WeChat has displaced Weibo as the primary social channel and it boasts an incredible 547 million monthly active users.
Lost in the story of how WeChat is beating Weibo and users have moved out of Weibo, is the fact that China also now has a wellspring of new, interesting social media on the rise. These new media have contributed to the shift away from Weibo – and specifically toward the dramatic decline of engagement totals inside of Weibo.
The cool, early adopters in China have moved to a group of new social media. China audiences are now enjoying a lot more depth and texture within the digital ecosystem. China’s social media scene is getting a lot more interesting.
China Social Media Lifecycles
Web media go through life cycles from attracting a small following with early adopters, to rapid growth with mass audiences, to a levelling off and maturity when late adopters come on board.
Weibo in China demonstrates this life cycle really clearly. What started in 2009 with a core group of celebrities and high-status bloggers, writers and media aficionados, rising very quickly in 2011-12, is now in decline. What Weibo once did to RenRen before them – in shifting the bulk of digital audiences in China away from the incumbent – WeChat is now doing to them.
Right now, what we’re witnessing in China is a split occurring between digital media that have levelled off (are mature), and newer media favoured by the early adopters.
The newest, hottest digital media in China include a group of mobile applications focused on creativity – and they include NICE, Lofter, Meipai, and Weishi. These new sites are where the early adopter, influencers and creators are spending their time.
Jue So, Demohour …creative being brought to life.
Engagement vs Reach
Back in 2011-12, companies in China asked users on Weibo to participate in UGC (User Generated Content), retweeting, tagging and other engagement dependent contests/campaigns. They worked back then. They don’t work in 2015 on Weibo and many brands have been left wondering why.
The creative activity and engagement that once took place inside of Weibo is now taking place in NICE, Lofter, et al. Brands looking to do creative focused contests, should be looking to the newest set of mobile x social apps. These apps are where the engagement comes from. Weibo and WeChat are the distribution channels that offer brands and creators the access to larger audiences.
Therefore, the game plan for social contests is now designed around (1)alert audiences through WeChat (and Weibo) to the contest, (2)conscript audience/creators inside of NICE/Lofter to participate, (3)take the outputs from the contest and distribute them back to WeChat and Weibo.
Brands need to be on both the engagement focused, creative sites AND mass channels like WeChat and Weibo to build reach.