China’s second-most popular microblogging service, Tencent Weibo, launched their English version last week to target the international market. For the first time, non-Chinese speaking users can sample a little taste of Weibo, the Chinese social networking phenomenon.

Tencent Weibo, according to the company’s latest quarterly earnings report, has reached 233 million ‘active’ users, up from 115 million in June.

So I’ll take this opportunity to walk you through Tencent Weibo’s key features, which have a few catchy differences from its main competitor, Sina Weibo.

Key Tencent Weibo Features

Functionality-wise Tencent Weibo offers the most comprehensive suite of multi-media.

For photo-sharing, users can select direct upload, link from another site, or edit together multiple photos.

Text-to-phone has a preset background theme where a user can type in a message, kind of like making a birthday card. And of course taking a live shot from web cam is also an available option.

Music sharing is fully integrated with QQ Music. Or upload your own.

In videos, like Sina Weibo, Tencent also allow users to upload their own videos, which will be filtered presumably in-part by algorithm and in-part by manual censors.

The last posting option is the most interesting of all: you can ask a question on Tencent Q&A. And in the English version, you can even ask, well, English questions.

When reposting (or retweeting), Tencent also offers much more than its competitors: the standard is reposting with comments or simply leaving a comment.

But on Tencent Weibo, under the same post (tweet), you can “enter” dialog mode, which allows you to chat privately with the post’s originator. And this dialog will appear on your timeline only. That sure would have been useful for “China’s Anothony Weiner,” who unwittingly had a salacious public conversation with his young mistress on Sina Weibo.

Tencent, of course, largely depends on your existing social graph and remixes it into Tencent Weibo. You’re advised to register with your QQ IM account, which then recommends friends and allows you to post directly to QQ IM, QQ Email, QZone or Direct Message via Weibo.

Apart from these features, Tencent Weibo also has instant messaging built-in for you and your Weibo friends.

The Fundamental Differences Between Tencent and Sina Weibo

Sina Weibo is without-a-doubt Tencent’s most serious enemy. In functionality the two are similar, but the fundamental product strategy is very different.

Sina Weibo is Sina’s single greatest effort in dominating a part of China’s internet space they weren’t familiar with until 2010 when Weibo became the social network of choice for many Chinese internet users. So it is the spearhead for the firm.

Tencent already has a host of social products from QQ, with it’s 700 million registered users, to QZone, a nickname-based personal spaces, and PengYou, a real name SNS. So the last thing Tencent really needs is to focus too much on one product. So Tencent Weibo is more like a social aggregator.

Tencent’s aims to seamlessly sync between most of its products so that every activity from every other QQ social product shows up in Weibo (and vice versa). After following a friend’s Weibo, you can recieve updates from his/her activities on other services like QZone and PengYou too.

No matter which Tencent product you use, personal updates and content-sharing can and will all comes back to Tencent.

Even football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (@C罗) is on Tencent Weibo, albeit via a rather lame PR handler

An International Experiment, Not a Twitter-Killer

First, let’s not fool ourselves and see this as a move to destroy Twitter, ’cause that ain’t going to happen. So please spare us the “Watch Out Twitter” articles. This is a tiny experiment, not a Twitter-killer.

According to Tencent Weibo’s Chief Commander  Xing HongYu, the English version is the first step in capturing the international market, non-Chinese speaking users. My guess is the target is mostly Asia Pacific users from countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines.

Also it’s expected for Tencent to push yet another of its product on to the international stage after its QQ International, which hasn’t had much of an impact.

To have your own Tencent Weibo experience, sign up on QQ International first then use the same account as log-in to Tencent Weibo. If you are outside of China, it will automatically be in English. If in China, go to the bottom of the page and select English.

You’re all set to experience China’s wonderful world of Weibo.

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  • Cheng Chen

    I’m signing up now – can barely understand their horrible English instructions…

  • Jeremy Webb

    Great post. Good job, too, for taking Tencent Weibo seriously. You are months and perhaps years ahead of most marketers.

  • Jeremy Webb

    But you still don’t have TC Weibo as one of your main sharing option?

  • Nissa Annakindt

    Now that they have English they need to have an Esperanto language version– Facebook does. And China Radio International has an Esperanto service….

  • Carl

    Ronaldo has sweaty armpits.