World Leaders on Weibo
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
A major appeal of celebrities, athletes, and companies’ accounts on popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are the fact that they are a direct way for the average person to directly initiate conversations with them. As the lines between information and entertainment become more blurred, popularity on these new, digital platforms are becoming more important ways than ever to gain influence, and political figures are not excluded.
However with both of the main social media players blocked in China, one would assume political figures would be eager to connect to Chinese netizens through at least one of China’s popular social platforms, like Sina Weibo. According to Sina, over 200 politicians are registered on the social network but there is a surprising lack of heads of states. Of the political figures on Weibo, only 4 of them are extraordinarily high-ranking politicians (one of whom is actually retired).
In addition to the United Nations’ presence on social media, the four prevalent world leaders with a Weibo presence are Israeli President Shimon Peres, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and the ex-Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd. In the below infographic, Mailman Group broke down the four accounts’ amount of followers and engagement, in an effort to analyse just how successful they are at communicating and engaging with the body of Chinese netizens.
As seen above, Chinese netizens have become very connected with world politics and affairs, with 62% of the United Nations’ combined Twitter, Facebook, and Weibo followers. Also holding more average engagement than Weibo’s western microblogging counterpart Twitter, users of China’s biggest social media network are keenly interacting with the political ongoings of the world through social media.
While China’s dominant population definitely serves as a factor for the large Weibo following of world leaders, it is still surprising to see a social network that relatively excludes all populations other than China, having such large enthrallment with non-Chinese political leaders. In fact, the politicians Weibo accounts have amassed a larger following than their individual Twitter pages, despite Twitter being the more popular choice of microblogging in the politicians native countries (this is also applicable to Shimon Peres, who despite not having a Twitter account, has less ‘likes’ on Facebook – Israel’s most popular social networking site – than he does Weibo).
The population factor aside, it is still astonishing to see the level of engagement on Weibo, so we looked at the substance of some popular content to derive some insights into why some of these politicians posts went viral.
High engagement with a post from UK Prime Minister David Cameron regarding same-sex marriage indicates an interest in the access to personal opinions, instead of news sources regarding similar subject matter
Seeing Weibo as a form of direct communication with higher-ups, there were many questions to Israeli President Shimon Peres upon his launch concerning Israeli visa applications for Chinese citizens, and whether or not there would be an implementation of leniency in accordance with the two countries mutually prosperous history of relations