While the investment world is fixated on Sina Weibo’s business model, Tencent Weibo is quietly improving its user experience. For Tencent, Weibo is not a product that needed to be urgently monetized, but one that can be perfected over time. CEO Pony Ma is also known as the company’s lead product manager.
Tencent Weibo is now the closest to the Twitter experience of any of the microblogs I’ve seen in China. Yet it also has special merits of its own.
The reign of the Sina Dynasty may be on the wane in the realm of Chinese microblogs. Regional warlords have risen rapidly to take advantage of weaknesses on the fringes of Sina’s empire. To add to Sina’s troubles, upstarts are recruiting confused citizenry in guerrilla warfare and sleeping Titans may be starting to stir.
It’s the Chinese Lunar New Year in China, the Year of Dragon, which feeds a television frenzy that culminates in CCTV’s (China Central Television) Spring Festival Show. Watching these shows I noticed that Tencent Weibo–not Sina–is the dominant partner (surely because they paid the most money).
In 2012, Tencent will continue to push forward aggressively in social and present a formidable challenge to Sina. In my first blog post of 2012, let’s have a look at how the two top microblog players in China will fare against each other.
On last Friday, Follow 5′s operation manager Bi Yang (毕扬) announced on Sina Weibo that their servers will shut down in 30 days. This is the first major casualty of the Microblog War in China, and the death of an innovative startup that had so much potential. I wrote this post over the weekend to share how an innovative startup dies in China.
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 users, and from June 115 million active users.
The truth internet companies are terribly secretive about some of the key figures of their social sites that included the number of total registered users and the most crucial one, monthly active users. When figures are released they tended to be out of proportion or simply down right false. Then how do we know if these sites are active or not, especially compared to their competitors? Well, one important aspect of socializing online is sharing contents to your friends and I have compiled data from China’s top social button provider Jiathis.com from the last six months to show the trend of activeness of the top 5 social sites: QZone, Tencent Weibo, Sina Weibo, Renren and Kaixin001.
For the past weeks, I have been obsessed with the idea that Sina Weibo, formerly the “Chinese Twitter,” is evolving into a full-fledged SNS. Still, many question me as to how a microblog can possibly support the same functionality as a social network like Facebook or Renren.
To shed more light on how Sina Weibo is becoming a SNS by functionality, I’ve made a simple infographic comparing Renren, currently China’s largest real-name SNS, and Sina Weibo. Sina Weibo amazingly reached its 100th million user within 500 days, a feat that took Twitter almost 4 years, an indication of its strong network virality.
In the weibo wars, Sina is attacking while Tencent is defending. Sina Weibo is acquiring new users for Sina, while Tencent is channeling existing users to a new service.
An infographic by Edelman (below), copied from an equity report by Credit Suisse [PDF], hammers this point home. Of Tencent Weibo users, 92% are also users of Qzone. In reverse, of Qzone users, 36% are also users of Tencent Weibo.
In other words, Sina can win a new userbase, while the best Tencent can do is not lose.
Our team at iChinaStock created a slideshare “Inside Tencent Weibo.” In the process, it became clear that it’s impossible to introduce Tencent Weibo independently of Tencent’s other social services: QQ Messenger, Qzone (nickname SNS), and Pengyou (real-name SNS). Tencent Weibo is available inside of each–you never even have to go to t.qq.com to be a Tencent Weibo user.
In US terms, Tencent’s social hub is as if AIM, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter were owned by one company, and all cross-promoted and synced to each other. That also explains part of Tencent’s surely inflated user numbers–content is often synced across Tencent’s social services by default, but counts as an “active user” on each.
China’s social networking landscape is diverse and thriving. No single player is nearly as dominant as Facebook in the U.S. and there’s a long tail of networks for different users (urban and rural) and different purposes (social, dating, and games). Here are the top 15 social networks in China.
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