An ad for Weibo in Beijing's subway. (Photo/CFP)
Although Sina Weibo, China's leading equivalent of Twitter, has yet to achieve the desired monetization of its operations, many of its users have pocketed handsome profits from marketing activities via their accounts.
Many Weibo account holders are actually online marketing firms which utilize their microblogs to carry out promotional activities. Those owners charge prices ranging from several hundred yuan (100 yuan=US$16) to tens of thousands of yuan for spreading an ad via their accounts. An owner of a Weibo account specializing in sending jokes reportedly rakes in 15 million yuan (US$2.4 million) a year from bundling ads together with the jokes that other uses have subscribed for.
The Beijing-based Investor Journal magazine reports that based on in-depth analysis of subscriber data, Twitter by contrast sends ads only to interested individual subscribers, rather than spamming people who have signed up for something else.
Sina Weibo, on the other hand, is not as good at data mining and effective marketing. Since [web portal] Sina's products are based on media, Weibo is weak in effective marketing, says Dong Xun, an analyst with Analysys International.
Many media outlets and celebrities use Weibo to publish news, commentaries and to conduct PR activities. In the third quarter of 2012, Sina Weibo signed agreements with some major account operators, thereby sharing a cut of their advertising income.
Sina is reportedly testing a new advertisement system which will affect account operators after its introduction. The ad system targets mainly small and medium enterprises, but it is also accessible to general subscribers.