Last Updated on October 9, 2023
Entering through the local social media landscape is the most cost-effective digital marketing strategy new foreign brands can utilize to build brand awareness within the Chinese market.
These social media platforms boast millions of monthly active users, but among them, WeChat and Weibo are the most effective in improving local brand image. Because of this, marketers are often confused about when and where to use these apps.
In this post, we’ll touch base on the differences between Weibo and WeChat, along with how foreign companies can integrate these social media channels to resonate with Chinese consumers better.
Is Weibo the same as WeChat?
The short answer is no. Although both are popular social media platforms, WeChat and Weibo don’t share similar features. If you want a better visual, you can compare Weibo to a microblogging site with an interface of Facebook and Twitter combined.
It’s a Chinese social media platform developed by Sina Corporation, where users are encouraged to share opinions and short posts about daily life.
Meanwhile, WeChat is a multi-purpose messaging app launched by Tencent that combines social media and e-commerce platforms.
Unlike Weibo users, Chinese netizens on the platform can share long-form content. They also can buy a product via Mini Programs and process payment using WeChat Pay without leaving the app. Read along as we elaborate on the differences between these two platforms.
7 Differences between Weibo and WeChat
1. Market Size
Among many Chinese social media channels, WeChat, by far, holds the largest market size, reaching up to 1.32 billion monthly active users. Seeing how over 80% of the population uses the platform, no one can deny that it plays a significant role in Mainland China.
While not as massive as WeChat, many Chinese users in the local digital landscape use Weibo for their social media activities. As of June 2023, the app has garnered 258 million daily active users and 593 million MAUs.
Most popular social media in China Q3 2022 (Source: Statista)
Knowing how Weibo and WeChat compare in terms of market size helps foreign businesses understand how big of a user base they’re dealing with. It can also determine the scale of marketing campaigns you must execute to connect with Chinese audiences.
While WeChat does have a wide audience reach, it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s the social media platform you should use for your marketing strategy in China. It’s worth noting that both apps don’t have the same target audiences, which we’ll explore in the next section of this article.
2. Target Audience
Both WeChat and Weibo are popular among the younger generation of Chinese social media users. However, the latter has more users born after the 2000s than any other age group.
Although it does have a significant user base under the Millennial demographic, Chinese Twitter has a lower audience reach among the older generation. If you ask our team, the main reason for this clear preference is the platform’s interactive features, which are more geared toward sharing content and seeking information rather than connecting people.
Age distribution of Weibo users in China 2022 (Source: Statista)
Meanwhile, as you can see in the below graph, WeChat users are more evenly distributed among age groups than on Sina Weibo. Surprisingly, its highest user base is Chinese people over 51 years old, followed by younger demographics under 24.
The rigid demand for WeChat across different ages mainly stems from its personal communication interface, allowing users to exchange direct messages and participate in social networking at the same time.
WeChat user age distribution 2022 (Source: Statista)
Today’s Chinese society is necessarily connected to the web, so finding out what kind of audience each platform has can help foreign marketers launch more successful creative campaigns.
3. User Communication & Engagement
As long as a Weibo post is set to public, even a non-platform user can view the content the brand is posting. Thanks to this, your campaign can thrive in creating one-to-many connections.
Besides sharing brand posts, foreign advertisers can build engagement with their audience by liking, commenting, and reposting content from other users. These activities within Weibo can help attract a large following for official accounts.
Unlike Weibo, WeChat official accounts don’t communicate with their audience in a typical social media fashion. The platform often thrives in building one-to-one connections, where WeChat users can only view content from brands if they follow their Official accounts.
If users want to view posts from other accounts they’re not following, they can utilize WeChat Search features.
Nevertheless, the personalized communication WeChat offers, from direct messages to likes and comments, clearly shows its effectiveness in customer relationship building.
4. Content Purpose and Type
As you may already know, Weibo posts come in a micro-blogging format. Much like Twitter, it started with a character limit of 140. The platform eventually lets users share up to 2000 characters or an article, but short-form content is still their most popular format.
On the contrary, WeChat users gravitate towards multimedia articles with a combination of texts, videos, pictures, and audio files related to a brand or product. Considering the platform’s fast-paced nature, it’s important to pay attention to the visuals and content layout of these posts.
