UK Universities and Weibo

May 26, 2014


Just the other week, The Complete University Guide has released its University League Table for 2015 The ranking was a big hit on Chinese social media site Weibo, with Chinese students eagerly anticipating the publication of the rankings as they plan which UK university they will choose to apply to.

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The University League Table 2015 has been reposted 831 times on Weibo so far.[/caption]

As PingPong Digital works with education institutes we conduct a lot of research in to this area, and when I saw the publication I thought it would be a good opportunity to write something about this.

Our research has come with good news and bad news. One piece of good news is that over half of the 123 institutes who appeared on the league table have some kind of presence on Weibo, these institutes have recognised that it is important to have a presence on one of the worlds biggest social media platforms, and have understood the benefits that can come from having a direct communication method with students. There are however some common pitfalls that many of these accounts are making when trying to use their Weibo account as a professional brand awareness and CRM tool, I have divided these in to 4 sections below:


 There are many common mistakes made during the account set-up process. Just like twitter, Weibo allows organisations as well as personal accounts to be verified so that your followers know this is the official account. Our research however has highlighted that most University accounts remain unverified.

 Unverified accounts can also lead to confusion as the official account is one of many accounts that claim to be the “official” one, this is especially common with some education agencies who will speak as an official mouthpiece of many an institute in order to attract students to their agency, which can often result in a damaged social media brand presence.

 The third problem of an unverified account is a lack of functions that can offer more rich media to Weibo fans and provide a more professional image. 

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Even Weibo has been trying to encourage educational institutes to Verify themselves[/caption]


Even though most universities have a Weibo account, our research shows that most of these accounts are inactive. The way we defined an “inactive account” is if there is less than 15 original posts on a Weibo account. This is a fair measurement if you take into consideration that most Universities post at least twice a day on their Western social media such as Facebook and twitter.

But over half of the Universities’ accounts failed to meet this standard by having less than 10 posts a month and there are also many Weibo accounts that haven’t been updated in months.


This is another common mistake made by most University accounts. We believe that content is king, and we put a huge amount of effort in to making engaging and quality content. One issue here is that platforms such as Weibo and Wechat are being handed over to people who are not social media experts, they are not marketers, and therefore do not understand how to represent a brands presence online or what type of content they should be posting up. Just as most Universities will have a team of people overseeing their Facebook and Twitter, this is also vital for other social media platforms as well, finding these people of course is difficult (which is why PingPong Digital exists).


Zombie followers are a typical Chinese social media phenomenon. You can easily go to Taobao or any other Chinese e-commerce site and buy millions of fake followers. The recent popularity of Zombie followers can be attributed to the misconception that the more fake followers an account has the more real followers they will gain, however this is not the case, and fake followers can aid in the damage to a brands reputation. As Weibo discovers these Zombie accounts they actively remove them, so a fake follower account will constantly drop followers, and cast doubt by genuine “fans” as to a brands reputation, with the decline in those “following” the account.

These are four different types of mistakes made by UK Universities when managing their Weibo accounts, this is normally made because there is a lack of understanding about the importance of Chinese social media to a brands reputation, and often it is the responsibility of people who may not fully grasp how much time and effort is required to make a brand successful on Chinese social media.

Confucius says “He that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” and without the right structure or right people doing the job, Chinese social media will always fall short and in the long term will hinder those who have not taken the time to sharpen their tools, whilst those who have will be the ones that succeed. 

Article by: River Huang, Jimmy Robinson