/Weibo to grab market share with web celebs

Weibo to grab market share with web celebs

Sina Weibo on Tuesday introduced a set of strategies to help its influential microbloggers, a.k.a. “V-users”, make money. It made the announcement at the 2016 V-influence Summit in Beijing.

Only Weibo bloggers whose posts are read by over 10 million users per month can be verified as V-users. According to data published at the summit, there are currently 15,000 V-users out of the 226 million monthly active users.

The most popular V-users are generally celebrities, according to Weibo. Among them are the likes of singer and actor Lu Han, who has 11.1 billion page views (PV) per month, or teenage singer Wang Junkai, with a monthly PV of over 8.3 billion.

However, these “super” V-users are not, and do not need to be, the focus of Weibo’s strategic plan. The “common” V-users, who are influential in their own specific fields, are.

Using web celebs for a strategic repositioning

Instead of focusing on the promotion of super V-users – who are mostly celebrities in their own right, and already widely known to the public – Weibo is now turning to help create and nurture more purely internet-based web celebrities.

Though web celebrities may not have a follower base as large as those super V-users have, they can nevertheless attract a large number of users who would happily pay for content.

Areas including traveling, beauty, makeup and fashion may produce more web celebrities, whose popularity is expected to multiply with the use of another focus of Weibo – live-streaming.

The bond with these web celebrities not only helps Weibo generate more profits, but also retains both IP resources and user groups for future profits.

Customized content in the age of customized services

As WeChat continues to gain users, Weibo seems to be functioning less as a major platform for socializing. Yet Weibo continues to win public attention with its many opinion leaders, verified as “V-users”.

Along with the shift of focus in V-users, the hottest topics on Weibo are also shifting to less political or social topics, and towards more pure entertainment. For example, the hottest topics in the September of 2012 were the likes of “love our country but don’t act crazy” or “the daunting traffic jam”; in September of 2015, the list sees topics like “Happy birthday to Wang Junkai!”, “TV drama HuaQianGu (The Journey of the Flower)”, and “the beginning of a new semester”.

Topics that involve users’ personal interests prove to engage more user participation, company data has suggested.

A report from Chinese tech blog 36Kr also shows that the shift of content focus brought Weibo more small- and middle-sized enterprise users, who are contributing a larger proportion to Weibo’s ad revenue, from 9.4% in 2013 to 32.5% in 2015.

Unleashing the potential for more users

The latest data from Weibo shows that, at present, less than half of the newly joined monthly active users (MAU) are from first and second-tier cities, with 170 million coming from less developed cities or the countryside.

80% of Weibo’s MAU are aged between 18 to 30, totalling 226 million. This is a group of young consumers who are willing to pay for content and services through the internet. Weibo CEO Wang Gaofei believes that they will continue to be a key focus group for Weibo.

Making money

According to the Q2 financial report published this August, Weibo achieved a total revenue of RMB 927 million (USD 137 million), a YoY growth of 36%. Additionally, its net profit enjoyed a YoY growth of 51.6%. Earlier this month, Weibo’s valuation reached USD 11.35 billion, surpassing the USD 11.34 billion of Twitter.

Cao Zenghui, VP of Weibo, spoke at the summit about Weibo’s three focuses:
Recommending the right V-users to the right audience, who in turn will strengthen the V-users; providing tools for V-users to help them gather more fans and make more money; and enhancing V-users’ ability to continue to engage their audience, so that the app’s development can continue long term.

Other than using certain algorithms for intelligent user recommendations, new tools to generate more profits include a paid question-and-answer service, which will be introduced this November, and a paid live-streaming service, which will meet the public in December.

Multi-channel networks (MCNs) are also on service. These networks are third-party service providers who can employ multiple Weibo channels to help V-users in many ways, ranging from content programming and audience development, to monetization and sales.

When V-users make more money via the platform, Weibo gains not only more attached IP resources – that will attract more engaged users – but also will make more profits for itself.

(top photo from Baidu Images)

Ke graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Master's Degree in English and has worked on projects with Ipsos MORI and SDI Media. She's particularly intrigued by China's thriving technology scene and is eager to write about this flourishing industry.