by Xinhua writers Tian Sulei and Xia Jun
Beijing, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- When he was deputy chief of Bama Yao Autonomous County government, Huang Lei opened a microblog account Happy Bama at China's twitter-like service Tencent Weibo in Aug. 2011.
He is happy that the account, now with more than 70,000 followers, has drawn legions of tourists from faraway places, including foreign countries, to this "town of longevity" in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Bama, about three hours drive from the region's capital city Nanning, is widely regarded as a town of longevity. Local citizens live extraordinary long lives thanks to the unique climate, healthy diet and peaceful life.
Huang said the account did not have many followers in the beginning. But by interacting with local netizens and helping them solve "petty things", Happy Bama saw steady increase in the number of followers.
Encouraged by this, he opened a personal account after his own name.
As Happy Bama gains more fame, it is followed by both local citizens as well as people in faraway places. To help them learn about Bama, Huang Lei posted pictures of local cuisine and beautiful landscape on his microblog.
A policeman from Dezhou, east China's Shandong Province, contacted Huang Lei after reading his posts. Shortly after that, he and 20 relatives and friends came to Bama on summer vacation.
Liu Yan, a visitor from southwest China's Guizhou Province, came to Bama during the National Day holiday in 2012.
"Happy Bama brought me here," said Liu, who was in Bama with several friends. "This microblog account has painted a very attractive picture of Bama. I can't help coming here to see it with my own eyes."
As the number of followers grow, Huang began to offer more information to meet various requests. These include weather information and travel tips.
It seems his microblog followers want more. In April 2012, a follower with the screen name of Yizhenqingshuang ran into a health product on sale that was claimed to have originated from Bama and capable of curing many diseases.
Interested in this product, the woman who lives in east China's Fujian Province asked Huang to verify such claim.
Huang Lei soon replied that no company in Bama ever produced this kind of product. The follower then abandoned the idea of buying one for herself.
"In addition to unique landmarks, a city should also has its own microblog," said Tang Xiaoyun, deputy editor of the education channel of Sina.com.
"This microblog should help outsiders quickly walk into local lives and culture through reading its posts,viewing its pictures and clicking its links," she said.
Happy Bama now boasts more than 70,000 followers and Huang's personal microblog account with the screen name Huang Lei has over 110,000 followers, including many personages in faraway places.
As social media is gaining popularity among the country' s 513 million Internet users, "using it could boost officials' governing capacity and help them better meet people's reasonable needs," said Luo Guoan, an expert from the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences.
Huang Lei, who has now been promoted to a higher position in the government, said the emergence of Weibo is an opportunity for relatively underdeveloped areas to get linked to the outside world efficiently and cheaply.
"Microblogs could bring the abundant resources and beautiful scenery of these regions closer to the outside world," he said.