Monthly Archives: April 2012

Sina Weibo – the Chinese twitter

The microblogging website Sina Weibo (Wei = micro, bo = blog) is the equivalent version of Twitter in China. In less than two years the Chinese website gained 140 million users, exceeding all other microblogging services in China according to Hongkiat.com . Weibo actually recently broke the record of tweets with the ringing in of the Chinese new year, which inspired over 32,000 tweets per second.

Weibo grows in a rapid speed, and will probably soon be even bigger than Twitter. So the natural question to ask is: can twitter adapt and learn things from Sina Weibo to stay competitive?

When having a closer look at Weibo it is clear that it definitely has some fancy features that twitter is lacking and should look out for. Here are a few examples:

  • Threaded comments: How many times have you missed an @response on twitter? This is actually one of the things that I find most annoying when using twitter. To see what people have said about your tweets you have to browse the ‘mentions’, where all comments are mixed. So it shows comments on you latest tweet, but also on all other tweets you’ve posted. Not the most effective way to communicate in my opinion. Weibo, however, offers threaded comments, where you can see all the comments sorted under the tweet with one simple click. Genius.
  • Rich media: On Weibo you are able to insert images, videos, music, emoticons and other kinds of rich media into you tweets, and it will show up as a thumbnail, making it a little more exciting to scroll the tweets.
  • Micro topics: While twitter uses hashtags to indicate a topic, Weibo uses micro topics. Micro topics enables users to create a unique page where they can discuss the topic. So say for example that Kony2012 is trending on Weibo, you won’t just be able to see that it’s trending, but there will also be a website where people are invited to discuss the topic.
  • Trend categorization: Speaking of trends; I often look at the top ten things that are trending on twitter and think: ‘Wow, I care so little I almost passed out’. However, if twitter had a feature where you could categorize trends after your interest, I might actually start enjoying it. On Weibo there’s a feature called ‘Board of Fame’ where you can browse different categories of trends, like music, travelling, gaming, film etc.
  • Medal reward system (usable in Public Relations!): This is a function that brands like Nike have used to promote their products. It’s basically a reward system that gives users ‘medals’ when they take action and retweet about events amongst other things.

Overall, Weibo can be regarded as a better platform for direct two-way symmetrical interaction, as it facilitates the process of interacting through these features. And twitter had better watch out since Weibo are planning to launch an English version of the platform according to the Huffington Post.

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Donate twitter characters virtually for a good cause

It is increasingly important for organizations to have an active social media account. But in order for social media to generate results, the organization must build a gathering of followers. There are a lot of examples of creative PR campaigns which have used twitter as the main tool of communication when trying to gather as many followers as possible.

Kentucky Fried Chicken launched a campaign where they offered a $ 20,000 scholarship for the best tweet that described why the candidate should receive it. To enter the competition the candidates had to follow KFC on twitter and include the hashtag #KFCScholar in their tweet.  This generated a huge number of new followers.

When you are an established organization, with a twitter account that have many followers, there’s no limit for the amount of creativity that can go into your campaign. One organization that is very active on their social media platforms is the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s. On their twitter account they actively engage in conversation, and thus they’ve build up a strong base of followers. This enabled them to launch  a campaign that raised awareness of Fair Trade Day. Ben & Jerry created a campaign that cleverly took advantage of the fact that twitter-users seldom use all 140 characters to produce a tweet. Ben & Jerry therefore created what they call “fair tweets”, where they use the remaining characters to promote Fair Trade Day with messages, hashtags and links. Depending on how long the tweet is, Ben & Jerry’s Fair Tweet App automatically provides a message to fill in the space that is left.

This is just one example of how twitter can be used to build a creative PR campaign.

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My twitter virginity

I  must admit that I was very hesitant about the whole twitter-part of this course. I’ve had a twitter account since 2008, but when I started using it for this course I had only done 3 tweets. That is 3 tweets in 4 years.

The problem for me is that I don’t know how to use it. Should I be professional or should I include my private life? Or maybe both? I think this is the problem for a lot of companies when it comes to creating a twitter account. People are still insecure of how to use twitter in the most effective way. As much as it may be an asset to your company from a PR point of view, it can also have the opposite effect.

I’ve got an example of this. When I worked at the PR company ‘Pitch Control PR’ (@PitchControl_PR on twitter) one of my tasks was to come up with things to tweet about. Let me remind you again; I had never used twitter and this was all very new and scary to me. I figured that they wanted me to tweet about PR things, so I desperately tried to find exciting news relating to PR. After a while the CEO came to me and said: ‘You know.. you don’t have to tweet about PR all the time. Just find some fun, silly news. Something that fits our style.’

I think it’s a great example of how to use twitter. This is a fashion/entertainment PR firm, and since they operate in the entertainment business you could tweet about anything from celebrity news to fashion etc.  But the question still remains: how do I actually know what the ‘style’ that I’m supposed to tweet about is? And how can I make sure that it’s a hot topic, and not something that has been published multiple times already? There’s a perfect website for this. It’s called tweetdeck.com. The website enables you to keep an eye one what’s happening on twitter. It gives you the opportunity to listen to what people are saying. Let’s say that you want to know what’s been said about your favourite band’s newly released album. Then you just click on ‘Add twitter search column’ and type in the name of the band and the album. A new column will appear where you’ll be able to see what people are saying about it in real time. In this way you’ll be able to get the latest updates about the style that suits your company. It can be used for any topic that you feel is suitable.

To use twitter efficiently I think companies should stop being afraid of expanding their horizon, and start tweeting about subjects that aren’t necessarily only about their company, but also about things in general that suits their ‘style’.   I believe that twitter is as much about sharing information as it is about creating an image. It is therefore of crucial importance to know what image you want the public to have of your company before you set up a twitter account.

To quote Steve Schwartz  in the video below: ‘Think of twitter as a cocktail party. You would not walk into a cocktail party and start screaming promotions at the top of your lungs. So don’t that on twitter.’

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