China’s Sina Weibo has seen a big jump in its monthly active users (MAUs) in the first quarter of 2017 as the platform started putting emphasis on user-generated video content since roughly 2015. The effort falls in line with the recent surge in interest of Chinese online communities in live-streaming, short videos and other video-related content.
According to the company’s financial report released on May 16, there were 340 million active users every month on Weibo by the end of March, which is up 30 percent from the previous year. The Nasdaq-listed company also scored a net revenue of $199.2 million, which was higher than expected and an increase of 67 percent during the same period last year. Notably, 85 percent of total revenues stemmed from the advertising and marketing.
Since its inception in 2009, Weibo has served as one of the most important platforms for luxury marketers in China to promote their brands, build customer relationships and engage with their audience. Major luxury brands joined Weibo in its early years pushing out successful marketing campaigns on the digital platform until the messaging app WeChat, which launched in 2011, took over and has, in the last two to three years, become the country’s uncontested social media darling.
User-Generated Video Content Is Key
Around 2013, Weibo experienced a significant drop in its active users, with some industry reports suggesting that only 10 percent of its users were active. The decline, which was driven by many factors such as government censorship and the rapid rise of WeChat, led luxury brands to reconsider their Weibo positions and diversify their social media presence in China.
The digital platform has since undergone a transformation in order to regain its influence. In 2016, the site saw a strong rebound, with the amount of luxury related content trending up again.
Focusing on user-generated video content, such as live-streaming and short videos, has rejuvenated the platform and will be the key area for the platform to sustain the current growth according to Wang Gaofei, the CEO of Weibo, who on May 16 spoke in a conference call hosted by the company.
Weibo is Testing a Chinese Version of Instagram Stories
In April, Weibo launched the alpha version of Weibo Story, a feature similar to Instagram Stories. It allows users to upload photos and videos, with text and drawing tools (stickers, filters, and fonts) being available. Like Instagram, stories on Weibo will also disappear after 24 hours and stories of followed accounts appear on the top of users’ feeds.
Thanks to a sense of exclusivity that Instagram Stories contains, many luxury brands have turned to it to interact with their followers, live stream exclusive content (from their showrooms and runway shows) and even launch a new collection. Looking at the way Western luxury brands use Instagram Stories, the version that Weibo hopes to present should offer much opportunity to fulfill similar needs of brands in China.
“We have statistics that show that 10 percent of our sample users of Weibo Story have used the functionality every day,” said Wang and compared it to Instagram Stories, which currently engages approximately 40 percent of daily active users.
“Looking forward,” Wang added, “we will mainly focus on this area to further optimize users’ experiences.”