From the iPhone to Weibo, Tim Cook wins China’s heart and minds

Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Pic: AP.

Apple CEO Tim Cook should be used to stirring up excitement in China. After all, sprawling throngs of Chinese customers line up every time a new iteration of the iPhone is released – so much so that the mobile device became a bigger seller in that Far East nation than in all of Europe as of last month.

But his next move is poised to be an even bigger sensation in China. Late yesterday afternoon Cook wrote his first post on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. CNN reported that three hours later he had racked up 300,000 followers, while Tech In Asia noted that his first Weibo post netted 8,500 shares, 14,000 comments, and 12,000 likes in under 60 minutes.

It’s fair to point out that the sheer act of registering an account would have been enough to send many Chinese netizens into a frenzy. His first post, in which he greeted his followers and promised to later announce “innovative new environmental programs”, should have been enough to make the country’s more progressive, forward thinking social media users endlessly blissful.

(MORE: Apple steps up efforts to go green in China)

Many fixated on the fact that, despite the throngs of followers that he had attracted, Cook had yet to return the favour and follow any other Weibo users. Wei Gu, a columnist and editor at the Wall Street Journal who covers China extensively, tweeted hours after Cook appeared on the Chinese social network: “Who will @tim_cook follow in China on Weibo? That’s been closely watched now.”

Steven Millward of Tech In Asia tweeted: “Tim Cook just joined Weibo. wonder why he didn’t opt for WeChat,” in reference to the mobile social media app that has taken the Asian nation by storm in recent years.

Bloomberg reporter Lulu Yilun Chen had the perhaps the funniest take of all, tweeting: “#Chinese fans greeting #TimCook with the words ‘Are you OK’ as he sets up new #Weibo account,” in reference to another recent viral topic on Chinese social media: smart phone company Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun asking a crowd in awkward, broken English “Are you okay?” again and again at a conference late last month.