BEIJING - Micro blogs are set to become the next battlefield in China's online advertising market as the practice becomes more popular among Chinese netizens.
Micro-blogging was still at a nascent stage in China last year, but user numbers are expected to exceed 100 million next year as it is quickly becoming the new marketing tool for multinational companies, such as Nokia, Dell and Lenovo, to promote their brands and products, industry sources say.
"Micro blogs provide a new tool for us to interact with our potential consumers here in China," says Yang Weidong, head of marketing for Nokia in China.
Yang says that because Chinese users are more accepting of this new form of communication compared with Internet users in other countries, the Finnish cell phone maker will increase its investment in marketing Chinese micro blog services in the following years.
In October, Nokia launched unusual news briefings that were held completely on social networking websites, mainly in micro-blogging services. Micro-bloggers could wear a 3D eyepiece to watch Nokia's online 3D promotion video and interact with the company through its micro blog on Sina Weibo, China's largest micro-blogging website.
According to Yang, at least 400,000 users attended this micro-blogging event and more than 1,000 Nokia N8 handsets were booked after the event, which was considered a "very good" experiment for using micro blogs to promote the brand and its products.
Marketing on micro-blogging services is not unique to Nokia. US-based PC maker Dell has also started using micro blogs for marketing purposes in China.
The computer company reportedly used the US micro-blogging website Twitter, which resulted in millions of dollars of sales in the United States. Early this year, Dell opened its Chinese micro blog on Sina Weibo.
Since then, the company has launched several online campaigns to promote its products online, which received "hundreds of thousands" of visits and responses from Chinese micro-bloggers.
According to figures from domestic research firm Analysys International, China's micro-bloggers reached 8 million last year, accounting for a tiny proportion of the country's 420 million Internet users.
However, the number of micro-blogging users had already surpassed 75 million last month. The Beijing-based research firm forecast that the number of China's micro-bloggers will reach 145 million by the end of next year.
"The increasing number of mobile Internet users will make micro-blogging more common among the Chinese," said Yu Ming, an analyst for IT analysis company Dratio.
"With the number of Chinese users of the service continuing to grow, advertisements through micro blogs will become a necessity" as more companies start to realize the commercial value of micro-blogging services, Yu said.