China·China-Kommunikation·Social Media

What could Twitter learn from Chinese No. 1 Microblog?

Regarding censorship in China, many people wonder: “Can Twitter achieve the same success in China as it does outside of the mainland?” Before answering this, maybe we can take a look at what Twitter can learn from the Chinese No. 1 Microblogging – Sina Weibo.

Chinese microblogging is definitely snowballing crazily. The most successful site is “Sina Weibo” (which translates as Microblogging). At the DCCI Adworld conference in January 2011, Sina revealed that in October 2010 Sina Weibo has exceeded 50 million users, 14 months after it began operation (a growth rate which is three times faster than Twitter), and is expecting to have 150 million users at the end of this year. On January 28th, Yao Chen, a famous Chinese actress, overtook American talk show queen Oprah Winfrey (4.95 million followers at Twitter) with 5 million followers at Sina Weibo (Now 5.86 million), and topped 10th worldwide as the first Non-twitter microblogger. In comparison, the number of visitors to fell 14% in 2010, (trend data from Experian Simmons Datastream).

Sina Weibo has been regarded as a concept copy of Twitter. However, in some way, Sina Weibo’s unique features have given it big advantages over Twitter.

1. Images, videos and audios attachment
Users of Sina Weibo can directly attach images, videos and audios to their tweets, which is not only convenient for operation, but also makes the tweets more visually informative. As for visitors, they can view these images and videos without leaving the main page.

image and video

2. Direct URL shorten
The 140-character limitation makes it difficult to include a long URL in your tweet. Users of Twitter have to turn to external providers to shorten their URLs. Sina Weibo automatically shortens all URL into

3. High interactivity and wide networking through “Comment” functionality
Till now, some people still question Twitter as a social networking service (SNS), because it is more for reading and sharing information. At Twitter, one can retweet and reply to a tweet. It is suitable for a 1-1 conversation. But if you want more people to join the same conversation, it gets complicated and messy. At Sina Weibo, the “Comment” function has brought much higher interactivity and wider networking possibilities. Users can retweet, comment on this tweet, and at the same time they can follow other users who also commented on the same topic.


4. “Group” function
When saying “Comment” function has brought Sina Weibo much higher interactivity, the “Group” function has definitely distanced Sina Weibo as a SNS away from Twitter. Each user of Sina Weibo is allowed to open max. 3 groups. Users can join the same group for comment interest. Highly active groups have usually thousands of fans at Sina Weibo.

5. Image sharing through mobile phones
As its motto says “随时随地,分享身边的新鲜事” (Anytime, anywhere, share your happiness and things around you), Sina Weibo allows users to upload pictures directly from their mobile phones in a simple and user friendly interface. Twitter obviously lags behind its competitor in this aspect. One would have to use a non-twitter app to upload pictures through his/her mobile. Complicated, time-consuming, Twitter has reasons to optimize its iPhone application.


6. Verified account
Sina used the same way to promote its Microblogging in 2009 as it did for its blogging. Many celebrities, with a small “V” next to their names, were invited to use Sina Weibo. Many users followed them to verify their accounts, as it shows higher “Reliability”. As often written in Sina Weibo, “Watch out, you are responsible for what you are saying here.” Twitter has also introduced this concept. However it is not a big deal. The same story for China No. 1 SNS Renren. Renren has till now 70 millions verified users, which is much more than Facebook.

7. Voicemail
Suppose you are walking on the street and suddenly find something exciting. You would like to tweet it immediately with your phone. But, “Watch out!” there are cars around you! With the voicemail, you can easily call a number, say what you would like to write there. A few minutes later, your voice will be presented in your tweet, with your emotions to your tweet.


8. More informative in a tweet
Last but not the least, both Twitter and Sina Weibo limit a tweet to 140 characters. However, in Chinese, 140 characters can actually produce quite a long message, which make the tweets normally more informative. Poor Twitter, this is really not your fault.

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4 Replies

  1. Really nice post! I especially like the idea of the „Voicemail“ function. That’s a really handy idea. What exactly can you do with the groups? Are the functions similar to facebook groups?

    Using audio, video and photo as attachements is a nice feature too. Twitter could use a feature like that to save us some characters. They should think about link attachement in general too. Even with link shorteners there are missing almost allways some characters in the end.

    • Thanks a lot for your comment! Yes, the „Group“ function of Sina Weibo is similar to Facebook groups. „#topic name here#“ helps you to stay in the same topic. You can quickly find other people who are also interested in the same topic.

      There is something else that Sina Weibo has, which, thanks god, Twitter does not: Selfcensorship! My Weibo account was blocked for a day (I guess because of the Tweets about Sina Weibo wiping out Julian Assange from its trend topic ). Only after I complained in an email to Sina Weibo I got my account back…

      But still, I like Sina Weibo very much.

      Best wishes,


  2. Thanks a lot for your post – i never heard of Sina Weibo before but i am a passionate Twitter User. The features sound like learn a lot. Very interesting. But isnt there also a voicemail feature for twitter? I think i heard that while the internet was turned off in egypt the people used the voicemail feature.

  3. Thanks a lot for reading my post and your question! Sorry for the late reply. I read a report early this Feb. that a Voicemail function was also provided to Twitter during the internet blockade period in Egypt. But it was from, which also supports Voicemail for other SNSs.

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