Weibo started out as a successful social-networking platform, but now its commercial viability is a pool of muddy waters. In order to understand it, let me introduce some terms particular to the commercialization of Weibo:
Western brands have Weibo accounts. For some, the number of fans on the site is part of their performance criteria. So there are local public relations companies who generate fans for branded Weibo. These p.r. companies create lots of Weibo accounts to become fans of their clients. These accounts are called Water Army. So if your local marketing team started a social-networking campaign, make sure it was not spent on getting a Water Army to flood your accounts just to generate numbers.
Corpses are fake accounts generated as part of a Water Army. Usually it’s not a real person, it’s just an account. You can tell because it does not have a head shot, it hardly ever makes any posts and aside from a few brands, it does not follow anyone else.
Zombies are a step above Corpses, as fake accounts that look real. They have head shots, make comments and even follow interesting people, like their creators.
50 Cents Party
Weibo is a hotbed of social opinion in China, particularly opinions that are critical of the ruling Communist Party. It is widely known that the Communist Party has been paying 50 cents a post to ask college students to get on the Internet and attack people who criticize the party. People who launch attacks are known as the 50 Cents Party.
A Water Army of corpses costs about 1,000 renminbi for 10,000 fans. Zombies cost between 3,000 and 5,000 renminbi for 10,000 fans. Rumor has it the 50 Cents Party has upped its rates as well, to around 1.5 renminbi per post.