8 Lessons Twitter Can Learn from Weibo

Sina Weibo is not a joke. It’s the hottest microblogging service in China now. It consumes 90% market share of China’s microblogging services, with more than 140 million users in less than two years, while Twitter gained 200 million users in less than five years. It’s new, it’s hot, and it’s becoming more prominent and stronger.

I was a dedicated user of Twitter for around two years, but I recently decided to convert to Sina Weibo.

I’m ultimately satisfied with Sina Weibo. In this post, I’m going to list out eight particular things that Twitter can learn from Sina Weibo, which also serve as possible reasons that why Sina Weibo can gain 140 million users in just less than two years of its realms, beating all other China microblogging services.

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1. Threaded Comment

Apparently, most successful microblogging services in China, such as Tencent Weibo and Sina Weibo, focus heavily on making user’s social feedback easier in their own services.

The reason is pretty easy; we — humans — are social animals. Therefore we care about what others think about us, and threaded comment is really a big plus in making the entire feedback tracking process easier.

threaded comment

What’s the deal of the threaded comments? Well, on Twitter, you have to browse the @mentions to see what people think about your tweets, and those commenting tweets are even mixed with other commenting tweets with different topics. You can see all users’ comments sorted correctly in your tweet with just one click with threaded comments.

After viewing the comment threads of the user’s tweet, you can also add your comment in the box provided in the comment thread. You can add @username to remind the author or any people about the tweet, or click on the ‘Reply’ button located on the right side of the commentator’s tweet to reply to the commentator.

So you can see how user-friendly is this threaded comment feature, as all comments and replying actions are made in a single section, comment thread.

2. Rich Media

One of Sina Weibo’s features that most microblogging users praise is its ability to insert rich media like images, videos, music, emoticons, and even polls without any plugin required.

This sparks a really interesting debate between bloggers, do microblogging service really needs these features? The answer is an absolute yes, as if you’re Sina Weibo’s user, you can probably see the images and videos pretty much existed in most tweets.


Surprisingly, the rich media offers far more than you can imagine. By just looking at the emoticon feature, it has over 400 emoticons for you to use! Youngsters in China have a particular interest in playing emoticons, so this is a cult feature for them.

There are also fun images provided by Weibo in the image feature, which also pretty much serves like emoticons.


You can also upload the video from your computer or just input the link from the video site, and it will show thumbnails about the video, how friendly. The best thing about the video feature is, if you input the link from supported video sites like Youku or Tudou, you will be able to view the video without even leaving the site, a great strategy for Sina Weibo to retain the users within its website!

One more notable feature is the ability to start a poll by any user, and it’s not just like the basic poll feature (Question) of Facebook. You can put in the description, options, decide whether users can choose single or multiple options, and ultimately, set the visibility of the poll and its expiration date, really a complete and awesome feature, isn’t it?

3. Micro Topics

Micro Topics is a relatively new concept in microblogging services, implemented by Weibo. It’s effortless to understand; Weibo takes any tweet related to a particular topic, then creates a unique page for all users to view and discuss the particular topic.

For instance, one of the hottest topics now is the World Of Warcraft Cataclysm, so a dedicated page is created for WoW gamers to discuss the game and its newest patch.

micro topics

Well, if you like the topic, there’s a tweet box with tags added for you to share the topic on your own profile immediately, or you can push the link on the top of the topic’s page to promote the topic to your friends.

I must convince you that I’m really addicted to this feature, and the idea is simply ingenious.

4. Trends Categorization

Alright, so what will you do every time you want to check up the hottest trends on Twitter, but those top 10 hot trends are not on your interest list?

I often encountered this issue, but I no longer have the same issue in Weibo, as Weibo has a dedicated page for trends, literally named as Board of Fame. Be the hottest trends of last hour, or today or even this week, Weibo’s Board of Fame is always prepared to tell you what trends that users really want in the specified time.

board of fame

Categorization is king when it comes to sorting overloaded trends, and Weibo scored full marks on this part by categorizing all hottest trends into several categories such as general, sport, entertainment, finance, gaming, traveling, just about everything anyone might be interested about!

In the Board of Fame, you can view the first ten hottest trends by the category, and you can probably dig into more trends by click on the ‘Check Out More’ link from the respective category.

You can then view the remaining 40 hottest trends in the category or, well, if those trends still cannot satisfy you, you can even trackback the hottest trends by setting the date located on the right side of the page. Fantastic!

5. Verified Account & Hall Of Celebrity

Verified Account is specifically created for celebrity and famous people, and you will be treated more like a celebrity if you registered a verified account of Sina Weibo.

