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The “YouTube Effect” of WeChat & Sina Weibo

Stories of YouTube stars turning into successful entrepreneurs have become manifold. With the so-called ‘Youtube Effect’, anyone can become an online fashion influencer or money maker from behind their computer. Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Sina Weibo have their own Youtube Effect.

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Stories of YouTube stars turning into successful entrepreneurs have become manifold. With the so-called ‘Youtube Effect’, anyone can become an online fashion influencer or money maker from behind their computer. Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Sina Weibo have their own Youtube Effect.

Since launching in 2005, YouTube has provided society with a new way to consume, create, share and, most importantly, make money. When purely focusing on the platform’s advertising and marketing aspects, YouTube has enabled small businesses to reach millions of viewers, something that could previously only be achieved by big corporate names with equally big budgets.

The ability to upload one’s own videos showing off anything from beauty tutorials to guitar tickling has translated into liquid assets (a.k.a. ad fees) for a lucky few – thanks to those brands drawing in that one YouTuber to promote their product.

Other platform users have taken it one successful step further by landing lucrative deals, gaining fame and fortune (think Justin Bieber) or scoring the chance to create their own merchandising or fashion lines.

From ad fees to reader’s rewards

Vietnamese-American Michelle Phan became a poster girl of YouTube (8,4 million subscribers) when she got to set up a personal cosmetics brand just by diligently uploading make-up tutorials onto the video platform. Now, with all that being very fine and dandy, how do WeChat (also known as Weixin) and Sina Weibo fit into this mold?

“Luxury brands such as Chanel and Prada are turning to online celebrities for targeted marketing. When releasing products, these companies often invite online celebrities to advertise the products on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter,” AsiaOne on March 17 reports: “In China, there are 688 million Internet users so the knack of influencing even some of them could make one a ‘Key Opinion Leader’.”

China’s celebrities boast huge online flocks on leading social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat. They have follower numbers the average Western celeb could only rival in their wildest dreams.

These numbers can become real-life red bills by several means, from the traditional luxury brand ad fee to one of the more noticeable ones being a tip and virtual gift system. “When an online celebrity publishes a fashion-themed article on WeChat, China’s most popular instant messaging tool, readers can reward the author with tips ranging from 1 yuan (S$0.20) to 256 yuan by using its digital payment tool,” AsiaOne continues.

The Sina Weibo Effect

Between WeChat and Weibo, the latter especially attracts China’s young people; nearly 70 percent of its users are below the age of 30.

China’s Post-90s generation is one popular clientele demographic, with brands from all over the world trying to tap into it. Even Vogue China magazine has offered up a small WeChat preview to its new Vogue Me publication aimed at the Post-90s fashionista. Nevertheless, Weibo still excels in the P.R. stakes compared to WeChat. Its impact has been described as follows:

“If you have over 1,000 followers, you are a billboard; if this exceeds 10,000, you are like a magazine. If there are 100,000 people following you, you are a metropolis newspaper. With 1,000,000 followers, you’re basically a TV-channel.” Sounds like music to any brand’s ears – even if it is Justin Bieber singing.

Many a foreign brand today remains eager to further extend its reach across mainland China. Weibo, WeChat, as well as online streaming services such as Youku, have become indispensable components of their core strategies. Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry or Diane von Fuerstenberg (the brand, not the lady) have all managed to capitalize on their social media tactics in the Middle Kingdom. So has Durex, which is in fact one of the top foreign brands on Weibo currently, with 1,130,305 followers as of 2014.

Just think about it: What IT-girl, singer or actress wouldn’t want a brand new Diane wrap-dress or Burberry bag in her closet? One click to upload a pic can generate 100,000 hits and a boost in daily income. To tip it all off, they will have acquired a befitting must-have. It is, indeed, the YouTube effect. What’s on Weibo? Cold hard cash.

– By Elsbeth van Paridon


Featured image: Youtube image of Cyberstar Michelle Phan.

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Elsbeth van Paridon is a sinologist and fashion writer. Since 2010, she has been living in Beijing, where she has become an expert on all the ins and outs of the world of China fashion. She has her own blog on China fashion: Chasing the Fashion Dragon.

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China Digital

Uh Oh, IP: Chinese Social Media Platforms Now Display Users’ Geolocation

From Weibo to Zhihu, Chinese social media platforms now display netizens’ geolocation to ensure a ‘healthy online environment.’

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Over the past few days, Chinese social media platforms have started to introduce a new function that displays the IP location of online commenters.

Weibo was the first platform to introduce the function on Thursday – the topic also became top trending on April 28 – and social media platforms Douyin, Toutiao, Xiaohongshu and others followed later. Zhihu announced the measure on April 30 (#知乎宣布全面上线显示用户IP属地#).

Weibo has experimented with the function since March 22 of this year before completely rolling it out on April 28. Whenever users post a reply or comment to a thread, their Internet Protocol (IP) address location will be displayed underneath their comment, right next to the post date and time information. The location will also be displayed on the personal account page of Weibo users.

According to Sina Weibo, the function was introduced to ensure a “healthy and orderly discussion atmosphere” on the platform and to reduce the spread of fake news and invidious rumors by people pretending to be part of an issue or city that they are actually not part of. To keep online discussions “authentic and transparent,” social media users’ specific region, city, province, or country will show up below their names. The function can not be turned off by users.

