I have decided to follow on from last week’s blog post based on the celebrities of Chinese social media, namely Han Han’s following on Sina Weibo, by investigating Western celebrities and their use of the social media site as this could be recognised as a peripheral group. The rise of Western celebrities using Sina Weibo has come about due to China now being the second biggest market for Hollywood movies worldwide, so it makes sense that those who star in these movies or intend to, find a way to tap into the market (Stadd 2013).
One of the most popular U.S celebrities on Weibo is Tom Cruise, with over 5 million followers, and from examining his profile it is interesting to note that his posts are in both English and Chinese on the original site, meaning I don’t require a translator to understand his profile. Most posts are plugs for his upcoming movies, mixed in with the occasional shout out to his Chinese fans. It’s evident to me that the majority of these posts are lacking the sincerity and personalisation of a true account, and after checking his Twitter account, many posts mimic eachother. It’s also interesting to note that his account is identified as the ‘officialtomcruise’ with a gold V placed next to his name, unlike in other Weibo accounts.
After doing some research, I discovered that the gold V is a form of verification given to public figures to denote their status, which creates a two-tiered system amongst users. This I think is ironic because it seems against the social equality promoted by such a platform and within my Western society if compared to Twitter, where freedom of speech is the founding appeal, but it is somewhat supportive of Chinese culture in the sense that they seek approval and authenticity (DeWoskin 2012).
It was also unsurprising to discover that someone has found a way to make money out of this lucrative market of placing U.S celebrities on Sina Weibo. FansTang, a cross-platform media and entertainment company, specialises in exposing U.S celebrities to the Chinese market via promoting them through various media channels and most popularly Weibo. Essentially the company specialises in translating content from their other social media platforms and places it on Weibo, which would explain why Tom Cruise’s content is often the same and written in both English and Chinese. The concept behind FansTang seems frivolous to me because in essence a marketing team is translating what another marketing team has written, which can easily be done using Google Translate, and contradicts this notion of authenticity and verification noted by the gold V, however, from a marketing perspective it is genius and fundamental to a celebrity’s following or potential following in China. Currently, U.S celebrities could be considered a peripheral group amongst Weibo users, but FansTang is quickly building a large base of celebrities to manage and we could see it become a major group in the near future.