Don't fall into these Weibo mistakes

So your organization is putting together a concerted effort to attract those inbound Chinese travelers who have been pouring out of that country and have managed to overtake the Americans for top spot in the total amount of dollars spent abroad in 2012, and you have decided that having a Chinese Weibo account (microblogging account, a cross between Facebook and Twitter) is a good way to reach out to these potential travelers.

If you have outsourced the Weibo management service to a third party, you would find the following two pieces of advice useful – even if they won’t turn your Weibo into a white hot account with a 7-digit following, at least it would help you avoid a PR disaster or becoming a chuckle du jour.

To illustrate what I mean, take the following real life posts from an official DMO Weibo account. The actual account and the texts are blurred out of respect for the destination bureau.

Weibo - auto accident


The image to the left is a re-post about a recent auto accident which happened in the city. Apparently a driver on the overpass lost control of her car. It jumped the barrier, went through the guard rail and landed on the highway of traffic below, resulting in some serious traffic jam from midday to midnight on that day. Not sure if anyone died as a result.

And the message of the post: watch out for falling objects from above while driving in this town. Frown

OK, next one – same Weibo account, different day.

Weibo post

This one was also  a re-post about the not so wonderful effects of global warming, such as the rising of the sea level. The original post describes a website with an interactive map which allows one to play with the sea level to find out how much an area gets affected and covered by the rising water. The rhetorical question was, how much would our wonderful destination city still remain dry if the water level goes up by four meters? The answer was, surprise surprise, not too freaking much (as in sweet friendly all). The author rubbed it in with a “pretty scary” comment and threw in a bawling emoticon for good measure.

I didn’t make this up folks. Sensational posts? Maybe. Inspirational to a prospective visitor? Well…. you decide.

Which brings us to the couple of takeaways from this article.

Pick the right service provider if you have to outsource the Weibo account

This advice sounds a little obvious but it takes on an added degree of importance because of the language aspect.

It is not unusual for most organizations to lack in-house resources who take care of social media marketing, let alone in a foreign language. In addition, it is also not uncommon that the company you outsource the management of your Weibo account to also outsources your account to yet another third party.

In our experience in dealing with social media writers and language translators here and abroad, unless you are dealing with the end persons directly or have all the kinks ironed out with your third party service providers, you would have to be prepared to deal with inconsistent quality and surprises from time to time.

Whereas a questionable post in English might get picked up fairly quickly by you, your fellow workers or your friends, a same post in Chinese might go undetected for a long time as most people in your office can’t read it. The last thing you want is for the feedback to be coming from the customers or, worse yet, no feedback at all. By the way, the above posts are still published and alive out there.

Make sure you do your due diligence on the outsourcing company and understand how they will ensure quality. If you know or suspect they are the middleman, make sure you will be able to maintain a direct and responsive channel with the gatekeeper. Having the gatekeeper in the same time zone and understand your business culture would allow for speedier access and more effective interactions should problems arise.

Remember, know your pilot. Otherwise you are flying completely blind.

Make sure you have a coherent content strategy

The failure of #2 is often a key contributing factor of #1.

Judging by the Facebook posts and Tweets out there in the English speaking world, it is evident that a lot of businesses are struggling to maintain a steady stream of interesting and engaging content to post day in and day out. It is pretty damn hard to write something interesting when there is a lack of content from which to source.

Now you can imagine the guy or gal who was in charge of your Weibo account. He had no content to source from. He needed to talk to you but you were already in bed, and, in any case, you spoke Greek as far as he was concerned. In his desperation to come up with something, anything, he did a keyword search on the city and grabbed the first two results which happened to be highway hell and high water.  So hell and high water it was.

So regardless of whether your content consists of texts, images, videos, something that parallels Facebook/Twitter posts, articles from journalists, bloggers or third party grass-root writers, having a rough editorial calendar ahead of time detailing the frequency of posts, the types and how they are sourced would make sure that the posts are relevant and timely and the content pipeline is not subjected to bouts of feast or famine.

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