7 Platforms You Need to Know Before Your China Digital Strategy Planning
Updated: Apr 19
As consumers are increasingly dependent on mobile applications, especially social platforms, social media is playing an irreplaceable role in the e-commerce era. In China, there are a couple of social media platforms that are of similar popularity as Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter, however, these platforms are quite distinctive as social dynamics have significantly changed. Additionally, how brands leverage these platforms is drastically different from each other. Mastering the right social media platform is essential to the success of brands. Estee Lauder, for example, made a newly launched product, "Sakura Micro-Essence," to a best seller in just two weeks using Weibo, a microblogging site known for exposure to the mass audience and hot topics that go viral using hashtags. During the Double 11 shopping festival on Tmall, a Chinese equivalent of Amazon, Jack Jones achieved sales exceeding ¥100 million (~$14 million) within 15 minutes.
In this article, we will cover the seven most popular platforms that all brands need to be familiar with before making any digital marketing strategy in China.
What is it? Twitter + multi-format media including livestreaming
Weibo, one of the most popular social media platforms with extended history in China, is where all the hot topics and trending news originate. Famous for its hashtag virality, Weibo is a launchpad of viral content and the place where online influencers go to amass a following.
Stats: Data shows that as of the end of 2019, Weibo monthly active users (MAU) reached 516 million, a net increase of about 54 million compared to the end of 2018. Its daily active users (DAU) during the COVID-19 lockdown reached 40 million.
Audience: categories of Weibo followers interaction volume covering celebrities, variety shows, news, finance, beauty, sports, government affairs, etc., comprising all aspects of people's work and life. Fans of celebrities accounted for nearly 30% of the Weibo users, while the coverage of stars exceeds other platforms remarkably.
Brand example: With the expansion of the social media network effect and the improvement of service capabilities, Weibo has become a standard marketing tool for brand customers. Through the deep integration of KOL, celebrities, and multi-format content on the platform, brands in FMCG, luxury goods, automobiles, and consumer electronics (especially mobile phones) heavily use Weibo for marketing purposes. Ye Si, better known as Gogoboi on Weibo, is a famous fashion KOL with 9.3 million followers on Weibo. Victoria Secret, live-streamed one-hour backstage of its famous show with him on Weibo, and reached 2.5 million views within two days.
What is it? - Messenger + Long articles (official accounts) + mini programs (third-party apps) + communities
WeChat is regarded by many as the "super app" or "China's app for everything", with which many brands are familiar. However, there are several new and important uses that brands need to know about and consider for their marketing strategy.
Stats：As the "Super App" of China, WeChat has over 1.1 Billion MAU and its mini programs with DAU of over 300 million.
Private Domain Traffic: This has been a buzzword since 2019 due to several huge successes some brands were able to realize. The most notable one is "Perfect Diary," a cosmetic brand that just announced IPO with only a little over three years of history. The key to the swift success that 3-year-old startup brand experience, without a doubt, is its private domain traffic tactics. Private domain traffic is a recent but fast-growing trend in the Chinese marketing, advertising, and e-commerce industries. While the public domain traffic is getting more and more expensive, Chinese companies began fearing its customer base increase was nearing its limit and began tapping into existing customers. In China, brands can obtain what is known as private domain traffic from big platforms like Taobao (similar to Amazon), Baidu (similar to Google), Douyin (Chinese version of TikTok), Weibo through WeChat private chats and group chats or company applications where users with similar buying habits or interests are grouped together. Private-controlled flow refers to the acquired users that can be directly contacted, at any time, and without frequency limits by the brand. However, private domain traffic is not suitable for all brands. To answer the question of what kind of products are ideal for private domain traffic pools, please subscribe to our newsletter, and we will take a deep dive into it in the following articles.
Brand examples: Perfect Diary, a domestic cosmetic brand, increased sales by 50 times within eight months through private traffic pools. Brands can interact with consumers on a personalized level in different ways on Wechat. Mini Programs, for example, allow third-party "apps" to run in WeChat without requiring downloads, are used by brands like Burberry, H&M, Dior. Mr. Bags, a luxury bag KOL, with over a million followers on his WeChat public account, collaborated with the likes of Montblanc and Givenchy. He once sold out a limited edition bag, co-created with Tod's, within six minutes.
BILIBILI - long videos with user added subtitles (comments) especially popular among Gen Z
What is it? Bilibili, aka B site, is a Chinese video-sharing application that started out in 2009 as a website specialized in sharing anime pictures and videos. Over the past eleven years, the company expanded into a lot of new categories, including advertising, mobile gaming, and e-commerce. Bilibili also launched a premium membership enabling access to special shows, e-commerce deals, and HQ video streaming.
Stats: B site experienced a rapid expansion of the user base and, as of the end of 2019, reached 128 million MAUs. At the same time, the users are generally more loyal and active on B site. For example, Bilibili is known for its video commenting feature, Danmu (弹幕, directly translated to bullet screen comment). Users can make a quick comment at a particular moment during the video and those comments can be seen by other real-time or following viewers.
Audience: Due to B site's history, the platform has accumulated the biggest group of Generation Z at 82% of total users with an average daily viewing time of 85 minutes. That's one in four of Generation Z.
