SHANGHAI | 4 Nov, 2019
Is Your Winery on Weibo?
Why your winery should be using this social media platform.
With its 600 million registered users, Weibo has become one of the top Chinese social media platforms. Weibo is typically described as the “Chinese Twitter,” but that doesn’t even begin to describe the type of social media functionality that Weibo offers wine brands. It’s perhaps more accurate to think of Weibo as a mix of Twitter and Facebook, with a little Instagram thrown in for good measure. So, just as no Western wine brand would think of ignoring Facebook or Twitter, no Western wine brand should think of ignoring Weibo.
Weibo is the premier micro-blogging platform in China
The major allure of Weibo for wineries and wine brands is that it is still the premier micro-blogging platform on China. While it is possible to post longer-form content, the real selling point of Weibo is the classic 140-character limit for posting content, similar to Twitter’s 140-character limit. What you do with this 140-character limit, though, is limited only by your imagination. For example, you could use this limit to post short updates, photos, GIFs or polls.
Weibo is one of the best places to find brands, bloggers, and influencers (known as KOLs in China) on the Chinese Internet. Thus, if you are looking for ways to interact with the top influencers and tastemakers in China, you need to have an account on Weibo. By some estimates, there are 126 million users on a daily basis on Weibo, and more than 130 million posts generated daily. In many ways, this is similar to Twitter in Western markets – going online is a great way to check out the “buzz,” see what’s trending and going viral, and interact with people on topics that people are talking about.
Where does your winery brand fit within the Weibo ecosystem?
With that in mind, a natural question for any winery or wine brand to ask is the following: “So where do I fit within this Weibo ecosystem?” For one thing, simply signing up for an official Weibo account and posting news updates from your winery is not going to get you very far. According to studies on Weibo content consumption habits, female Weibo users favour content related to entertainment, fashion, food and art, while male Weibo users favour content related to current affairs, sports, education, media and music.
Thus, you need to be a little creative in how you post content. For example, one topic that has the potential to engage your audience would involve food-wine pairings, with more of an emphasis on the food than the wine. You might be able to find food bloggers and foodie KOLs on Weibo and interact with them, steadily growing a community of people who are passionate about good food and good wine. Another potential content topic that can generate traction on Weibo involves anything related to the world of entertainment and celebrity. Thus, content related to “the best movies about wine” or “the best songs about wine” are likely to do far better than simply posting conventional content about wine.
This presents a bit of a conundrum for many wineries. On one hand, Weibo has a potential market opportunity of 600 million people. If only 1% of those people become followers of your brand on Weibo and start to purchase your wines, that is still an amazing market opportunity. However, in order to attract those 600 million people, you need to re-think traditional wine content. Your content will do best if it is entertaining or emotional. The types of content that do best on Weibo include gossip, celebrity news and “hot topics.”
Partner with social media influencers on Weibo
As a result, many brands prefer to partner with social media influencers on Weibo. These are users who are mini-celebrities with their own follower base and community. They are also trendsetters, and it’s here that wine brands can get the most bang for the buck. For example, imagine social media influencers (known as KOLs, for key opinion leaders) hanging out in a Shanghai cocktail bar, snapping photos of themselves while enjoying wine from your winery. Or, imagine a KOL singer or musician writing a customized song for your winery or wine brand, or an artist painting a funky new image for your wine label.
The key part of partnering with KOLs is simply finding the right ones that work well with your overall brand. For example, if your winery is trying to position itself as a rebellious, break-the-rules wine brand for young millennials, then you would want to reach out to KOLs that fit that description. If, instead, you want your handcrafted, artisanal wine to appeal to sophisticated wine drinkers who frequent sky bars and speakeasies in China’s biggest cities, then you will want to reach out to an entirely different type of KOL.
One relatively new feature on Weibo is the ability to live-stream, much as you would use Periscope, Instagram Live or Facebook Live. This feature has really opened up the opportunity set for social media influencers, who can literally go live at any time. Imagine KOLs being able to go live at a retail wine store, talking about your wines. Or imagine KOLs hanging out on a rooftop bar in Shanghai, talking about new wines available from Australia (or any other “hot” wine destination).
One alternative to developing traditional 140-character content is something that is known as a Weibo campaign. There are two major types of Weibo campaigns – the “System” campaign, which is highly standardized, and the “Creative” campaign, in which you choose all the creative elements for the campaign. As a general rule of thumb, only the biggest consumer goods companies would have the budget and creative resources to develop a “Creative” campaign, so that leaves you the option of the System campaign.
The good news is that there are actually six different types of Weibo System campaigns, each of which serves a slightly different purpose. The six types of System campaigns include the following: Lucky Roulette, Flash Sales, Repost, Content Collection, Preorder, and Free Trial.
The Lucky Roulette campaign is essentially an instant lottery that users can play when they discover your content. By clicking a button, they can spin a roulette wheel. If they “win,” then they are awarded prizes, gifts, discounts or promotions that you decide upon in advance. This is a great way to gain new followers (and potentially new buyers for your wine) – if people know that you are handing out some very generous prizes, they are going to want to visit your Weibo account.
The Flash Sales campaign allows you to provide an “instant discount” to anyone who interacts with your content. The user has a predetermined amount of time to decide whether or not to accept the deal: if they do, they would have the chance to buy your wine at a discount.
The Repost campaign is perhaps the easiest Weibo campaign to pull off. All you do is ask other Weibo users to repost your content and maybe include a hashtag or mention when they do. Everyone who does so is then eligible for prizes or discounts or offers.
The Content Collection campaign is a great way to see how other Weibo users view your brand, as well as to collect valuable consumer-generated content that can be used later. In this campaign, you essentially ask other Weibo users to generate photos or video clips related to a certain idea or product, and then you choose the best entry of all that are submitted. The downside, of course, is that you need a lot of traffic to be able to pull this one off, due to the lower rates of participation that are generally seen. After all, it is a lot easier just to re-post content than it is to come up with some original content.
Reaching young, millennial wine drinkers
Taking all of the above into account, it should be clear by now that Weibo is really tailor-made for reaching the young, millennial wine drinker in China who is also social media savvy. By keeping this fact in mind, you will be able to develop the right type of content to reach them. And you will also be able to develop the right type of Weibo campaign that might just go viral.
The good news is that young millennial users on Weibo are very open to the idea of interacting with brands. The average Weibo user follows 200+ official accounts, for example, and many of these official accounts are consumer brands. Thus, in order to succeed in the Weibo marketing game, it is important to create a fun, dynamic and vibrant brand image that resonates with young tastemakers. These users are looking to have fun, interact socially and win prizes or discounts.
And for wineries, the benefits of being on Weibo are even better. It’s a way to learn about their customers, gather original consumer-generated content, promote products or services, and direct followers to potential wine e-commerce opportunities. If you are looking for a way to grow your wine brand within the Chinese wine market, then Weibo definitely should be part of your overall digital marketing mix.