity and chats with a range of people around the country tell me that there is a major increase in enthusiasm for Tencent Weibo.

Don’t get me wrong, Sina’s Weibo platform is still ahead. Currently only Sina Weibo can match the levels of engagement and the society-wide importance that  Facebook enjoys in the West. For this reason Sina should in most cases be the first option for a brand hoping to engage with consumers in China.

The growth of Tencent Weibo, however, should be watched closely by marketers. Some brands and agencies are making moves on this platform, yet I believe not enough are stepping out of the “Sina Weibo comfort zone”, something that we would benefit from doing more often.