Monthly Archives: November 2012

We’re on Weibo — plus a guide to Ann Arbor’s Chinese restaurants

A guest post by William Foreman, the global communication manager at U-M’s News Service. He prefers Cantonese dim sum and peppery Hunanese dishes.   

Does Ann Arbor have any decent Chinese restaurants? It’s a common question asked by students from China thinking about studying at the University of Michigan. I could share my opinion with them, but as a non-Chinese PR guy, they probably wouldn’t think of me as the most credible source. It’s best to go straight to the experts: the Chinese students who are already here. And that’s what we did by using Weibo.


Weibo (pronounced: WAY BWO) is often called China’s version of Twitter, which is blocked in the country. Like Twitter, Weibo allows people to file 140-character tweets along with photos and videos. With nearly 400 million users, it has become wildly popular and continues to grow exponentially. In a nation where the traditional media are censored and often boring, Weibo has become the prime source of news for the masses. Some say it’s the next best thing to a free press.

Six months ago, U-M launched its own official Weibo account, which already has nearly 5,000 followers, representing every province and region of China. We’re really the only American university using Weibo in a strategic, planned way to share news, photos, videos and other information. We even have a full-time Chinese content producer – Zhang Xiaoxi, a graduate of U-M’s School of Information Science – who posts daily in Chinese.

In many ways, Weibo is far more advanced than Twitter. For example, it has a function that allows users to do polls. Xiaoxi and I used it to create a survey that included 10 Chinese eateries in Ann Arbor. We tweeted it out on Weibo, asking our followers to vote for the best restaurant.  

My biggest worry was that everyone would like the same place, showing that everything beyond it was a virtual wasteland of greasy crab rangoon and gluggy moo goo gai pan. But to my relief, the votes were generally spread out among seven restaurants. For sure, there was a clear winner – Chia Shiang, with 61 votes, 30 percent of the ballots. The runner-up was Asian Legend with 51 votes. But five others garnered between 30-39 votes.  

The idea was to show that Ann Arbor does have some decent Chinese food. But as with much of social media, the objective was also to start a lively discussion and encourage engagement.

The survey also confirmed that I’m an unreliable judge of Chinese cuisine. My favorite restaurant was one of the lowest vote getters.       


@How To Tweet

Want to win friends and influence people? That, and also create great one-on-one relationships, increase awareness of your presence, and engage in a global dialogue?

Spreading information and getting followers isn’t easy, but it also isn’t hard. We’ll break down what’s been successful for @umich and what we’ve learned.

Here is a basic primer before we talk strategy:

1. RT = Retweet. This is when you click the button that says “retweet” on someone else’s tweet to post it from your own account. When you RT you give the original tweeter attribution.

2. MT = Modified Tweet. Same as RT, but you changed the language (never the tone) of the tweet or omitted part.

3. @reply (or “at reply”) = A direct reply to another person’s tweet. You can click the “reply” button on a tweet and it will automatically start your tweet with @theirtwittername. That way they’ll be notified that you’ve replied to them. When someone replies to you, you’ll be notified in whatever way you’ve set up through Twitter (email, text, push notification, etc.). Example tweet: @umich there’s no way you have that many squirrels. Gross.

4. Mention = When you mention a person/brand/organization in a tweet, you can use their @twittername, and Twitter will automatically recognize it, make it into a clickable link, and notify the mentioned account. Example tweet: I can’t wait to get back to @umich this fall!

5. DM = Direct Message. This is a tweet that you send directly to someone that no one else sees. In order to DM, both tweeters have to be following each other. You can DM by clicking the “person” button on their profile. If you are following each other, Direct Message will be a listed option. If you need to DM someone, it is okay to tweet them something along the lines of “I need to DM you. Please follow?”

6. Hashtags = Wondering what #all #this #stuff means? Read “Hashtags — Why, When, What, How.”


Why are people following me?

The most important rule for Twitter strategy is to run everything through this filter: Why are people following my account? Maybe it’s because they’re looking for news and information. Maybe you provide up-to-the-minute sports scores or inspirational quotes. Maybe, as is usually the case, there’s a variety of reasons.

When you can, think about crafting your tweet in the same way you would write a very short story. Be emotional. Be funny. Be excited. If you know that you’re tweeting about something your followers feel strongly about it, make sure your tweet expresses that feeling — if your voice reflects theirs, they’ll retweet it.

Be relevant and timely. If there’s something going on (a holiday, a game, a weather event, etc.), tweet about it! 





Tweet your victories.

Don’t be afraid to boast. Higher education is a high-affinity category — that means that the people following you really do care that you’re doing well. And they’ll celebrate your wins right along with you.




Retweet (RT) your followers.

When someone posts a great photo, or says something interesting about your organization, share it! These tweets aren’t always the ones that get the most responses, but they’re a great way to build relationships with your followers (and an easy way to keep content flowing when you’re out of ideas). Sometimes you can do a simple retweet, which means you just post the tweet exactly as it was written, with attribution.

In this case there is also an Instagram photo attached, so when it’s retweeted your followers can see the photo as well:


You can also do what’s called a modified tweet, or an MT, where you make slight changes to the original tweet, usually for character count reasons.


Instead of replying to someone’s tweet, you can respond in an RT. That way it’s more understandable to people looking at your feed, and it shows up in your followers’ feeds as well (typically @replies do not show up in follower feeds).


Be useful

Every tweet you send out doesn’t have to be a blockbuster. In fact, you are doing your followers a disservice if you try. Instead, remember that filter that you’re running your tweets through: Why are my followers following me?

Just by scanning through your followers, you can get a sense of who they are. Maybe it’s mostly students. Or other research organizations. Or news outlets. Then consider what news and information you have to share that would be helpful to them.

In this tweet we promoted our own faculty while providing information on the news of the day: National elections.


If you have news, sometimes leading with BREAKING can help to set it apart from other tweets. Just don’t overdo it.


The best news is the news you know people want:


Give your followers an inside look that other people don’t get:


That’s the end of How To Tweet. If you have any questions, please direct them to Thanks!