“#UDel is on Weibo! Our Chinese-speaking students and @UDalumni can follow us on the Chinese social network here: weibo.com/udeledu”
The above tweet is going to be the first time many of UD’s social media audience members will learn that we now have a presence on the popular Chinese social media site, Weibo.
What they won’t know however, is that the process which led to us finally being able to tweet that announcement started back in August.
The University of Delaware has a large Chinese community that includes current students on campus as well as international research partners and institutions, parents of current students, and perspective students and alumni living in China.
Many of the social platforms we use here, such as Facebook and Twitter, are blocked in China, meaning that the University’s social media messages weren’t reaching a significant portion of our audience.
Research showed that Weibo, which has been described as similar to both Facebook and Twitter, was one of the most popular social networking sites in China, along with RenRen, which was created by UD alumnus Joe Chen.
Before we start any new account or platform, we have to think about our audience. In what ways would our presence on Weibo benefit a Chinese audience? We reached out to Chinese students who also speak English to find out. Serena Shen, a Chinese graduate student, helped us decide that we would use a UD Weibo account to share stories and pictures from events at UD that convey to our international audience what it is like to attend an American university, and more specifically, the University of Delaware.
With Serena’s help, we set up the account and began populating our Weibo with posts our Chinese audience would find relevant, informative and entertaining.
We quickly learned that if our Weibo account was not verified, which is similar to being verified on Facebook and Twitter, there was no way for our potential Chinese followers to tell if the page was official or not. The Chinese audience holds the Weibo verification in high regard, and we realized that without a verified page, we would not be able to gain any significant number of followers or grow our Weibo community.
I won’t go in to too much detail about the verification process, but through a months-long collaborative effort that included UD social media, our graduate student intern/translator, the Confucius Institute at the University of Delaware, representatives from international social media leader the University of Michigan and both Delaware and Michigan’s legal counsels, we finally had all of the verification application documents in Chinese, including the University Seal and the signature of UD’s Vice President of Communications and Marketing Deborah Hayes on each.
In April, we submitted everything to Weibo and waited. A few days went by, with daily checks of our Weibo page to see if the little verified “V” had shown up next to the University’s name in Chinese: 美国特拉华大学. When it finally did, the University of Delaware joined the ranks of verified American institutions such as Yale, Duke, Georgetown, and the University of Michigan.
While the process took longer than expected, it was worth it. Our Weibo audience is growing now that our potential followers can be sure that they’re getting the most accurate and up-to-date information about UD from the University itself.
UD social media is now international and multi-lingual, and the Weibo account is the first step in using social media to expand the University’s reach and impact around the world.
By Ryan Maguire (@ryjmag), Digital Content Specialist.