china China Fashion Finds fashion

Weibo’s YouTube-effect.

The YouTube Effect of China's social media. Can WeChat and Weibo create a fashion star?
Featured image: Michelle Phan for Youtube

The following piece was written by Elsbeth van Paridon and originally published (March 23, 2016) on Whatsonweibo. Editor-in-Chief of this ever-trending site, Manya Koetse, kindly added the intro. 


Stories of YouTube stars turning into successful entrepreneurs have become manifold. With the so-called ‘Youtube Effect’, anyone can become an online fashion influencer or money maker from behind their computer. Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Sina Weibo have their own Youtube Effect.


Since launching in 2005, YouTube has provided society with a new way to consume, create, share and, most importantly, make money. When purely focusing on the platform’s advertising and marketing aspects, YouTube has enabled small businesses to reach millions of viewers, something that could previously only be achieved by big corporate names with equally big budgets. The ability to upload one’s own videos showing off anything from beauty tutorials to guitar tickling has translated into liquid assets (a.k.a. ad fees) for a lucky few – thanks to those brands drawing in that one YouTuber to promote their product. Other platform users have taken it one successful step further by landing lucrative deals, gaining fame and fortune (think Justin Bieber) or scoring the chance to create their own merchandising or fashion lines.


Michelle Phan: From Youtube makeup tutorial expert to full-fledged brand owner. Photo:


From ad fees to reader’s rewards

Vietnamese-American Michelle Phan became a poster girl of YouTube (8,4 million subscribers) when she got to set up a personal cosmetics brand just by diligently uploading make-up tutorials onto the video platform. Now, with all that being very fine and dandy, how do WeChat (also known as Weixin) and Sina Weibo fit into this mold?


“Luxury brands such as Chanel and Prada are turning to online celebrities for targeted marketing. When releasing products, these companies often invite online celebrities to advertise the products on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter,” AsiaOne on March 17 reports: “In China, there are 688 million Internet users so the knack of influencing even some of them could make one a ‘Key Opinion Leader’.”


China’s celebrities boast huge online flocks on leading social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat. They have follower numbers the average Western celeb could only rival in their wildest dreams. These numbers can become real-life red bills by several means, from the traditional luxury brand ad fee to one of the more noticeable ones being a tip and virtual gift system. “When an online celebrity publishes a fashion-themed article on WeChat, China’s most popular instant messaging tool, readers can reward the author with tips ranging from 1 yuan (S$0.20) to 256 yuan by using its digital payment tool,” AsiaOne continues.


The Sina Weibo Effect

Between WeChat and Weibo, the latter especially attracts China’s young people; nearly 70 percent of its users are below the age of 30. China’s Post-90s generation is one popular clientele demographic, with brands from all over the world trying to tap into it. Even Vogue China magazine has offered up a small WeChat preview to its new Vogue Me publication aimed at the Post-90s fashionista. Nevertheless, Weibo still excels in the P.R. stakes compared to WeChat. Its impact has been described as follows:


“If you have over 1,000 followers, you are a billboard; if this exceeds 10,000, you are like a magazine. If there are 100,000 people following you, you are a metropolis newspaper. With 1,000,000 followers, you’re basically a TV-channel.” Sounds like music to any brand’s ears – even if it is Justin Bieber singing.


Many a foreign brand today remains eager to further extend its reach across mainland China. Weibo, WeChat, as well as online streaming services such as Youku, have become indispensable components of their core strategies. Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry or Diane von Fuerstenberg (the brand, not the lady) have all managed to capitalize on their social media tactics in the Middle Kingdom. So has Durex, which is in fact one of the top foreign brands on Weibo currently, with 1,130,305 followers as of 2014.


Just think about it: What IT-girl, singer or actress wouldn’t want a brand new Diane wrap-dress or Burberry bag in her closet? One click to upload a pic can generate 100,000 hits and a boost in daily income. To tip it all off, they will have acquired a befitting must-have. It is, indeed, the YouTube effect.


What’s on Weibo? Cold hard cash.