‘Refuting rumors’ is a priority for Weibo management and has only become more relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in China and the recent Shanghai outbreak.

On Saturday, the hashtag “What Does It Mean That Platforms Are Unrolling the IP Function?” (#平台开放IP属地功能意味着什么#) was trending on Weibo, attracting over 170 million views.

The new measure has attracted mixed reactions on Chinese social media, where some users think it is useful that you can now discern users located abroad from those who are based in China, making it easier to draw conclusions on what is really going on in society (you can now spot trends that are particularly taking place within one region) and what is merely taking place in cyberspace.

But there are many users who think the new function is just another layer of control and does not really help to combat fake news or malicious rumors, since the IP location could actually still be changed.

Although the entire idea of displaying the IP location is to minimize the gap between cyberspace and reality based on one’s location, the location is merely the geographic location of the internet from the connected device and does not always correspond with the actual location of the social media user.

Once a person is connected to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), for example, internet traffic is sent through a server in another location, and the IP address will be replaced by the IP address of the VPN server in a different location from people’s actual address.

Some Weibo account are also not run by the persons themselves but by a social media or marketing company.

In this way, Bill Gates unexpectedly turned out to be located in Henan province, and Lionel Messi’s location showed up as Shanghai.

Others think that the new rule will only lead to more online polarization and self-censorship: “Who made this unsettling decision?! From now on, Chinese nationals who are studying or living abroad will be extra extra careful in what they write, otherwise, they’ll be labeled as ‘foreign forces.'”

Some people joked about the new function revealing their location, writing: “It made me so embarrassed. I’m pretending to be studying in the UK, while I’m actually in the mountains feeding the pigs.” Others were also surprised that their IP location was completely different from the place where they are actually living: “Weibo, what are you doing? I’ve never even been to Jilin,” one commenter wrote.

According to an online poll held by Fengmian News, 56% of the participants (nearly 300,000 at time of writing) said they supported the new function. 21% did not like the function, 17% said they did not care, and 6% were just curious to see their own IP location and if it matches their actual location.

“I’m gonna go and delete my more extreme comments,” one person wrote: “I don’t wanna give my hometown a bad reputation.”

Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) also gave his views on the new measure, saying that people’s viewpoints and values will always be more important than where they come from, and that all friends of China matter, no matter where they are based. However, he argued, it is also good to know where those who openly express anti-Chinese sentiments come from, exposing those ‘evil foreign force’ who are trying to disrupt social cohesion within the country.

Noteworthy enough, Hu Xijin’s own IP location was not displayed on his Weibo account, as some celebrities seem to have been excluded from this measure or can decide themselves whether or not they would like to display their IP location or not.

One Weibo user wrote: “Twitter can follow its own regulations in banning Trump, while Weibo can transcend its own regulations and not show Hu Xijin’s IP location.”

For recent articles Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China and Covid19

‘Voices of April’: The Day After

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them.”

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On April 23, a day after the video ‘Voices of April’ briefly took over social media before it was censored, the trending topic of the day is a hashtag related to new Covid cases reported in Shanghai.

Shanghai reported higher Covid-19 cases and deaths on Friday than the five days prior, which showed a daily decline in new cases. Shanghai reported a total of 23,370 new cases (including 20,634 asymptomatic ones), the municipal health commission said Saturday. A related hashtag by Xinhua News received over 910 million views on Weibo on Saturday (#上海新增本土确诊2736例无症状20634例#).

Although the hashtag was initiated by state media to inform about the Shanghai Covid situation, netizens started using it to criticize Shanghai’s handling of the crisis, with more commenters questioning China’s zero-Covid strategy. Similarly, other state media-initiated hashtag places also became online spaces where Weibo users vented their frustrations earlier this month.

Besides the ongoing online criticism and vocal disagreement with China’s Covid handling and policies, there are also many who express shock at the recent crackdown of any form of protest or criticism regarding the situation in Shanghai.

“‘Voices of April’ has been shutdown all over the internet, I’m simply dumbfounded,” one person said about the popular video that contained real recordings of events that happened during the city’s lockdown.

“If you still can find the video anywhere, forward it,” another person writes.

Besides Voices of April (四月之声), there have also been other videos over the past week that are meant to expose the mishandling of the Covid situation in Shanghai.

One of them is titled Farewell, Language (再见语言), another one is Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春).

Farewell, Language (再见语言) is a 42-second sound art video by artist Yang Xiao (杨潇), who used over 600 commonly used propaganda phrases from Chinese official channels and randomly broadcasted the audio in the community where he lives.

The anti-epidemic workers just continue their work and do not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary at all. The video shows how this kind of language has been so normalized that for most, it has just become background noise in their everyday life – without even noticing nor critically assessing its meaning or logic anymore.

The Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春) video is a compilation of video footage from the Shanghai lockdown, showing people struggling to get food, violent altercations between anti-epidemic workers and residents, people living in deplorable conditions in quarantine centers, and more (link to video).

The video uses the song Cheer Up London by Slaves, its chorus being:

You’re dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead
.”

One Weibo commenter responded to the video in English, using a text from Les Misérables: “Do you hear the people sing / Singing the song of angry men / It is the music of a people / Who will not be slaves again!” The phrase “do you hear the people sing” was also used by other social media users to address the situation in Shanghai and the censorship of related topics.

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them,” one commenter replied.

Read our previous article about ‘Voices of April’ here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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