The reason? Sina Weibo wants those celebrities to shine even more, so again, as you might have expected, they created a dedicated page for highlighting their superstars, literally named “Hall of Celebrity”.

hall of celebrity

What’s great about the Hall of Celebrity is its detailed categorization. Sina Weibo categorizes celebrities very well into several key categories like entertainment, sport, finance, tech, etc. Then, there are even more subcategories inside the field like entertainment, such as actors, musicians, and entertainment executives.

Also, newly joined celebrities do not need to worry about their fame will be covered by elite users, as there is also a section that featured celebrities who just joined the world of Sina Weibo.

On the page, user can either choose their favorite celebrities to follow or simply click on ‘Follow All’ button to follow all celebrities in the particular field. I can understand why Weibo treats celebrities so seriously, as the celebrities themselves got tonnes of fans, so retaining them in Weibo is the key strategy to convert their massive dedicated fans into loyal users.."

6. Medal Reward System

Why does the medal reward system exist in Sina Weibo? Because it’s fun, and it encourages users to tweet more! Well, everyone is a gamer by nature. We love to play the game, and we enjoyed earning reward that makes us proud in that particular game society.

Sensing the benefits, Sina Weibo has implemented a very interesting medal reward system to let users have fun earning medals for personal enjoyment or show-off.

hall of celebrity

If you think this medal reward system is just a game, you are underestimating Weibo. Well, the entire system is not just about fun but also one of the strategic plans in Weibo’s business ecosystem. Brands such as Nike and Transformers actually partnered with Weibo to market their products by offering medals, mostly requiring users to perform certain actions like retweet about their events.

This is also a really neat marketing strategy for the brands as it helps spread the event message and allows the logo of the brand to be exposed in users’ profiles as a medal.

Weibo has even built a page to introduce, promote and remind users about those medals that are associated with certain events or brands.

7. More Style Templates

In microblogging services like Sina Weibo and Twitter, every profile is a personal space. Even we’re not going to advertise ourselves; we hope to be different from anybody else.

We hope to have at least some style templates that are not too common in the entire platform, and Sina Weibo solved this question very well by providing over 60 style templates, categorized into five groups which are ‘Newest Promotion’, ‘Classic’, ‘Fashion’, ‘School’ and ‘Events’.

style templates

Of course, if you’re not satisfied with these templates, you can always do it yourself by using the template builder.

With the builder, you can define font color, put custom background pictures, apply tile backgrounds and adjust the picture’s alignment. Pretty much like Twitter’s template builder, so you won’t have a problem customizing your own style template if you’re a Twitter-converted user.

I believe most of you will ask how about using Themeleon, a service that contains tonnes of quality theme designs for Twitter?

Well, I love Themeleon very much, but it’s absolutely good to have more built-in design as it takes more steps to authorize the Themeleon and apply the design to Twitter, not to mention that Themeleon lacks good categorization and many people still do not know much about the concept of authorization, even causing some of them to worry about their privacy.

8. Weibo Event

Finally, it’s a fresh concept that Sina Weibo brought to the microblogging service, Weibo Event. Weibo Event will revolutionize your concept about microblogging service from a place that collects everyone’s thoughts together to a place that gets everyone involved and fun together!

weibo event

Yes, with Weibo Event, you are not just limited to see what other people are tweeting, but also joining events that other users are joining, sparking more tweets and fun!

There’re thousands of events categorized into ‘Local Event’, ‘Prized Event’, and ‘Online Event’, with a few grand events featured on the top of the page. Companies or individuals sponsor most Weibo Events, so get ready to exchange your hard work with prizes!

I think this is a great feature that gives people one more reason to stay on Sina Weibo. In the past, we can only see what people are tweeting and maybe joining specific discussions, and some people will eventually get bored with this repetitive cycle.

With Weibo Event, we gather together to involve in certain events; thus, we don’t only win prizes but also make new friends during the event. Users can also promote the event to non-users, encouraging them to join Weibo for their events.


So you can probably see that every prominent feature in Sina Weibo exists to attract new users, retain elite users, and encourages all users to tweet more and have more fun!

But the war has just started. I think the war is pretty hard for Sina Weibo, as Twitter is already a greatly established microblogging service throughout the world, but hey, MySpace was once the social media behemoth that was ultimately taken by Facebook.

So what do you think about the competition between Twitter and Sina Weibo? Do you think that heavily censored yet feature-rich Sina Weibo will take over Twitter as the mainstream microblogging service? Or will Twitter ultimately defend its realm with, maybe, a new feature? Which new feature you will like to see on Twitter? Kindly let us know your thought!

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