Sunday, March 6, 2011

Yao Chen - China's Most Popular Microblogger

It's probably the only thing they share in common but Lady Gaga and Chinese TV actress Yao Chen (姚晨) have the most followers on their respective microblogging services. Lady Gaga has long been recognised as Twitter's number 1 in terms of followers with over 8 million fans. In China however, where Twitter is officially banned if not entirely blocked, its Weibo that rules the microbloggersphere, and Yao Chen is the Queen of Weibo. Weibo, which is very similar in features to Twitter, is owned by Sina Corporation, China's biggest web portal. Although the social networking site was launched only 18 months ago, it already has an estimated 100 million users.

It's not entirely clear why Yao Chen has garnered such a large following. She's hardly a so-called "idol star" with a devoted and fanatical teenage fan-base, but rather a 31 year old respected TV actress. One explanation is that she interacts more than most celebrity bloggers with her followers. The frequency of her posts - often as much as 10 a day - is another factor. She was the first Weibo user to gain 1 million followers mid last year, and that number has since climbed to almost 6.4 million. Currently she is the 7th most popular microblogger in the world, but will most likely leap-frog Twitter users like Ashton Kutcher and Kim Kardashian over the coming weeks/months.

Yao Chen first came to prominence in the hit TV series My Own Swordsman in 2006. The martial arts comedy was one of the most popular TV series of that year and made her a star. In 2009 she starred in another hit series, the spy drama Lurk set in 1945, her performance winning her several acting awards. She is set to star in the movie version of My Own Swordsman this year.

In second place on Weibo's most popular list is Taiwan's TV host and actress, Dee Hsu (徐熙娣, pinyin: Xú Xīdì). She hosts the popular comedy talk show Here Comes Kangxi, and before that co-hosted 100% Entertainment with her older sister, Barbie Hsu. Known simply as Xiao S (or Little S), Hsu is often outspoken in her views, including those posted on Weibo. She currently has 5.47 million followers, which now puts her in the top ten global microbloggers. Just last week she added an additional 168,000 fans, and so it seems it's only a matter of time before she too reaches the 6 million mark.

Just behind Hsu is popular movie actress Zhao Wei (赵薇) with 5.3 million followers, and she too is on the verge of breaking into the global Top Ten list. The most popular Hong Kong blogger on Weibo is the singer-actress Gigi Leung (梁咏琪, pinyin: Liáng Yǒngqí). Again, her popularity might be considered surprising, as her acting career probably reached its pinnacle in 1996 with the hit romantic comedy Feel 100%, and she is also reportedly struggling to fill concert halls on her current singing tour. She has around 3.25 million followers, although that number received a further boost after her microblogging exploits were featured in a Wall Street Journal article.

The most recent numbers for microblog followers can be found at this The Independent on Sunday post.

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