Chinese web portal Sina (NASDAQ:SINA - News) has been having a hard time making money out of its popular Twitter-esque site Weibo, and a report suggests that the next monetization step will be putting ads in the form of promoted tweets (yes, as Twitter is doing) in the timelines of Sina Weibo users (pictured above).
The ad product has been confirmed by a Sina representative to the Chinese blog Techweb, but there’s no timeframe for its official launch. The new social ads are called “Weibo Tui Guang” - literally: Weibo Promoted Ads - and the system is currently in beta testing with brands like automaker BMW and Chinese online travel agent Ctrip (NASDAQ:CTRP - News) already signed up and helping Sina to test them out. The promoted ads will carry the latest tweet from the participating brand, and they’ll show up at the top of a user’s timeline on the Weibo.com site - and perhaps in the official Weibo app too - before floating downstream.
It’s not clear how targeted these ads will be. For example, could a certain brand reach out only to users in a certain area of China, or only to users of a certain gender? That would make the new Weibo ad product a good way of giving social media followers some useful localized deals or information.
Sina Weibo has proved to be the hottest and most buzzed of the Twitter clones in China, soaring to 350 million registered users earlier this year. To offset its huge running costs - not least in terms of the amount of media censorship that authorities are requiring of it - Sina has been piling on features such as optional VIP memberships and a social gaming platform.
[Source: Techweb - article in Chinese]