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How does Weibo keep users hooked? A Weibo addictive behavior study based on netnography

Heping He (Department of Marketing, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, China)
Yanni Liu (Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, China)
Zhimin Zhou (Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, China)

Journal of Contemporary Marketing Science

ISSN: 2516-7480

Article publication date: 2 October 2019

Issue publication date: 2 October 2019




With the rapid development of social media in the past few years, some dark aspects of usage have appeared, e.g., Weibo addiction. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to address the question of how Weibo keeps users hooked.


The study utilizes the netnography method to explore the symptoms of Weibo addiction and how it is formed.


First, some Weibo users have typical symptoms of addictive behavior, such as withdrawal, loss of control and general living problems; second, narcissism plays an important role in the process of Weibo addiction and has a stronger effect on content generation than content consumption; third, some users use Weibo as a means to alleviate anxiety, but they can then become more anxious owing to addiction; and fourth, the effect of comments has two sides – on the one hand, comments are one kind of feedback to posts, satisfying posters’ social needs, while on the other hand, a storytelling system consists of one post and its comments, upon which some Weibo users become more dependent.

Research limitations/implications

This research is only a preliminary, exploratory study. Therefore, care should be taken when interpreting these findings.

Practical implications

This study should help social media service providers and users to pay attention to the risk of social media addiction. Social media service providers should take social responsibility, design more user-oriented guidelines for marketing ethics and launch more responsible marketing activities. Users should enhance self-control and better balance social media use and offline real life.


Netnography has not been widely used as an addictive behavior research technique. This study is further bolstered because it has also noticed the difference of addiction mechanisms between addictive micro-bloggers and their followers.



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 71302108). The authors greatly appreciate Professor Guijun Zhuang and Professor Dongjin Li, who provided insightful comments and constructive revision suggestions on the early versions of the manuscript. The authors also acknowledge the very helpful suggestions of the anonymous reviewers. A version of this paper was published in the Chinese language, see Heping He, Yanni Liu, and Zhimin Zhou (2014), “Why does Weibo make people carry on: a Weibo addiction behavior study based on netnography,” Journal of Marketing Science, 10 No. 4, pp. 1-16 (in Chinese).


He, H., Liu, Y. and Zhou, Z. (2019), "How does Weibo keep users hooked? A Weibo addictive behavior study based on netnography", Journal of Contemporary Marketing Science, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 176-195.



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