This is a story that begins with a stolen iPhone.
Last February, BuzzFeed editor Matt Stopera lost his iPhone in a New York City bar. A year later, mysterious photos of a Chinese man standing in front of orange trees started to pop up in his new phone’s iCloud Photo Stream. Since then, more snapshots of this man and glimpses into his life continued to show up in his stream. For Matt, it was both strange and interesting to see photos of a complete stranger, who he dubbed “Brother Orange”, living on the other side of the world, on his phone.
Matt soon realized that his lost phone might have been sold to someone in China, and the photos were synced through iCloud from its new owner. So Matt logged into his iCloud account and deleted everything, thinking this would be the end of the story. And then he wrote about this magical story on BuzzFeed.
Surprisingly, the story was then picked up by Weibo user @HereinUK, a popular key opinion leader based in London with three million followers. @HereinUK shares local UK news as well stories of interest from around the world. He translated Matt’s story and posted it on Weibo. The story quickly blew up and soon went viral. The original story post received 90,000 reposts, 24,000 comments, and 69,000 likes.
Suddenly, Matt became famous on Weibo and he received numerous tweets from people in China (with the help of VPN to get over the Great Fire Wall) as well as from Chinese people all around the world. In the meantime, @HereinUK started a hashtag on Weibo — “Help Matt find Brother Orange”. Millions of Chinese Weibo users participated and in just two days, Brother Orange was found. His name is Li Hongjun and he is a restaurant owner in Meizhou, Guangdong. @HereinUK got in touch with Matt and told him the good news.
The story continues with Matt and Li both registering for Weibo accounts and getting verified as Weibo celebrities. In just a few days, Matt gained 206,000 followers while Li gained 195,000 followers. They communicated through WeChat and Brother Orange invited Matt to come visit his hometown of Meizhou, China.
With the help of some journalists in China, Matt flew to China and finally met Li in person. Their amazing story has been read by over 30 million people in China. Li is enjoying his newfound fame, and has participated in media interviews and made a guest appearance on a televised cooking show.
Amazing, isn’t it? That’s the power of the digital world — to link people from all over the world without boundaries! The Brother Orange story also showcases the popularity of the platform in China, and the power of the Weibo key opinion leader. Millions of Chinese internet users actively consume news and engage with each other on Weibo. They voice their opinions, participate in online discussions, and actively search for new information sources. That’s why hundreds of Weibo celebrities are created on a regular basis just like Li Hongjun and Matt Stopera.
Want to be a minor celebrity in China? First step, get on Weibo and also check out our Weibo Advertising Guide.
Photo Credits: Weibo, BuzzFeed