A screenshot of Sina Weibo's 'Housing' Group

With the launch of Weibo Groups (微群, by invite-only), the Sina Weibo ‘microblog’ is officially in the social networking business. Weibo Groups are social clubs divided in 8 major categories (celebrities, industry, interests, culture, lifestyle, housing, old friends, and cities), with over a hundred subcategories. Within these categories users are allowed to create their own unique groups with specifically defined interests and purposes (Example: Industry>IT & Internet>”Sina Weibo Marketing”). Each group is limited to 500 users and each user is limited to 10 groups. There are both open groups (anyone can join) and closed groups (requires approval to participate as a member, but anyone can read). What does this mean for netizens and social networks in China?

Sina Weibo Becomes Still More Social

Sina Weibo is far more socialized than its western ‘microblogging’ counterparts like Twitter. Whereas Twitter prides itself on minimalism and is extremely cautious with changes, Sina Weibo is now testing a new feature every few weeks.

Sina Weibo no longer fits the Twitter-dominated conception of a ‘microblog,’ as it continues to mix in more elements of social networks and instant messengers. Establishing social networking circles around interests is a tremendously popular feature of QQ instant messenger: QQ Groups. Sina Weibo’s groups are fully supported by multimedia sharing plugins (open API) and cloud storage for larger files. And the potential social influence of each group is far greater than other platforms: users can simultaneously post between Groups and their Weibo accounts, thereby broadcasting their message to the 70 million Weibo users (est. by the end of 2010) on the platform.

Sina Weibo Threatens China’s Social Networks

RenRen Groups are coming soon, following on the heels of Facebook’s launch of its new Groups. Oak Pacific Interactive’s Chief Marketing Officer, Alvin Chiang, made the announcement at the RenRen Marketing Summit (OPI is the parent company of RenRen). RenRen is the closest China has to Facebook, with a self-reported 160 million users.

Sina Weibo’s ‘Groups’ have launched ahead of RenRen, a clear warning sign to Chinese social networks that Weibo is a competitive threat for Chinese netizen’s social graph and their time spent online. To speculate, if Sina offers a complete map of user’s connections (a simple version is already online), with individual user profiles, photo albums, locational services (currently available on mobile devices), event sharing (also currently available), multimedia sharing (open API),  then how can one argue that Sina Weibo is still just a ‘microblog’ rather than a ‘social network’?

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  • Yves2218

    这网站基于中国面向全世界,但所有的分享和follow的按钮没有一个国内的但在作者介绍里缺让别人follow你的新浪微博= =!

    • http://www.kailukoff.com Kai Lukoff

      Yves2218谢谢你的评论! 我们下一步就是加这些中国社会媒体分享按钮. 但我们是刚刚上线的, 而都是兼职的, 所以请给我们点时间 :)

  • http://twitter.com/TeaWithCarl Carl Levinson

    Thanks Don Sunny – Appreciate it… excellent news article。谢谢您。

  • http://twitter.com/thepekingorder Jeremy Webb

    Great post!

    Weibo was always threatening SNS in China, far more so than Twitter has ever threatened facebook. This is because people seem to define the two types of platform differently here: Most of the Chinese people I know see the primary value of an SNS as a content sharing platform (see the popularity of zhuantie on Kaixin), and this function is something Weibo has always done perfectly well.. even before Groups.

    • http://twitter.com/DonSunny46664 Sunny Ye

      Thanks Jeremy!

      From what I heard there will be an updated version of connections center (关系中心), this will make Weibo more complete on the social side, allowing users to build more firm social networking bonds, I will be covering that when it launches. Weibo is becoming so different from Twitter, with all of the Sina resources it will become a primary networking platform, and perhaps the SNS sites should fear it in the near future.

  • Julian

    hehe nice !

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  • http://twitter.com/thomasmorffew thomas morffew

    Great piece! Thanks.

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