Why $WB is doing better than $TWTR that drives user growth and revenue?

Some people (who was searching $TWTR in Twitter news feed) asked me to post something about $WB. So here it is: (just in my opinion)

Some background:

Weibo(微博, 微 for micro, 博 for blogging), is a micro-blogging platform in China. I’ve been using Weibo since Aug 26, 2009. (12 days after they launched the test version)

Twitter is the first micro-blogging platform and a social media pioneer. I’ve been on Twitter since Apr 2007 (A year after its initial launch).

My native language is Chinese, and I’m still learning English so I’d be very happy if you can make modifications to my post.

Recently there’ve been lots of posts about WB’s valuation exceeds $TWTR. It’s funny that I’ve posted something as a joke about this on Twitter back in Jul:

My tweet on Jul 4.

It seems that if $TWTR keeps dropping and $WB keeps climbing, this would not be just a joke.

I believe most of you are quite familiar with Twitter. So I’ll introduce a bit more about Weibo here.

At first, Weibo is very similar to Twitter (I know lots of people called them “Twitter copycat” or “Twitter clone”). Not only the product and user interface. Most of the users are geeks, internet early adopters, celebrities, political dissidents and bloggers (I used to blog a lot). These people are pickier than average internet users. They started a lot of sharp discussion/arguments on Weibo and the platform suddenly became a best and first place of “public freedom speech” in China. That’s just like people on Twitter discussing the US president candidates nowadays that I’ve seen.

However, as some of you may know that Chinese government is not a fan of uncontrolled media so they gave the platform a lot of pressure. Some users’ accounts were removed and some “claimed to leave the platform forever” with anger. That’s when traffic on Weibo goes down to a very low level. Meanwhile, WeChat is really huge in China. People was spending much more time on WeChat then.

This situation lasted for a while and I guess that’s why the stock of $WB keeps dropping after its IPO.

But Weibo did try a lot of things to save itself and make it different than WeChat. I think some of them are very good strategy that might be applied to Twitter. Here is a list of what I think is cool:

  1. More entertainment content / Less political arguments.
    I think the executives of Weibo believe ordinary people wants to see entertainment content more than political arguments. So they work with a lot of singers and movie stars, driving a lot of fans onto Weibo. They also try to promote funny/casual stories/images/vids like those on 9gag or BuzzFeed. I heard (but no evidence) some of the political posts in your timeline were censored and replaced with entertainment stuff. However, traffic for those content (repost/reply count) roars significantly.
  2. The platform has more control over content.
    On twitter.com you can only explorer 10 pieces of new content via “Trends”. But on Weibo, there are a lot of stuff:
Weibo trending content center

It looks like traditional internet media, right? Well, I am happy to translate all of them in those two columns at right: Video, Beijing, Society, International, Tech, Popular Science, Digital, Finance, Stock, Celebrities, Entertainment, TV-series, Movies, Music, Cars, Sports, Fitness, Health, Losing-weight, Way-to-maintain-good-health, Military, History, Beauties, Beautiful pictures, Emotion, Fun, Rumor-Deniers, “Positive Energy”, Politics, Games, Travel, How-to-raise-children, Campus, Food, Real-estate, Home-decorations, Astrology, Books, Agriculture, Design, Art, Fashion …..

Well, on twitter.com there’s nothing.

BTW, I’ve heard rumors saying that Twitter is launching an “explorer” feature. That’s exactly what “发现” means on Weibo :)

(Medium doesn’t support inline images well in a <li> paragraph so I have to start from “3” without HTML format below)

3. Comments vs Retweets.

Actions you can take for a weibo-tweet

On Weibo you can reply to any “tweet” or retweet it. Your reply won’t be seen by your followers. I think the logic seems to be very easy to understand. But on Twitter, it’s so annoying. Sometimes when I reply to someone, the messages are on my timeline, seen by my followers. And on Weibo, if you got attacked by trolls, you can turn off Reply feature so the trolls have to use “Retweet”. I guess there are very few trolls would retweet because they are not willing to make contributions to the retweet counts.

Maybe it’s different on Twitter. I am not sure because I’ve never got bullied on Twitter by trolls. My 10k+followers are all nice people :)

4. Trending Topics everywhere (make it more media like).

Trending list below search box

Click the “查看完整热搜榜” to view the full trending list:

Trending lists by category

And click “more” to view up to 50 items:

Full trending list for one specified division

(Thanks to my Retina Macbook Pro to take that screenshot)

5. Monetization

background: $BABA invests $586 million in $WB and takes its 18% shares (Bloomberg). Do some math and you’ll find that the valuation of $WB for then is $3.2 billion. Now its valuation is $11.32 billion!

Alibaba is very good/radical at monetization. They tried their best to monetize Weibo. Weibo has a feature called “微博会员”, that’s literally “VIP membership” for it. And they even design a level system under this.

6 levels of VIPs

There are a lot of “privileges” for the VIP members:

(This is just for interactive features, they have some other privileges)

VIP features table

some are very interesting:

后悔药(Regret-Aid): You can recover your removed post if you regret deleting it.
悄悄关注(Follow someone in dark): You can follow someone without showing up in his/her follower list. Nobody will know you’ve followed that person.
关注上限提高(More following): Weibo by default lets you only follow 2,000 people. With this you can follow more. (Twitter doesn’t have this limit at all)
屏蔽来源(Block specified source): You can block content from a customized source. Like from some app, or including some keywords.
举报跟踪(Report tracking): You can see what action has the platform taken according to your report.

Can you image that I am paying 10CNY EVERY MONTH to just use Weibo? I am afraid @jack would never do that for Twitter (lol).

6. Chinese Username advantage

I think this might be a very interesting point about the Chinese language.

On Twitter, you can see a lot of strange usernames, like “@InvestorsLive” , “@LHSummers” and even “@NavySEALs3107” or “@XdxFq”. But on Weibo, the usernames would make more sense itself. For example, some people call themselves “@有没有发现到我啊”, which literally means “did you even find me, ha?”. It’s impossible for creating such names on Twitter in English.

7. Weibo holds the teenager market

Now a lot of Weibo users are the younger generation. They enjoy the fact that not required to connect with their parents/teachers and still stay “public” in a different way. Their parents are all on WeChat (because WeChat is so popular) so they’d feel much “freer” on Weibo.

8. Longer content support

Twitter doesn’t have the native way to embed a longer content. For instance, if I were not aware of the existence of Medium, I’d never post this on Twitter. Maybe I’ll choose some other service but it’s hard.

For Weibo, if you want to post something more than 140 characters. You can just do it on the fly:

Click the “⚡️头条文章” and you can create a post

My Weibo homepage
Composing a post (just like a CMS)

Notice the small text at the bottom; you can even allow your audience to pay for you! (A LOT of celebrities got paid by just posting stuff to their fans)

Well. That’s all.

I admit Weibo.com looks a bit … messy:

my weibo homepage
my twitter homepage

But Twitter…. I don’t find there’s much difference than it was 9 years ago.

So conclusion:

Twitter has a huge potential if they add something. Just a little can do the chemistry.

Feel free to leave your comments below :)

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