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Apple CEO Tim Cook joins Weibo and immediately gains 360,000 followers

Apple CEO Tim Cook made his first post on the Chinese social networking platform Weibo, allowing consumers to interact directly with the man who is in charge of the giant tech company. Since most mainstream social media websites are blocked in mainland China, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, people in China use the heavily-monitored social media site to communicate with one another. A reported 176 million Chinese use the service monthly.

Cook’s appearance on Weibo excited Chinese consumers. According to TechCrunch, Cook gained 360,000 followers almost immediately. This comes on the heels of Apple announcing its green initiatives in China. “Happy to be back in Beijing, announcing innovative new environmental programs,” Cook said on his personal Weibo account.

Cook’s joining Weibo and his announcement are a boon to the Chinese smartphone market. According to Chinese analytics firm Umeng, an estimated 80 percent of the premium smartphone market (defined by Umeng as smartphones costing more than $500 USD in China) are iPhones.

Cook might have also joined Weibo for another reason as well: According to the Wall Street Journal, smartphone growth is slowing in the country. The Wall Street Journal reported that almost all Chinese people who want smartphones already have one, and are just looking to replace the ones they already have.

Charles Lin, chief financial officer of Pegatron Corporation, a smartphone manufacturing company, told the Wall Street Journal that Chinese mobile users are on one end of the spectrum or the other. “The smartphone market in China is basically now just the very high end like Apple or the very low end. It’s getting tough for those in the middle,” he said.

Chinese consumers also told the Wall Street Journal that they were being conservative in their purchasing behavior. Liao Huimin is an example of someone who is waiting for the right time to upgrade. “I won’t buy a new one in the near future unless it gets slow or broken,” he said. “I think I will still buy an iPhone in the future, but if Samsung produced a really fancy phone I would think about buying it.”

Cook’s Weibo presence and announcement of green initiatives could galvanize more and more Chinese consumers to switch to Apple products, as he directly interacts with consumers in the country.