For A Winning Weibo Strategy, Gaining Followers Is Only Half The Story

    In order to have a major impact and maximize publicity through social media, brands should focus on quality over quantity when it comes to their fans.
    Kate Spade's official Sina Weibo account. (Sina Weibo/Kate Spade)
    Courtney GerringAuthor
      Published   in Technology

    Kate Spade's official Sina Weibo account. (Sina Weibo/Kate Spade)

    When you see a luxury fashion brand on Weibo with a massive number of followers, you may assume that this automatically signifies that it has a strong social and digital presence. However, the picture is much more complicated than meets the eye: they may have some of the top numbers in terms of followers, but at the end of the day, it’s not really about the quantity, but the quality of those followers.

    Which international fashion brands are the most well known on Sina Weibo? If you had just arrived in China and had to take a guess, you might assume they would be Louis Vuitton or Chanel, since those are the brands everyone is carrying on the street. However, take a step into the digital world, and you will see a different story.

    The front page of Zegna's Sina Weibo account. (Sina Weibo/Ermenegildo Zegna)

    The number of followers that a luxury brand has on Weibo does not translate to an active and engaging group of followers. Global digital marketing optimization research firm Fashionbi Analytics recently found that during the Spring/Summer 2014 Paris Men’s Fashion Week, Louis Vuitton may have had the largest number of followers, but was certainly not the brand engaging with those followers the most. Over the course of the week, Louis Vuitton made only one Weibo post, while in contrast, Ermenegildo Zegna topped the charts with 11 posts. Due to the larger number of posts, Zegna was able to maximize its audience reach to 1.14 million users, and received 1,190 reactions from its followers. The average audience reach equals the average number of Weibo users in a day who have seen the brand’s posts as a result of activities by the brand’s followers, and posting original content that can be shared, reposted, and thus transmitted around the Weibo-sphere can dramatically increase this number.

    For a specific example of one brand that you don’t always see in the streets of China, but which is certainly making a statement on Weibo, look no further than Kate Spade. If we analyze the brand’s account for a period of one week, we can see that 18 posts increased its follower growth by 568 users, which is quite a large number for the timeframe considering the fact that its total number of followers stands at 35,492 at the time of publication. It looks like this brand is actively pursuing a Weibo strategy which generates awareness and connects with the true influencers in China. Likewise, another brand that is generating buzz in China is Coach. Coach may not be the average Chinese consumer’s must-have luxury item, but it is dominating its Weibo communication strategy to become, arguably, the top fashion brand on the platform.

    To date, Coach has approximately 748,000 followers, which were earned by conducting some of the most innovative brand campaigns on Weibo. The minute the consumer lands on the page, he or she will see an automated photo slideshow featuring the dedicated Chinese campaigns for the brand’s latest collection, creating engagement from the first look. Fashionbi Analytics has revealed that in a one-week period, the brand has gained up to 3,000 followers and sees around 47 active followers per day. In addition, one post alone has been known to generate an audience reach of 4.72 million.

    An example of one of Coach's most typical Weibo posts: a picture of a bag alongside the celebrity carrying it. (Sina Weibo/Coach)

    Coach has mastered their technique of speaking with the Chinese consumer through strong visual cues. The brand commonly uses a simple yet effective posting strategy by posting several photos a day that show a clear visual of a handbag modeled by a celebrity or a famous fashion blogger. Not only does the visual speak a thousand words, but it also allows the brand to transmit advice on how to wear the handbag by delivering the consumer with recommendations on which outfits to wear with their new handbags. The brand also highlights its e-commerce site via its Weibo account by posting images with direct links to make a purchase on the Chinese online shop.

    Coach’s Weibo strategy consists of a balancing act of visuals, advice for the consumer, easy access to purchase the items, and lastly, constant activity. The company reported an overall revenue increase by 5 percent after reports were released for their fourth quarter results. You could call it “coincidence”, or you could call it “mastering awareness and engagement on Weibo”, but in this particular case, it was not surprising to see that its China sales surged by 35 percent, a huge boost to the overall positive revenue increase. It is simple to measure the digital statistics and data at the same time as financial statistics, delivering a clear answer on a fashion brand’s ROI for their digital strategies.

    Starting a Weibo account may seem like a formidable challenge for a foreign brand, but once one masters the right balance and engages with key Chinese consumers and influencers, worries can be replaced with profits. While Coach may not be the top luxury brand on your radar when you think of China, the results show that a company need not be the top global luxury brand in order to tackle this market. Simply make your voice heard online, and chances are awareness, acceptance, and buzz will be generated.

    Opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jing Daily editorial team.

    Courtney Gerring is the Digital PR for Fashionbi China.

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