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London Mayor Boris Johnson fails on Sina Weibo

On China's largest microblogging service, the London mayor is running on a platform of confusion.


Kevin Morris


Posted on Apr 18, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 6:22 pm CDT

London Mayor Boris Johnson has taken his bumbling social media strategy across the pond—far, far across the pond. Johnson now has an account at Sina Weibo, China’s 300-million-strong Twitter-like microblogging service. And he’s terrible at it.

In March, Johnson swapped his Twitter handle from the official @MayorOfLondon to his personal @borisjohnson account in preparation for his reelection bid. That created a storm of outrage on Twitter, with many claiming Johnson had hijacked the 250,000 followers of the official @MayorOfLondon account for purely partisan political reasons. (The official prime minister Twitter account, for instance, is run by whoever’s in office.) Johnson’s team backtracked a few hours later, and then shifted all official campaign tweeting to @backboris2012.

Confused yet? Well, at his Weibo account, which Johnson apparently launched to woo Chinese voters in London, the mayor seems to be running on a campaign of confusion.

Whoever is in charge of the account (we’re assuming someone on his staff, and not Johnson himself) simply copies and pastes the @backboris2012 tweets verbatim to Weibo. This includes Twitter mentions and RTs to Twitter users who simply don’t exist on Weibo.

“jstown1 Thanks for the mention! #backboris,” the account wrote, mentioning a Twitter user and employing a hashtag that’s useless on Weibo. (A proper hashtag on Weibo would look like this #backboris#.)

Here’s another post that removes the“@” sign from individual Twitter handles and is almost entirely nonsensical: “RT PrernaSian: Come and help deliver Boris newspapers this Fri 7.30am outside Ilford Station ISConservatives Boris_Backer BackBoris2012.”

(“I can’t understand this sentence,” one frustrated Weibo user responded in English.)

Johnson’s account has accumulated more than 50,000 fans, as followers are called on Weibo, and many of them are similarly confused and annoyed. Since he began Weibo-ing on April 12, the vast majority of the mayor’s posts are in English.

They’re letting him know. One recent reply to his confusing Twitter paste pretty much typifies the sentiment of his followers: “Hey old man, can you speak a little Chinese? We’re Chinese people, on Chinese soil.” (“老爷爷~你能不能说点中文,咋们是中国人啊 在中国国土里.”)

Old man Johnson hasn’t yet responded to that person’s concerns, in English or in Chinese.

Photo via Boris Johnson

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*First Published: Apr 18, 2012, 11:53 am CDT