Last week, we at Gong were treated to a lunchtime talk by Jonathan Smith of Hot Pot Digital. Jonathan runs a bespoke service, representing a number of the UK’s brands on Chinese social media sites like Sina’s Weibo (China’s Twitter-equivalent in both micro-blog format and number of users). His talk raised a question in my mind: what share of voice does African business news have on Chinese social media channels, as compared with Twitter?
China-Africa trade receives a lot of attention, both positive and negative, in English and French social media. Simply search for the words “China” and “Nigeria” on Twitter and receive a stream of news, statistics and viewpoints. This is of little surprise given China’s perceived importance in many of Africa’s economies. I was interested if a similar ‘conversation’ exists on Weibo.
The story I decided to test my hypothesis on was this week’s news that Dangote Industries, a Nigerian Conglomerate, intends to invest US$9billion in building the country’s biggest oil refinery along with petrochemical and fertiliser plants. Dangote Industries’ founder, Aliko Dangote, announced that his company will be putting up US$3 billion and seeking US$6 billion in loan capital.
My admittedly less than rigorous method of investigation was to compare mentions of “Dangote” on Twitter with mentions of “Dān gē tè (丹格特)” on Weibo over the 5th of September. Before going into the findings I would like to note that I recognise Twitter is widely used in Nigeria when compared with Weibo. I have looked at geo-tagged tweets from users outside of Nigeria to try to negate this bias however I realise any findings were always going to be heavily weighted towards Twitter.
The results: Weibo had only two posts that mentioned the story. Both simply stated the facts without commentary and provided a link to a longer write up. Both posts were made by petroleum industry trade publication’s Twitter accounts. Twitter, on the other hand, held a huge number of tweets on the news. Many of these came from Nigeria, however there were also many hundreds from Kenya, the US, Britain and Indonesia. Most tweets simply restated the facts, however a number commented on the potential job creation of the new factories.
The results were striking, even with the obvious bias in the experiment: 2 Weibo posts compared with thousands of tweets. It seems that the new Nigerian refinery just wasn’t a talking point on Weibo, despite the resource trade between China and Africa being so well publicised. However, as many African countries’ economies rise, will we see an increase in discussions on African business on Weibo?
It would be interesting to repeat the test on a piece of news that directly involves both China and an African country: an experiment for a later day.