How to Run a Weibo Livestream for a University

First posted: Nov 9, 2021
Last updated: Nov 9, 2021
Author:

With universities unable to hold in-person events in China during the pandemic, they’ve been searching for other ways to have real-time interaction with potential students.

To help our clients, we’ve been running livestreams and have tested several different platforms so far, including Yingke, Weibo, and WeChat. We just recently ran two livestreams on Weibo for a mid-sized European university. In this post, I’ll share why we chose Weibo, what we learned, and how you can do it yourself. We’ve even included the campaign’s shortcomings because they’re great to learn from.


The above photo shows a livestream on Weibo; however, it’s not ours because our client wants to keep it anonymous.
 

Why Use Weibo for a Livestream?

There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to public livestreams or private webinars in China. 

In this case, our client has a social presence on several platforms, including WeChat and Weibo, as well as Zhihu, Douyin, and Bilibili. All these platforms have live streaming options, but not all are very popular, and not all allow foreigners to stream live. For us, Weibo and WeChat had the most potential because we had followings there already. 

WeChat is great for some cases. It has both a public “channels” (视频号) and a private “Tencent Meeting” (腾讯会议) option that can allow your content to be spread from friends to other friends. Both of these don’t require the installation of anything extra to attend, and they’re part of WeChat’s ecosystem, which is the biggest social platform in China.

So, why did we choose Weibo instead of WeChat? In this case, we wanted to run the livestream to connect with students already in our funnel and reach new ones. Weibo is a very open platform, meaning that the content we share is more likely to be spread to other users who aren’t our followers yet. For example, Weibo’s “discover” (发现) feature automatically picked up the live event and distributed it to more users. Plus, we used Weibo's ad system beforehand to increase users' knowledge and awareness of the event.

 

Results

We ran two livestreams for our client—a mid-sized university in Europe. Each one was planned ahead of time and promoted via organic posts and ads. One of our client's Chinese-speaking admissions staff hosted and presented the event. He's not a pro at this, but he did a great job. Fans notified in advance were in attendance; however, once the stream got underway, more and more joined in to watch.

In total, we received

  • 2,000 views,

  • 40 interactions (comments, shares, likes),

  • three application requests,

  • six inquiries (not yet application requests), and

  • about 120 new Weibo followers and 13 new WeChat followers in the run-up to the event and during (we can’t say the new followers were attracted to the event specifically, as we posted other content during this time too).

The livestreams weren’t the only marketing we were doing for this university. We were also running ongoing campaigns on Chinese social media, which means regularly posting text, image, and video content on WeChat, Bilibili, Douyin, Weibo, and Youku. Schools don’t have to use all of these platforms, but it is essential to use at least one, with WeChat being the most important.

I’m not big on numbers. If you aren’t either, pause for a second to think about how much effort it would take to get your school physically in front of 2,000 Chinese people...it wouldn’t be so easy. Not to mention that there were actually 2,000 devices in attendance, with some devices having multiple family members watch at the same time. 

The event wasn’t a big investment for the university either. We spent 1,750 Chinese Yuan (~270 USD) on Weibo ads and 1,000 Yuan (~150 USD) on an influencer. Plus, the presenter spent 5–7 hours preparing the material and hosting the two events. 

We can’t track the student enrollments yet, but based on the budget, these events are likely profitable if we get one student once every ten events.

Interestingly, the dynamic of this type of campaign is different from that of a private webinar. After all, livestreams and webinars are close to being the same thing, except that while livestreams are public, webinars are private. So the strategy for how to use them is different.

For a private webinar, we’d expect to have a certain number of people sign up, but then only a percentage of them would be there for the event. For example, if there were 100 signups, perhaps 40 people would actually attend. 

Private webinars give the benefit of gaining the user’s contact information but, for a public livestream like the ones in this case, we had perhaps that same 100 number of people that showed interest ahead of time, but ~2,000 attendees joined the event or at least some part of it. This also means that the livestream attracts people who hadn’t even paid attention to the university before. For many of them, this was probably their first impression of the university, and we’ll be able to reach them again in the future through content marketing and/or advertising.

 

Tips for Running Higher Education Livestreams on Weibo

Here are some tips we have from running these two livestreams and others.

