Microblogs play an important role in the emerging social media marketing. And in China, where Twitter has been blocked a couple of years back, when we talk about microblog marketing, we are mostly talking about dominant Chinese microblogs, who are currently Sina, Net Ease, Sohu, etc. Usually Sina takes the lead in terms of mind share. When people talk about 微博 (wēi bó), usually they mean Sina Weibo by default.
Sina does have advantage on this new battleground. Firstly it’s the earliest among Chinese IT giants to start building a microblog platform. Besides, it’s traditional blogging service which had collected a huge portfolio of celebrity users also contributed the popularity of microblog. Thanks to these beneficial factors, it had been enjoying a great time.
But not anymore, when Tencent came into the game. With a platform consists of every kind of service thinkable, and 600 million registered users, it sure is a big competitor. Yes the user population isn’t solid, since on average it means each and every Chinese netizen has about 1.5 Tencent accounts. However, Tencent’s QQ IM has long hit the milestone of 100 million QQ users simultaneously online. That’s a big something.
By comparison, Tencent has several advantages over Sina in terms of doing microblogs.
- Sina has very limited reach outside its portal site and blog business. And portal is a kind of service that doesn’t require user registration to take full benefit of it. Pushing the microblog forward, Sina has to *attract new users* for growth. On the other hand, Tencent microblog doesn’t require any extra step to use. Just login with your QQ account, then you are there. As a Chinese netizen you must have one, right?
- Better facilitated information circulation. Sina’s microblog relies heavily on active updates of users. In other words, a user must share specifically on the platform, or link other services to the platform to update his microblog. Tencent is another story. Posting comments on QQ news portal, changing the “signature” in QQ IM window (much like the shared message box in Live Messenger window), and posting updates to Qzone blog all trigger an automatic microblog update by default. And that are what existing QQ users do very frequently. People on this platform contribute to the activeness of the service without knowing it.
On the “celebrity charm” side, Tencent is equally strong at least. Almost all popular athletes, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, investors have their accounts here, maintained by themselves or their brokers. Tencent’s celebrity portfolio even reaches as far as Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Trendy Entertainment, and recently joined the family Rivio Mobile, the inventor of the wildly popular game Angry Birds.
Aside from that, Tencent caught a best time frame to step out of the dark and promote its microblog. Shortly before China’s Lunar New Year vacation, billboards of Tencent microblog dominated transition spots of Beijing subway system. Also at Beijing airport, the exit gate was flanked by two huge sized Tencent microblog ad.
The whole ad bombard was taken to a new level around the Lunar New Year day. At least one channel of China Central Television (CCTV) kept mentioning Tencent microblog every a few minutes. On the big night, when all television screens throughout China were mostly occupied by CCTV’s “Spring Festival Gala”, Tencent microblog again became a must-mention during intervals of the gala.
To compare platforms, for lack of other sources, we are citing Tencent news release here. By February 5th of 2011, Tencent microblog user base has hit the 100 million milestone. It took Tencent 10 months to achieve this starting from scratches, 40% of them converted from QQ IM users. By contrast, Twitter started off around end of 2006, and spent 4 years to get to a user base of 195 million.
On the other hand, according to Sina official figures, its microblog user base reached 50 million by November 2010. Tencent is clearly taking lead in round one. People may argue that Sina users appear more to be more active, and they generate more “useful” contents. But that may not stand as an advantage for long. Just think about it. Tencent still has 500 million QQ IM accounts to be coverted over to microblog. On the contrary Sina has to fight to get fresh users.
We suggest people consider Tencent microblog more seriously in 2011 as a marketing platform. If without any significant accident, it will become the ideal way to reach out to the majority of Chinese netizens in the shortest time possible.