In Australia we are all intimately familiar with western social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but in the east where users are more controlled on the internet. It’s a whole different world for the social media scene where networks are under a layer of control which is accepted into everyday life. That doesnt stop 50 million daily users from networking and of all the social media networks in China Weibo is by far the biggest.
Weibo started life in 2009 after the chinese blocked all social media networks, including an early version of Weibo called Fanfou. Not to be discourage easily Sina CEO Charles Chao saw this as an opportunity to create a stateside network that could comply to the new networking restrictions and on the 14th of August 2009 Weibo Sina was launched. With numbers to impress at the end of 2012 Weibo Sina had 503 Million registered accounts and today has over 50 million daily active users.
“Weibo” translated from chinese means microblog and its just that plus a whole lot more. At its core Weibo has Twitter style 140 character updates with the ability to attach multiple images (and links dont count as part of the limit like on Twitter) plus it has blog feature that allows for blogging style posts. There are also games built into the platform which works the same way as with Facebook or Google+.
One of the more interesting features I found was the user levels which shows the time spent on the platform and the engagement level something similar to a Klout score, the higher the level the more trusted and reputable the user is. There are also badges to be earned for different rankings and achieving different milestones and usabilities (such as reaching a certain number of posts).
If I had to describe it as a regular western social media network user I’d say it’s Twitter with a mix of Facebook and Linkedin. Interestingly, Weibo Sina has a premium account feature that lets users buy a subscription that unlocks additional features such as better exposure to users (similar to linkedin) and additional account features like the ability to add new premium cover photos and site themes.
While Weibo Sina has the ability to self censor (in line with China’s internet censorship laws) there are a number of words and topics that should be avoided and there are a sites (available in the west) that will help educate in what not to say (and why) such as https://en.greatfire.org/. Greatfire also gives some examples of what happens if you do say the wrong thing which will often result in the message being replaced with a violation message sometimes within minutes of posting.
As a heavy social media user (no surprises there) I found the change of culture and network refreshing and almost like taking a holiday in an entirely different world, even with the language barrier ive been able to connect to users and have been able to do all the things I normally do on regular social networks (I’ve even connected to developers).
For those wanting to try Weibo I’d recommend either having someone who is fluent in Chinese or use Google Chrome which has a built in automatic translator. With a Google tranlation it is important not to take a translated version of weibo in its literal sense because much is often lost in translation instead I always try to take the meaning from what is translated.
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