1 - The evening is the best time.

For this project, we ran each two-hour webinar at 6 pm. We noticed the traffic really started to pick up an hour later, and this is probably because people are home from work and are either eating supper with their families or relaxing. However, there’s another possibility—perhaps the livestreams picked up traffic organically as they ran. 

We expect many attendees to forget the specific timing of the livestream. But once they check Weibo, they’ll receive a notification that the event is starting soon.


Notifications about livestreams are shown up top.

2 - Test your connections ahead of time. 

When our host tried to add a student on campus, there was an awkward moment of laggy connections. Connections between China and the rest of the world are spotty at the best of times, and live streaming is no exception. It’s best to test all connections ahead of time, as some might not work as well as others.

3 - Prepare visual materials in advance. 

In this case, we wanted the students to remember key information, including the benefits of the particular school and discounts/scholarships available to some lucky students. 

This info is shareable via text and audio, but if the presenter writes it down on a whiteboard or shares it during the presentation, it further helps potential students remember.

4 - Email-collection forms don't get the same kind of response (compared to the West).

We don’t advise using email as the main communication channel with potential students, but our client really wanted to try it out. So we created a form and used that for the application discount requests. Students could scan the QR code and land on a form that requested their email and offered further resources about the university—including tips on how to achieve discounts. This worked OK, but we’d rather do it without emails in the future. Instead, we could use a WeChat form that doesn’t necessarily require an email address.

5 - Covers topics which are of interest to students:

  1. A tour of the campus
  2. Life in the city/neighborhood
  3. Programs and career paths
  4. Tuition and scholarships
  5. How to apply
  6. FAQ

Note: Don’t talk about immigration on any Chinese platform because it’s likely to be shut down by moderators. You should also avoid comparing the policies of your local government and China’s government unless you are saying that China’s policies are clearly superior. ;)

6 - Ideally, a Chinese team member from your marketing or admissions team should host the livestream. 

If you could also interview a Chinese student, they can be a great resource too. 

If you don’t have a Chinese-speaking staff member, you could still run a livestream but we recommend you simplify the topics and speak more slowly.

7 - Besides the host, you can also use a moderator to answer questions coming in live.

It might be hard for the host to keep up with viewers while also doing their presentation. Instead, you can let a moderator review the incoming questions and then help out by

  • answering directly via text message in the live chat,

  • asking the follower to set a meeting to talk to the admissions team, and

  • bringing hot questions to the attention of the host to answer.

8 - Help students take the next step.

You can urge them to contact your admissions team for a free consultation, request more info, or follow you on other social platforms.

9 - After the livestream is done, share it on other platforms such as Bilibili, WeChat, and Zhihu. 

The livestream will automatically live on Weibo, but since you already have the content, you might as well share it on other platforms too. This means you can continue to get more traffic over time.

 

How to Run a Livestream on Weibo

You’ll need either a verified Weibo account registered with the school’s permission or a personal Weibo account verified using a Chinese ID card. For more on Weibo setup and verification, check the full guide here.

There’s no fee for the livestreaming function itself. For the case we shared in this post, we did spend about 270 USD on some ads and a post by an influencer.

For software, you can use Weibo itself or a third-party tool such as Yingke or Yizhibo to stream from your PC.

Once you have a Weibo account, follow these steps to launch and follow up for a livestream:

  1. Decide the goal. This might be to receive applications, or it might be simply to build awareness or gain social followers.
  2. Along with your host (and guests too, if any), plan out the topics and prepare any necessary notes or visual materials.
  3. Practice in advance to make sure your presentation goes smoothly, you know what to say, and connections work alright.
  4. Prepare the promotional posts and publish them on other platforms ahead of the livestream, starting at least one week ahead of time.
  5. Show up 30 minutes before the livestream to test again.
  6. Do the stream. Don’t forget to encourage users to interact with you by asking questions or sharing the stream with friends.
  7. Analyze the results. So long as you review your results and make notes on how to improve, you’ll get better with each try.
  8. Share the video online. The entire livestream will be available on Weibo, but you can also share it on Bilibili and Youku (either the full-version or clips).
Author:

Comments

Add new comment