I was recently invited to join Sina Weibo’s new user verification program DaRen (达人), which means “expert” in Chinese. This beta program, which offers incentives for users to verify their personal information, is the beginning of Sina Weibo’s push towards a real-identity social network.
The first step is the same as the existing real-name verification process for public figures and professionals: I was asked for personal information like my passport number (or National ID number for Chinese nationals) and home address.
But the second step is different: instead of proving a professional background, I was asked to choose a maximum of 3 interests from 15 categories: Movie, Music, Travel, Fashion, Literature, Animation, Horoscope etc.
And 10 minutes later I’m a Sina Weibo DaRen. The DaRen badge is different from the standard verification, instead of an orange V, I now possess a red star next to my username.
Standard criteria for Sina Weibo DaRen:
I was asked to join the beta so the standards were relaxed, but here are the standard criteria for a Weibo DaRen application:
- Have a real self-profile photo.
- Bond to a mobile number, so he/she can send Weibo via mobile phone.
- Follow a minimum of 100 people.
- Have a minimum of 100 followers.
- Follow back at least 30 people (this may impose a 30% follow back rate)
Even though I was invited to the beta, I somehow managed to fail in my first application. In my second application, I figured that I was required to select 3 interests (I only picked one the first time) and within 10 minutes I was branded a Weibo DaRen. Let’s have a deeper look at the criteria set to apply for DaRen.
The Mutual Follow = Sina Weibo’s Equivalent of Friends
On the user’s side he/she has to be an active user with 100 followed and followers. The 30 mutual follows is derived from Sina’s idea that if two users mutually follow each other, they are friends. So Sina is imposing the rule that DaRen must not only be active, but must also interact with their friends, and establish their own social networks.
There are no clear rules yet in terms of content, but each user will follow the interests they pick in application. That will lift up the importance attached to content they produce on specific topics. In short, Sina Weibo is pushing for a real-identity social network, and they are being creative in their approach. Each geo-location will host their own Weibo Group for those who share similar interests, in a bid for more user interaction. Active Weibo DaRen will be awarded with real prizes, though details are still forthcoming.
Red Stars and Verified Identities for All
Sina is building the real-identity social network that other SNS sites like Renren claim to be, but Sina’s verification requirements are stricter, including personal information such as ID number and home address. The DaRen verification system opens that up to users who are not public figures and professionals.
This was precisely the idea behind Shuoba, Baidu’s Weibo-clone which required all users to verify their identity. That real-name attempt largely failed (Baidu now needs to buy friends in social) and Baidu has since rescinded those requirements, but Sina is now adding those verifications for users on a voluntary basis.
Sina Weibo may just have the scale and incentives to entice users to do so. Everyone likes to be recognized as an ‘expert’ in something, especially if it comes with the status of a shiny red star.
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