SDG’s WeChat and Weibo Posts for Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL)
5. Advertising Options
Since Weibo posts are more public than WeChat, it’s not a surprise that advertising campaigns within the platform can go viral. Advertisers in the app can utilize different ad formats, from display and search ads to fan headlines and tunnels.
Weibo offers ad targeting options based on user demographics, interests, location, and behavior. Advertisers can also target specific keywords and hashtags to reach relevant campaign audiences.
While WeChat is not as public as Weibo, it offers specifically targeted ad formats that can help new brands reach their intended audience better. They can choose from Moment Advertising and Mini Programs to search and public account ads.
These ad options are more integrated into user experiences than the ones available on Weibo. Its targeting options are based on user data, including age, gender, location, interests, and more, making the campaign’s reach more specific and directed to the right audiences.
6. Key Opinion Leaders
Like any other social media platform, Weibo and WeChat are digital spaces where you can find many celebrities and public figures. These users often have a huge following and hold the power to sway purchasing decisions among many consumers. Because of this, they’re referred to as Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs in the Chinese market.
While this strategy is not new, how KOL campaigns are executed depends on which platform you’ll launch the campaign.
WeChat and Weibo KOLs campaigns
For example, live-streaming is often the most popular format when launching sponsored collaborations. However, since Weibo users are more enthusiastic about short-form content, that strategy won’t work as well as you think.
Typically, posting giveaways or brand-featured content is the best KOL marketing approach to consider on Weibo. However, product review videos can also do well on the platform if the content is relevant to the interests of the KOL’s fanbase.
Meanwhile, working with a KOL on WeChat gives brands more options than on Weibo. Depending on the communication style they use with their audience, the campaigns can range from sponsored tutorials and product placements to interactive campaigns that encourage users to create user-generated content.
7. Available Services & Other Features
Unlike Weibo users, people using WeChat are not limited to its social media features. Apart from messaging services, the super app has integrated platforms for online shopping, car booking, food deliveries, and many more.
Foreign businesses can use convenient features like Moments and Official Account brand pages to improve their marketing campaigns within the platform and generate more user engagement. It also has a built-in wallet that marketers can utilize if they need to accept payment through the brand’s Mini Program.
Weibo is in a different vicinity when it comes to integrated services and features within its platform. It’s not as extensive as WeChat, but it does have distinct functions that fuel more user engagement, such as hashtags, fast-paced feeds, and topic trends.
And while the platform has launched an e-commerce feature called “Weibo Mini Shop,” it doesn’t have product listings or account management functions. Nevertheless, it works well in promoting products and providing marketers with the statistical data they need to launch successful campaigns in the long run.
Weibo Mini Shop
Weibo vs. WeChat: Which Should You Choose For Your Brand?
Both Weibo and WeChat offer unique advantages and cater to different marketing strategies. At the end of the day, everything depends on your brand’s goal and target market. If you find yourself at a crossroads choosing between the two platforms, here’s a quick guide you can utilize:
You should choose WeChat if:
- Your campaign is targeting slightly older and more affluent audiences.
- You want to focus on building long-term relationships with customers.
- Your brand prefers a slower, consumer relationship-focused approach.
- Your marketing plans include paid advertising or collaborations with influencers to increase visibility.
- Your marketing strategy revolves around e-commerce and seamless transactions.
- You need tools for personalized messaging.
You should choose Weibo if:
- Your brand aims to reach a broad demographic, including younger and tech-savvy users.
- You want to reach more urban users with interests spanning various topics.
- You want to engage users through quick, attention-grabbing posts and trending hashtags.
- You’re a new brand seeking better organic reach and market visibility.
- You want your content to go viral and reach a broader audience without needing a large follower base.
These platforms won’t decline in users anytime soon. So, having a brand presence in both is always a good investment for your business, especially if your target audience is not limited to one age group.
Your Trusted Social Media Marketing Partner in the Chinese Market!
Weibo and WeChat are powerful tools that can open business opportunities for foreign brands in the Chinese market. Whatever you choose, the key to success lies in understanding your brand’s goals and tailoring your approach accordingly.
At Sekkei Digital Group, we understand the subtleties inherent to these social media channels – including consumer behaviors and the ever-evolving trends that shape them. With our extensive expertise in this niche, we offer you the avenue to unlock your brand’s potential.
Whether it’s crafting compelling paid WeChat advertising campaigns or harnessing the power of Weibo, we have the digital solutions you need. The possibilities are endless – let’s make them a reality. Contact us today to learn more!
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