Sina finally reaches into the pockets of third-party Weibo marketing agencies.

Earlier this week, (fuwu means serving in Chinese) was launched for third-party companies or individuals doing Weibo-related business, marketing, public relations, data analysis, third-party application development, or training & consulting. Demonstrated cases show that the official backing, in addition to a partnership with third-party services, helped advertisers get more Weibo fans, reposts and comments, post impressions, or even more return customers. It appears to be a platform for the benefit of third-party players on Sina Weibo, as its domain name reads.

But news broke out that Sina Weibo asked accounts, who have been doing Weibo marketing business but are not verified as so, to sign business contracts with the company and hand over 20% of their revenues, or, links in their Weibo posts would be blocked, according to Sohu Tech’s report (article in Chinese). An industry source told the reporter that Sina’s targets are those with more than 500 thousand followers, unverified, well-known “large grass-root accounts”.

Selected Jokes as a Sina Weibo account has attracted approaching 10.6mn fans by posting jokes. Even though unverified, it’s widely known who are behind it: Du Zijian and his investor Cai Wensheng, a veteran investor and mentor in China’s internet industry. Du’s company owns a handful of Weibo accounts posting content to audiences‘ interests thus gained millions of followers. Also under Mr. Cai’s wings are a couple of companies who also possess Weibo accounts with a huge number of followers in total. Those accounts are called large grass-root accounts.

Those accounts began accepting advertising deals from the end of 2011 and ad coverage was crazy in early 2012, according to Fan Shao, the guy behind I was Shocked then and several other well-known grass-root accounts (article in Chinese). Accounts in his hands made an increase in daily revenue, from 20 thousand yuan to 30 thousand yuan, from the past July, Fan disclosed. Previously they didn’t accept advertising for fear of hurting user experience, but they had to as Weibo user activity indeed declined in this year.

In fact, long before Sina Weibo’s emergence, a bunch of nobodies had started making a living in the online social space by doing content marketing for businesses. They began from BBSs such as Tianya, to social networks, and to Weibo. They knew a good thing when Sina Weibo became a national phenomenon, and, they knew better about how to monetize online social power than Sina itself.

I heard that Sina tried to make money in the same way with those grass-root accounts with its own accounts which had been used for posting news content and other information. No matter how much money has been made there, it seems far less than enough to cover the costs and make the Weibo myth sense-making in terms of revenue. It’s not been too long since Sina’s Charles Chao touted the six approaches to monetize Weibo — excluding snatching food from the mouth of third-party Weibo marketing agencies.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at

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