Think Asia Group launches new research project: The China Internet and Social Media Data Monitor

The China Internet and Social Media Data Monitor aims to provide stakeholders from multinational businesses and governments with insights on social media and internet data trends in China.

In the coming months, we will publish several articles that include various data obtained through China’s major social media platforms.

In our first CISM series, we will present the rankings of top nations on Sina Weibo. How often are Chinese netizens actively mentioning a certain country? Which countries are the most popular on Weibo?

It’s all in the hashtags

Weibo’s hashtags allow Chinese netizens to either create topics or to follow trendy discussions. They are created by netizens, powerful marketers, celebrities, so-called top influencers or institutions. In fact, most social media sensations came to life based on these hashtags.

But why are Chinese netizens using country-specific hashtags (e.g. #USA#, #Japan# or #Germany#)? A quick look reveals that Weibo users use country hashtags to express themselves (e.g. sharing travel pictures with friends and colleagues) or to consume and share entertainment-related information (e.g. highlights of popular culture from a foreign country).

More interestingly, they also use country-related hashtags to comment on political matters or current events (e.g. the 13/11 Paris attacks). Moreover, Chinese netizens search for popular hashtags to obtain information about the most recent China-related and international events.

Marketers, but also academic researchers can use these hashtags to make real-time observations when monitoring open discussions on Weibo. For journalists this can provide interesting data too, as they nowadays often try to quote from Chinese social media for China-related articles.

According to some China social media experts, Sina Weibo can be regarded as being the “pulse” of Chinese netizens’ opinions and sentiments. Therefore, active discussions on Weibo do – at least to a certain extend – represent China’s “Zeitgeist”. Also, in contrast to the closed discussions on the popular “social network” Weixin (WeChat), which boasts three times more monthly average users (MAUs), Sina Weibo remains open and accessible for public viewings.

China Internet and Social Media Data Monitor – Weibo rankings

The top nations on Weibo
Our first CISM series on the top rankings of different nations features three categories. The first category shows the top ten group of all countries, while the second category feature the rankings of the G20 states. The last category looks at the rankings of all APEC countries.

Our CISM data monitor starts with data from January 2016. If you are interested in more social media data, please sign-up to our newsletter!

How the Weibo nations ranking works
In fact, Weibo calls the hashtags – which resembles Twitter’s hashtags in its functionality – “topics” (话题). Our Weibo rankings tracks how often a certain country hashtag has been actively used.

Please note that there are three possible performance indicators for a hashtag: views (阅读), amount of usage (评论, which literally translates to “comments”), and fans (粉丝).

The “views” numbers are much higher than the amount of hashtag usage. But in our opinion the “views” are a much more passive indicator than the frequency of hashtag usage. Whenever a hashtag appears on a timeline, it does not automatically mean that it has been “actively” read or accessed by an user. However, if a user uses a certain hashtag, as indicated with “amount of usage”, this means that he or she is using it to express an unique statement. The indicator “fans” can be neglected since they remain very low (the range remains within single digit numbers), which means that the majority of Weibo users do not become fans of hashtags at all. Therefore, we used the “amount of usage” as the single, most reliable performance indicator for our Weibo rankings.

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