Uploaders: UP master, also known as the content creators or video uploaders, usually accumulated a group of loyal fans on B site. After two years of rapid commercialization, B site has formed a unique culture, which can be interpreted as a fans' inclusive attitude towards the cooperation between the UP master and the brand. However, at the same time, the fans of B site are critical and harsh sometimes. They care more about whether the UP master and the brand are honest and authentic in their reviews and promotions.
Brand example: From previous data, international niche brands, make-up brands, and affordable price brands have inherent advantages in launching campaigns or advertising on B site. However, in 2020, the content ecology of the B site has undergone significant changes. In addition to games, lifestyle, entertainment, film and television, technology, and other content that are native to Generation Z were added, which presents excellent opportunities for brands in these sectors. For instance, KFC created a catchy song "The Song of Fried Chicken" in collaboration with B site, which received full screen of Danmu saying "I want to eat fried chicken" throughout the whole song.
Little Red Book
What is it? - Foreign product reviews & Discussions + UGC
As a lifestyle sharing platform, the Little Red Book (LRB) is known for its beauty and fashion related content mostly about products purchased overseasand celebrities, KOLs and KOCs in these categories, with hundreds of millions of monthly active users. Fans follow the daily life shared by celebrities & KOLs through LRB, and they are keen to interact with these celebrities & KOLs by providing their comments or sharing their experiences by creating their own content.
Stats: According to the LRB's own data, as of July 2019, the number of users has exceeded 300 million while, the number of monthly active users of Xiaohongshu has exceeded 100 million in October 2019, of which 70% of new users were born post-90s. The LRB claims that the community generates 3 billion daily views of graphics, short video content, and UGC content accounted for 70% of them.
Audience: The audience of LRB is considered to be the most fashionable among all platforms. Users are concentrated in first- and second-tier cities, with strong stickiness, high content penetration rate, and relatively strong purchasing power. It was also notable that the users on LRB reflected some characteristics of Generation Z - who are more active when interacting with KOLs and celebrities and their willingness to share their favorite content and products.
Brand examples: As a Bain report showed that Chiense shoppers made three-quarters of their luxury purchases overseas, therefore, LRB has been very popular for all its relevant content regarding products purchased abroard. Luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior are, therefore, on the platform for their target customers. In March this year, Louis Vuitton started its first ever livestreaming on LRB, which also marked the first time ever this luxury brand doing livestreaming using its official account across all platforms. It reached No. 1 in the first 30 minutes in Livestreaming ranking and achived 33% interaction throughout the whole session.
What is it? short-form videos + live-streaming
TikTok, a short-form video app many are faimiliar with, has gone viral around the world. Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, was launched a year before TikTok by Bytedance. Since Douyin was launched before TikTok and in China, there are many differences and early success of commercialization that brands should be aware of before committing to investing on the platform.
Audience: Similar to TikTok, Douyin is extremely popular in China, with over 400 million daily active users. Douyin has a much wider user demographic than Tiktok, most of which are people under the age of 35. Tiktok, however, is more popular among teens. Global web index shows that, in 2019, 41% of TikTok users are between 16 and 24. The users of Douyin are evenly split between first-two-tier cities and the lower-tier cities.
Brand examples: Douyin's monetization is more mature than Tiktok. For instance, users can make purchases through Taobao, JD, and Douyin's platform with one click of the shopping cart button on some Douyin videos. Currently, brands are investing heavily in TikTok on advertising, livestreaming, and e-commerce. Tiktok, however, is still an entertainment-oriented app, rarely being used to include Amazon links to promote goods except for some ads. Christian Dior introduced the Dioramour bag with five Douyin videos and acquired more than 300k followers.
What is it? Short-form video app Kuaishou (KS), another popular short-form video app featuring PUGC and UGC, has over 300 million daily active users. Even though KS is similar to Douyin in terms of format, it is distinctively different from its viral in other aspects. The content recommendation algorithms on KS are decentralized, meaning the user base plays an essential role in the determination of the popularity of the content and account. On the other hand, Douyin's algorithm is centralized, and it determines which content and accounts should be promoted. KS's commercialization is more gear towards livestreaming versus advertising and e-commerce. Instead of Douyin's scrolling up and down to browse more videos, KS offers multiple video options for users to choose from by clicking on the videos that the users want to watch.
Stats: KS's DAU is close to 300 million with livestreaming revenue accounts for 60%+ while Douyin's advertising revenue accounts for 80%+ of its revenue.
Audience: 70% of the users of KS are from lower-tier cities who perceive KS more as a community than media. 70% of the users are under 30 years old.
How Brands can leverage it: As mentioned previously, KS's revenue mostly comes from livestreaming. Therefore, it might be suitable for brands who are interested in livestreaming. Metersbonwe, a well-known apparel brand, achieved sales of over $6.5 million and gained 300k newly-added followers in its first live-streaming session on KS .
Please click here for a previous article on livestreaming on Taobao.
In future articles, we will dive deep into each of these seven platforms and how brands can navigate the nuances of each and leverage them to realize marketing goals.