Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to rule on Weibo

Shown above from top are Weibo accounts of Psy, Jang Keun-suk and Lee

Rapper/singer Psy
Jang Keun-suk
Lee Jun-ki
By Chung Ah-young

Social networking services (SNS) are becoming a crucial tool for hallyu stars to communicate with their fans. But like a double-edged sword, their reputations can be tarnished overnight due to controversial messages thoughtlessly posted, or it can effectively boost their profiles.

Regardless of its disputable function, a growing number of hallyu stars are relying on SNS activities to promote themselves. They upload their day to day activities from what they eat, where they go or when they go to bed.

Among several popular microblogs, a soaring number of hallyu stars are choosing Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, with its 365 million users (100 million of which are active as of August, 2012), as it is home to their young Chinese-speaking fans. Also, it relieves their concerns of possible controversies they may cause regarding remarks they might make on SNS with a large number of Korean users. Actor/singer Jang Keun-suk has recently attracted more than 10 million followers on his Weibo account, which is regarded as a barometer of popularity in Chinese-speaking countries. The number of Jang’s followers is second to singer/rapper Psy’s 25 million.

Jang, whose Twitter followers once reached more than 250,000 followers among Korean users, vowed to quit using it in November 2011, to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding from his postings.

Since then, he has concentrated on Weibo activities and now has the second largest number of followers among Korean stars.

His recently soaring popularity has been attributed to the television drama series, “You’re Beautiful,” (2009) which gave him the nickname “Asian prince.” It began airing through China’s Central Television 8 (CCTV 8) on July 18.

Both Jang and Psy have expanded their Chinese fan bases due to “You’re Beautiful” and “Gangnam Style,” respectively. However, Jang’s recent success on Weibo is a bit different.

Keen on adapting himself to a fast-changing media landscape such as launching his mobile application a few years ago, Jang has made good use of his popularity in China by using different methods to gain potential fans. Since opening his account in August 2011, he has continuously uploaded his recent activities mostly in Chinese. His Chinese fans instantly respond to his postings. It gives his fans a sort of intimacy as his schedules and activities can be known directly through him and not through his management agency.

In order to communicate with his fans, he has been eager to learn the Chinese language in the same way that he has learned the Japanese language. He recorded his songs in Chinese, Japanese and Korean for the album titled “I Just Wanna Have Fun” with Team H, his project band.

Actor Lee Jun-ki has garnered some 6 million followers on Weibo, revving up his popularity in China since he opened an account in February 2012. Renowned for his movie “The King and the Clown,” he has returned to the small screen with “Two Weeks” on MBC.

Lee was specially featured on Hunan TV’s variety show “Happy Camp” in May with the highest ratings among other shows in the same timeslot. Lee’s Chinese fans have already been posting a banner of his new drama “Two Weeks” on the subway to support him, according to his management agency.

“His popularity in China is getting higher due to his new drama. Many Chinese fans have been interacting constantly with Lee through Weibo,” the agency said.

In Korea, SNS has been often used by ‘socialtainers’ or ‘politainers,’ such as Lee Hyori, Kim Je-dong and Kim Mi-wha, who like to post their socially conscious messages. However, since some sensitive postings put them in the hot seat among Korean users, a growing number of stars are avoiding their SNS activities. Instead, Weibo is becoming an attractive means for hallyu stars who can communicate with more potential fans while avoiding potential trouble.

Han Chae-young also moved her microblog from the Twitter account popular with her Korean fans to Weibo after her New Year greeting in her Lamborghini in January sparked a sudden controversy over her extravagance.

Also, Choo Ja-hyun, whose semi-nude photos taken on her hanbok for a Chinese magazine, came under fire from Koreans for damaging the national costume’s image. After that scandal, she does not use Twitter and instead is active on Weibo.

“Small problems can lead to big controversies on SNS in Korea. Also, there are more encouraging and supportive comments than malicious ones. Because of this, hallyu stars who can converse in the local language are moving to Weibo,” an official of one of the entertainment agencies said.

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