WHILE Twitter is blocked in China, there are local microblogging sites to keep me informed and entertained.
Among the providers for microblogging service include Sina, Tencent, Xinhua, Souhu, People’s, Phoenix, NetEase and more.
Sina tops the list with 500 million registered users and 46.29 million daily active users as of December 2012.
Its popularity is proven with public and media using “Weibo” to refer to its microblogging site, although Weibo stands for microblog in general.
(Twitter has over 200 million active users churning out 400 million tweets a day, according to its blog post in March this year.)
The Chinese microblogging sites have similar basic features as their US counterpart, such as tagging other users with the symbol @, trending topics with hashtags and posting within an allowed character limit.
But what sets Weibo apart from Twitter is the rich media content.
Besides photos and animated GIF, some Weibo allow users to embed video and music files, and start a poll in their posts.
These elements have enhanced the Weibo surfing experience and created an entertaining platform for all.
A unique feature on Sina Weibo is the charity platform. Users can initiate a charitable cause, pledge donation, sign up as volunteers or simply repost a cause.
I am drawn to Sina Weibo for one simple reason – you can find almost everyone on it, from celebrities to writers, and government departments to restaurants.
Many of the official accounts are well-maintained, providing frequent and useful updates.
While Chinese president Xi Jinping does not have an official account, there is an account dubbed “Xuexi Fensituan” (Learning from Xi Fan Club) dedicated to disseminate news and photos of his activities.
The account owner has denied speculations that the account was a publicity effort, claiming that he was only a supporter.
Sina Weibo, which was launched in August 2009, is celebrating its fourth anniversary this month.
In an unaudited financial report for the second quarter of 2013, Sina Corporation announced a 209% year-on-year growth for its Weibo advertising revenue, which amounted to US$30mil (RM98.74mil).
The non-advertising revenues also increased from US$23.8mil (RM79mil) in the same period last year to US$32.2mil (RM106.9mil).
Back in April, China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba invested US$586mil (RM1.9bil) to purchase an 18% stake in Sina Weibo. This deal valued Sina Weibo at US$3.3bil (RM10.86bil).
The population on Weibo continued to beckon Western figures and celebrities to come on board to reach out to their Chinese fans.
The latest to join Sina Weibo was retired American boxer Mike Tyson, whose username is “Quanwang Taisen” (King of Boxing Tyson).
After greeting Chinese fans on his maiden post on Monday, he went on to ask who is the best fighter in China.
Amid the genuine replies (Donnie Yan and Jackie Chan, for instance) came an answer that had everyone in stitches – chengguan.
The term refers to the city management officers who are often labelled as abusive for getting involved in physical brawls with street vendors.
A clueless Tyson then asked, “Who is Chengguan? A tough man? I’ve never heard it (sic).”
He mentioned it again in a post later, “So many guys talking about chengguan as a great fighter? Still not a clue about him … All I’ve heard about are Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, and wait wait, the Chinese dama (middle-aged women)!”
(Local news reports said the term Chinese dama became a popular term when the women rushed to snatch up gold.)
Needless to say, Tyson’s Weibo went viral, attracting 200,000 followers in just three days.
Although Sina Weibo has a reputation for self-censorship – posts with sensitive topics or keywords are deleted – it remains largely as a platform for freedom of expression.
It was even described as China’s Hyde Park in a report by Xinhua in December 2011: “… An open space where people feel free to participate in public affairs”.
As such, Weibo is the place to gauge public sentiments and there are calls lately to urge opinion leaders to observe their social responsibility on social media network.
- Tho Xin Yi (email@example.com) sees Weibo as a tool to get first-hand news and gain insight into the Chinese society. She follows 329 users on Sina Weibo.