How Content Is Changing on China’s Fast-Growing Douyin App

    Here's what brands can learn about marketing on China's fast-growing app, Douyin, thanks to user information collected by CAAS Data.
    Douyin is growing in popularity in China, and brands are searching for data to better attract users. Photo: Shutterstock
    Lauren HallananAuthor
      Published   in Technology

    Now that Douyin is one of China’s most popular social media platforms, an increasing number of brands are thinking about how they can incorporate the app into their social media marketing strategies. But every social media platform has its own unique style of content, and Douyin is no exception. In order to run a successful campaign on Douyin, brands must understand what type of content performs best. This can be hard to do, as top-performing content has been changing as the platform grows and matures.

    The Chinese firm CAAS Data publishes monthly rankings of the ten fastest-growing social media accounts on Douyin, and over the past couple of months, there has been a shift in the types of accounts on that list.

    CAAS Data’s ranks the top 10 fastest-growing Douyin accounts of March
    CAAS Data’s ranks the top 10 fastest-growing Douyin accounts of March

    Their most recent rankings, released in March, points to three content trends that may have you rethinking your Douyin content strategy. They are:

    Trend 1: Celebrities and Comedy#

    As Douyin has become one of the top social media platforms in China, an increasing number of celebrities have been opening accounts on the platform as a new way to spread their personal brand and interact with fans. But some celebrities are doing better than others, and it appears those with comedic content have been finding greater success.

    Three of the top ten accounts in March were comedy related. The top-ranked account was “暖男先生,” which features the popular comedian Guo Donglin (郭冬临). His account gained an impressive 8 million new followers in one month. The Chinese singer and actor Joker Xue (Xue Zhiqian 薛之谦), whose account has grown at a rate of 3.5 million new followers per month for the past two months, is ranked eighth. Xue is known for his offbeat personality, and his account is filled with his popular comedy skits.

    Trend 2: Single-Vertical Content#

    In the past, dancing and lip-syncing were quite popular on Douyin, but audiences increasingly prefer accounts that focus on one specific vertical like beauty, food, pets, photography, wine tasting, or interior design. Four of the ten accounts on the March ranking fall into that category, including the accounts 李佳琦Austin, 皮皮, 大G, and 神州老师.

    It’s a trend that’s been showing up for several months now. In February, there were five such accounts in the top ten, and three placed during January. But brands should note: Not all verticals do well, and not all content within these verticals does well. While it’s hard to pinpoint, it seems that what all of these accounts have in common is that they all help improve users' lives in some way, whether it’s their appearance, lifestyle, or skills.

    Many of these accounts have become known for using a set formula in their videos and/or catchphrases. For example, the Douyin account Shenzhou Laoshi 神州老师 teaches photography, and the videos all have a standard flow and are easy to learn from. First he names a location or context (e.g., taking photos on the roof of a building), then he suggests camera settings, then he demonstrates a few poses for viewers to try, and lastly, he shows what the results should look like. All his videos follow the same format and flow, so they’re easy to learn from. His videos are also popular when they stay current. For example, when it’s spring, he teaches the audience how to pose in a field of flowers, and when a popular movie comes out like “比悲伤更悲伤的故事,” he teaches people how to take photos that are similar to scenes in the movie.

    Meanwhile, the popular Taobao beauty influencer 李佳琦Austin also has become extremely popular on Douyin over the past couple months, and he has made its fastest growing accounts list several times. He is known for his simple product-testing videos and his enthusiastic reactions to products that include his catchphrases “Oh my God” and “Buy it!”

    Shenzhou Laoshi’s videos all follow the same format and flow, making them easy to learn from
    Shenzhou Laoshi’s videos all follow the same format and flow, making them easy to learn from

    Trend 3: Mini TV Series#

    It’s clear that content is becoming increasingly professional when browsing top-ranked Douyin accounts. Influencers are upping their game, and traditional media outlets and large media companies have begun investing heavily in content made for the platform. Now we’re even seeing mini TV shows with episodes only a minute or two in length emerging and becoming quite popular.

    Douyin account 灵魂当铺 is a prime example. With only 14 videos, the account already has over 6 million followers. The show is a twisted, modern-day fairy tale that revolves around a mysterious bar owner/enchantress who can grant visitors any wish they want if they’re willing to give up something of equal value. The addicting videos are broken down into two or three mini-episodes that allow viewers to swipe from video to video to find out what happens. Currently, 食堂夜话 leads all mini TV shows on Douyin with over 16 million followers.

    As Douyin matures, user-viewing habits will continue to change. What worked for brands six months to a year ago may not work today. While there are a lot of factors behind the app’s trending accounts, these rankings provide a valuable snapshot of viewers’ preferences and thereby offer brands some direction for their own content on this fast-moving platform.

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