A Simple Guide to Weibo Setup & Verification for Foreign Companies
Sina Weibo is one of the biggest and most popular social media platforms in China. It’s often called the “Chinese Twitter”, but it’s actually more versatile. If you need a Western comparison, it could be described as a good mix of Facebook and Instagram.
With 497 million monthly active users (as of September 2019), Weibo is one of our most recommended platforms for clients. It should be considered by companies that want to target younger audiences, as 18-30 year olds make up over 70% of Weibo’s user base.
The platform is mostly used to follow social trends, celebrities (including online influencers), and more recently—news. Users also tend to search for brand profiles to keep up-to-date with the latest updates from their favourite brands as well as any recent promotions.
We recommend Weibo to companies that want to increase their brand’s visibility, especially for consumer brands, or companies that work in the travel industry, etc. However, it can be quite difficult to build a follower base from scratch if you and your brand are new to the Chinese market. If this is the case, you may want to consider running limited-time advertising campaigns, or promoting your account through Key Opinion Leaders (influencers). Later on, we suggest organising giveaways or other online events to encourage users to interact with your posts and increase visibility.
Benefits of using Weibo:
- Improve brand recognition and brand loyalty for your company;
- Build a dedicated following and let them stay in touch with your latest updates;
- Gain valuable insights from potential clients who are interested in your brand or products;
- Increase enquiries and sales, both online and offline;
- Improve customer service and social engagement;
- Increase exposure and build a following by advertising based on demographics and interests, or target the followers of influencers and competitors.
Most importantly, Weibo can help your business gain more recognition as information about your brand spreads through word-of-mouth recommendations between users. This is especially powerful in a country where consumers are so sceptical of businesses.
But, does it make sense to set up an account for a B2B company?
As always, a great deal depends on your business profile, your ability to create content, and the industry overall. First, we will do research to see if there are any competitors present on Weibo, and if there is any industry-related news that users follow. If not, it may be worth looking into other platforms, such as Zhihu.
If your B2B company is in a “young” industry, then it is worth considering Weibo as almost everyone (below a certain age) has an account. This helps you reach your target audience during their leisure time.
Weibo is also a good place to interact with customers for both consumer and B2B companies. Users need a place to discuss their opinions (mostly dissatisfaction), and Weibo gives them this opportunity. It also provides companies with the chance to respond directly to their customers, making sure that any online complaints do not go unanswered.
Another reason to run a Weibo account is if you plan on hiring in China. We ran an advertising campaign on Weibo for Maersk Line, and in our first two months we received 9K followers and daily enquiries related to hiring.
But, first things first. Like all marketing in China, there are some details to consider and some paperwork to do before getting started.
The Types of Weibo Accounts and Which to Choose
Before you set up a new account, you need to know that there are 2 different types of accounts on Weibo: personal accounts and company accounts, and both types can be additionally verified.
There’s also a VIP upgrade that can be added to any of the aforementioned accounts.
In short, there is no reason for you not to set up a company account. It works both for companies with foreign and Chinese business licenses, and it will also allow you to advertise on Weibo. The important part is to verify your account—do not skip this step. The setup of an account is always free, and as for company verification, it is 300 CNY/year for Chinese businesses and 1,000 USD/one-time for foreign businesses - except for schools, for which there is no fee.
If, for some reason, you do not have the paperwork that’s required to verify a branded account, we suggest registering a regular account, verifying it and then upgrading it to VIP.
- In the case of schools and universities, the setup and verification is longer and requires more documentation.
- The documents, such as an application letter or a Weibo community convention etc., are usually prepared by an agency that assists with the account verification. Otherwise, you can contact Weibo’s branch in your country to obtain the documents.
- The “Pinned post” is similar to the feature seen on Facebook and Linkedin accounts. It refers to a post that always stays on top, with any recent updates appearing below.
The Process of Weibo Account Setup and Verification
After you choose the type of account that is most suitable for you, let’s make sure you have it verified. Verified Weibo accounts look more credible and have additional marketing functions as well (such as access to analytics). Also, it’s important to remember that for popular brands there will be lots of fake accounts. Only through verification, will your customers and fans know right away which account is the real one.
You can verify the account on your own, or through an agency such as NMG. Agencies have an established relationship with Sina Weibo, and they will have gone through the process many times, making everything easier and faster. However, you can still do it yourself by contacting Sina Weibo’s branch via email or WeChat, but be prepared—the process may be much longer and may require some back-and-forth communication.
Here’s what the process looks like if you work with us (as an example).
- Discuss and confirm with us what type of an account you should be setup.
- Issue a payment to NMG (CNY or USD).
- Receive a list of the required documents, confirm the name of the account and write a short bio.
- Send over the signed forms and other necessary documents.
- Get an estimated time of completion. In the meantime, confirm the choice of background and profile pictures.
- Verification completed. The account is handed over to you (unless you choose to have it managed by us).
Usually, the whole process takes 2-3 weeks. Additional documents and an extra 2-3 days are required if you are applying for an advertising account and the overall process is usually longer for schools and universities. However, this may vary depending on the country.
FAQs regarding Weibo account setup and verification
Q: Will I need a Chinese certification of incorporation (business license) for the account setup?
A: No, if your company is not registered in mainland China, you can use the registration documents from your country to verify your Weibo account. If it’s just for the account setup, you don’t have to provide any business documents. But remember, for the verification step of the process, you need to provide your company’s business license.
Q: Will a Hong Kong-based business license work the same as a mainland business license? Or does it work in a similar way to a foreign business license for Sina?
A: No, companies that hold a Hong Kong business license will be regarded in the same way as those with foreign business licenses.
Q: What is the difference between a regular Weibo account and a verified Weibo account? How big is the difference?
A: The main difference is that a verified Weibo account has additional marketing functions compared to a regular account; you can see the differences in the table above.
It is also about reliability. Users are less likely to trust unverified accounts and you can expect copycat accounts to appear as well.
Q: How long does it take to secure a Weibo account through Nanjing Marketing Group? Will it be faster than approaching Sina directly?
A: Let's use the company account setup and verification as an example. If you can provide us with all the required documents immediately, the whole process can be completed in approximately 10 working days.. We have our own contacts within Sina and as we have extensive experience working with them, it would be a little bit faster than if you approached Sina yourselves.
Q: Are Sina Hong Kong and Sina in mainland China different? Is the account visible in areas outside of China?
A: Sina Hong Kong and Sina in mainland China are totally identical, and your account will be accessible and visible to users both on the mainland and outside of China.
Q: Will I have to pay for anything else besides the account verification?
A: There are additional costs if you want to launch the VIP feature, and run paid ad campaigns. Supplementary features such as l analytics access also require extra payment, but we do not recommend paying for that (>6,000 CNY/year).
Q: Can my Weibo account be used to advertise on Weibo? Or is that a separate account?
A: Of course, as long as it is verified. Currently, almost all Weibo accounts (except in some specific industries) can apply to launch “Fan Connect” advertising on Weibo. All it takes is some additional paperwork. But it’s always changing, so it’s best to contact us first to ask whether your business can be advertised. We also recommend submitting your trademark license during the advertising application process.
For help getting setup with Weibo and other platforms, check out our one-stop account setup service here.