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China’s Twitter Comes Back From the Dead

Weibo reignited user growth with partnerships and rural outreach.


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Three years ago, Weibo, China’s closest analogue to Twitter, appeared to be losing out to messaging app WeChat. WeChat was designed principally for person-to-person communications, and its ­popularity soared after it incorporated mobile payment systems, while interest in public posts such as Weibo’s started to wane. Weibo’s parent, internet portal Sina Corp., decided to spin off the site, and with analysts predicting its demise, investors didn’t show much interest in Weibo’s initial public offering.

“It was a total disaster in terms of an IPO roadshow, I can tell you,” says Charles Chao, Sina’s chairman and chief executive officer, who’s featured in this week’s Decrypted podcast. The IPO raised $286 million, well short of expectations. “With internet products, once you lose momentum, it’s very hard to come back.”