Is Weibo Marketing Really Low Cost?

The weibo wrote, “after seeing my best girlfriend’s smartphone home screen… I’d wanted to get married right away! This is how her husband arranged her smartphone folders…!” (And the picture shows the folders are arranged according to various usage habits, and named like “Your Favorite Food,” “Your Favorite Books,” “The TV Dramas You’re Following,” “Call Me With These When You Miss Me” (instant messaging apps), etc.)

In fact, this is an ad by 51 ZhangDan, an app created to help users organize their credit card payments and alerts. (The app is placed next to the Safari icon in this “smartphone home screen.”) The creative idea was initiated by a staffer in 51 ZhangDan who loves his wife dearly and she is pregnant. The company founder picked the idea, created this weibo post, and started looking for an “influencer account” – and owing to budget concerns, he’s tried the campaign with an account that charged RMB150 for posting this weibo.

This V-certified Sina account has generated over 200 retweets within minutes after the post was uploaded. And the 51 ZhangDan team started its own “human wave tactics” by forwarding to all their friends and followers. Just 50 hours after uploading the original post, the campaign has generated big traffic.

Most importantly, for the Founder of 51 ZhangDan, its iPhone app has risen to No. 37 on the App Store download chart – which was not bought media.

Since the explosive growth of Sina and Tencent Weibo, we are seeing numerous examples of businesses being able to leverage these platforms, “at a very low cost,” to achieve marketing results.

But is weibo marketing really low cost? There is no easy answer to this question indeed.

Weibo marketing, in theory, is never drifted too far away from traditional advertising and marketing. Simply because the ingredients you need are almost the same:

  • A well-designed communications strategy that orchestrates all weibo happenings, and marries your online and offline activities
  • A good creative idea that is translated to very attractive visuals and a “weibo-sassy,” 140-characters copy
  • A group of influencers (the “verified” accounts) who spread out the messages
  • A very competent sales or customer service team that supports the conversion
  • A social media listening/monitoring tool that helps you understand brand sentiment and competitive landscape, which eventually drives your next strategic moves

In view of the above, why would weibo marketing be so different from planning for other marketing activities, in terms of marketing efforts and investment?

The 51 ZhangDan example was probably just one of the many interesting examples* where the actual costs are low. But the real efforts behind this marketing exercise could have been enormous.

And it all goes back to the very core of marketing and advertising – creativity. So how much are you ready to invest in creativity?

*Here are some other interesting examples:

@丁丁麻辣烫 – A small food stall that has leveraged Sina Weibo and the new CCTV series “A Bite of China” in introducing their own menu.

@快书包 – An online bookshop that has evolved its business model around Weibo: all orders are taken from weibo “private messages” and are delivered within one hour.

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