Apple CEO Tim Cook Joins Weibo, China’s Twitter-Like Social Network

Earlier on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook joined Sina Corp.’s Weibo, a Chinese microblogging service similar to Twitter. The move, which is indicative of the importance of the Chinese smartphone market to Apple, means that Chinese Apple fans and others will now be able to follow news and information about the company on one of China’s largest social networks.

The service today has roughly 200 million active users each month, and as of this morning, Tim Cook’s verified account on Weibo has soared to 320,000 followers.

The timing of Cook’s decision to participate on Chinese social media is not coincidental –  Apple also just announced extensive plans to expand its renewable paper and energy initiatives in China, which is today one of its fastest-growing markets. The company said today that it would be partnering with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to protect forests used in the production of paper packaging for Apple items, and it would increase its use of renewable energy in its factories in China.

This announcement was also the subject of Cook’s first post on Weibo, which read, “Happy to be back in Beijing, announcing innovative new environmental programs,” and linked to Apple’s press release about its environmental initiatives. The post, so far Cook’s only one, has now received over 39,000 comments, and over 50,000 likes. (Weibo, though similar to Twitter, also has some elements that resemble Facebook.)

Cook also has an account on U.S.-based Twitter, which has 1.1. million followers. However, both Twitter and Facebook are banned in China, which is why Apple has chosen to establish an official presence on one of China’s biggest social networks instead.

China continues to be an increasingly important market for Apple. During its second quarter, for example, the company reported 71 percent revenue growth in the region, with China accounting for $16.8 billion of its revenues.

The news of Cook’s decision to be active on Chinese social media also arrives at the same time as an IDC report which indicates China’s smartphone market is slowing down. That is, 90 percent of Chinese already own a smartphone, meaning that Apple will now have to win over those looking to upgrade in order to continue its growth in the region.