Weibo repositions itself as wide-ranging platform

Updated 2016-11-22 12:36:05 China Daily

Weibo, which is often called China's homegrown version of Twitter, is no longer satisfied with just tweeting.

As part of Chinese internet company Sina Corp, Weibo Corp is positioning itself as a combination of Twitter, Instagram and YouTube in order to gear up its development as a "social media platform", said the company's top executive.

Charles Chao, chief executive officer of Sina and chairman of Weibo, said that "apart from being a real-time information network, Weibo is also equipped with the features of social networking systems".

Chao said the major reason for Weibo's rapid growth in the past year was the string of adjustments it made in the process of repositioning its strategy. "The next move is to focus on connecting people and content. We will build a vigorous ecosystem that can attract more people from various backgrounds," he said to China Daily at the sidelines of the third World Internet Conference, which ended on Friday in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province.

Launched in China about seven years ago, Weibo for a time was the leader in China's cyberspace until its thunder was stolen by WeChat, an instant messaging app launched by Tencent Holdings Ltd in 2011.

But, Weibo's changing strategy has pushed it to the top once again thanks to its effort to attract young people and users in smaller cities. It allows them to demonstrate fully who they are via text-based tweets, self-generated videos and even live-streaming.

Statistics from data research firm QuestMobile show that Weibo had 390 million monthly active users in September, ranking fourth of all apps in China. Its growth rate was 79 percent year-on-year, the most rapid of the top 10 apps listed by the research firm.

Chao said that Weibo is more open compared with WeChat because its social networking features are not constrained to close friends. "It gives each account -- individuals, superstars, web celebrities and institutes --opportunities to demonstrate their views and their capabilities, to set up a business and to spread information and content to a much broader audience," he said.

"That is the magic of Weibo. It is a wonderland that can make a nobody into a somebody, as long as they have talent," he added.

Chao discussed the rise of the web celebrity economy on Weibo as an example. By interacting with followers on Weibo, a former magazine model known as Zhang Dayi has become an online sensation. Zhang's fame in the virtual world helped her set a record of selling 20 million yuan (.9 million) worth of clothes online within two hours.

"We will keep making efforts to empower our users," he said. In the online celebrity sector alone, Weibo is working with more than 300 multichannel networks to help online celebrities gain fans, boost influence and speed up monetization.

Chao said it invested in companies that can bring synergy with Weibo. For example, the company, which debuted on the Nasdaq in April 2014, has already invested in Yixia, a startup with strong technology in video and live streaming.

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