Here is an article I wrote last year which I looked at popular Weibo accounts of UK universities. It will be interesting to see how these universities are doing and who else are popular now. My university, University of Manchester, didn’t have an official Weibo account to represent the university as a whole, although the Business school has their own Weibo account. Recently, the Career Service also started a Weibo account, but it’s in English. I hope to do some more research on this topic and welcome for collaboration proposal!
Popular UK Universities’ Weibo Content Analysis
By Yimei Zhu 17 Feb 2013
Ranked by the amount of followers, the top 6 UK universities’ Sina Weibo (the most popular Chinese microblogging site) accounts were analysed. I looked at the contents on each university’s home page. The top 6 universities are Huddersfield, University of Central Lancashire, Kingston, Sheffield, Westminster and Bristol. I compared their followers and posts numbers with those in August when I first collected the data. Sheffield’s followers increased the fastest by 2300 from 6333 (at August 2012) to 8932 (at 17 Feb 2013). Their posts also increased from 1263 (at August 2012) to 2000 (at 17 Feb 2013). Westminster’s posts increased the fastest by 3300 from 535 to 3830 compared with August 2012, although their followers only increased by 820 from 6097 to 6918. This is probably because many of their posts are repeated ones and their posts are more about releasing news rather than interacting with students.
In general, common characteristics of these 6 popular universities’ Weibo sites are—have a nice design profile, verified account, news release about the universities, pictures of university logo, buildings, students, events in the universities and in the cities and famous researchers or aluminise of the universities. Most of them post information about their courses, the ranking of their universities by other authorities and many with a web link to the original articles, interview opportunities for students by university representatives who are going to visit China, job and internship opportunities.
A few of them have a video posted at the top of their home page. Huddersfield posted an introduction of their new innovation centre. The best one is by Kingston Uni which includes the introduction of the campus and students activities with interviews of Chinese students telling about their lives in Kingston. See http://www.weibo.com/kingstonlondon Huddersfield and Westminster mostly post original source. The others reply and repost more often. It is common to include a web link in a post when disseminating information. Most of them use mainly Chinese language and occasionally English. Most of them repost and reply to related information posted by agencies and other organisation, such as study abroad information, alumni activities in China, graduation pictures, fire alarm situation in campus and all kinds of pictures of students.
As I follow all these 6 universities with my own weibo account, my impression is that Sheffield, Bristol and Westminster are the most active ones in the last few months from whom I’ve received many tweets on a daily base. Sheffield, which gained 2300 followers in 6 months, seem to be actively interact with students and keep it down-to-earth. They have many posts and reposts showing activities in campus and students lives, such as speed-dating event. For example, on the home page of Sheffield, it shows pictures of Sheffield in snow, university logo, students eating dinner together in university halls, building in campus (see the first 2 pictures below). The 3rd picture shows the comments and replies of a post of job consultation fair. When students asked for location and whether registration is needed, the microblogger replied in detail. It gave the sense to other student readers that Sheffield Weibo owner care about them and would communicate with them if they try. Another strategy is to ask question to their fans. For example, they posted a picture and asked ‘who knows where this is?’ (See the last picture) Many students replied. It fostered interaction—not only Sheffield official account interacting with fans, but also fans interacting with each other as they see there is a relaxing down-to-earth environment when people talk freely.
Bristol’s fans also increased fast by 800 in 6 months as they actively interact with students. For example, they congratulated a particular student’s graduation by replying to her post.
Another feature is the message board which Kingston, Bristol and Sheffield have on their profile. Kingston and Bristol have the message board at the end of their home profile, While on Sheffield’s home profile, you have to click on ‘message board’ on the left side to enter the page. On Bristol’s page, they commented on almost every message, thus they have got a lot of questions from students on the message board. Kinston only got 3 messages.
In conclusion, based on my observation of these popular universities’ weibo sites, good contents to post are pictures of campus buildings, student activities, events, researchers of the universities, webpage of relevant news, food on campus. It may be necessary to post news-release type of contents like the official University Twitter account. But those contents shouldn’t be too much, as it will create distance for followers when those contents are not relevant to Chinese students, especially the potential students. Videos of student activities and views of city are good ideas. It needs to be fun and engaging as some videos such as introducing the building can be quite dull and boring. The language should be mainly Chinese and occasionally English. The most important contents are reposts and replies to students, organisation, agencies and other useful sources. This can be done by following those key accounts (popular Chinese news paper, personnel, alumini, CSSA and a list of existing students and staff whose location on Weibo is set as this university) as well as searching key terms on weibo to find useful and interesting information to repost.