Douyin: Top Social Media Trends for 2021

A five-part handbook on China’s biggest social media platforms and innovations

In the past year, Chinese consumers demonstrated remarkable resilience, transforming readily with media, retail and in particular, digital. This acceleration has been spearheaded by China’s young generation, reshaping what consumer culture looks like on a global level. A click of a button, a tap on a screen or an emoji post can collectively direct the future of any given organisation, institution and even government. And, with almost a billion citizens in total having access to the internet nationwide, social media is no longer a recreational pastime. It’s become a function central to their day-to-day lives, delivering connectivity, convenience and contributing to China’s new normal.

Bringing together platform highlights, ones to watch and expert opinion from the TONG Activation team, this five-part series addresses emerging technologies, innovations and consumer shifts happening across China digital today and tomorrow.

Douyin 抖音 is a short form video platform created by Chinese tech giant ByteDance in 2016. It allows users to film, edit and publish exciting and entertaining video content to audiences across China. These videos range from 15 seconds to 60 seconds in length and the app - alongside its infamous sister app TikTok - has grown to be one of the highest grossing non-gaming apps of the past five years.

Staying abreast of developments, TONG Activation Manager Qi Lyu advises: “For businesses and individuals looking to have a greater presence on Douyin, the next evolution is its growth in ecommerce and the continued influence of China’s Gen Z consumer base.”


Rapidly Growing User Base:

Over the last year, Douyin has become the go-to destination for short video content, most popular among millennial and Gen Z Chinese consumers. In just 12 months, the platform has increased by a third of its total user base, growing from 400 million daily users in January 2020 to over 600 million in January 2021. The popularity of Douyin has likely been accelerated by multiple factors, from Covid related lockdowns, to its super creative functionalities, and an answer for bite-size entertainment for those on-the-go.

The One-Stop Shop for Video Creation:

Both Douyin and TikTok have successfully established themselves as being easy enablers for professional and amateur creators to produce and publish video content. This is set to continue with a proposed plan to invest 10 million RMB to support creators throughout the rest of 2021.

Other platforms like Bilibili, Weibo or WeChat are typically more time consuming when it comes to content production compared to Douyin. The platform features a library of built-in music, filters and free editing tools making it straightforward to shoot, edit, produce and publish videos directly on the app. Its playful and irreverent nature is a big draw for many to partake in different trending formats from scripted short stories to mini food tutorials.

A User-centric Algorithm:

Douyin and TikTok are leading the way in terms of technology, innovation and AI with a unique algorithm facilitating strong content analysis. As a result, the app provides every user a super tailored feed, guaranteeing content to be served that resonates with the viewer, encouraging engagement and shareability.

Douyin Draws on Established Talent Xiaoming Huang黄晓明, Xiaotong Guan 关晓彤, Dongyu Zhou周冬雨 and Angelababy to Drive Platform Growth
Douyin Draws on Established Talent Xiaoming Huang黄晓明, Xiaotong Guan 关晓彤, Dongyu Zhou周冬雨 and Angelababy to Drive Platform Growth


Ecommerce Integration:

This year Douyin is set to expand as a hybrid platform to offer more robust ecommerce solution in-app. The platform plans to transition from an entertainment-focused app to an integrated platform hosting social media, brand content and ecommerce functions. This is not an entirely new proposition as creators and businesses can currently host links to Tmall, Taobao and Douyin stores. However for 2021, new developments and enhancements to ramp up the presence and adoption of Douyin stores will overtake user journeys linking out of platform to Tmall and Taobao. This is a significant progression within the app for two main reasons:

This functionality allows for a more seamless experience, blending inspirational content with shopping and product, encouraging users to remain on the channel for a more streamlined experience. Top content creators were able to post links to ecommerce listings on Taobao and Tmall directly within their video posts and livestreams, now, more and more Douyin creators and KOLs such as Austin Li and Veiya are adopting Douyin stores.

Secondly, from an advertiser perspective, it provides the ability to position products directly within the right content and context. In addition, the interactive nature of the platform is an added benefit for driving conversation and elevating the user experience. Through Douyin’s ‘challenges’ or themed hashtags, specialised filters or campaign specific soundbites, brands from fashion houses to car manufacturers are able to incorporate these into their communications only on Douyin.

The Gen Z Audience:

Gen Zs are fast shaping up to become the most influential consumer group within China to date. Around 85% of the audience on Douyin are under the age of 24 and in turn, we’re witnessing a rise of global players leveraging this channel to specifically target Chinese Gen Z.

Audi, BMW, Louis Vuitton, Pizza Hut and Michael Kors have been openly experimenting with video content and campaign-specific hashtags to grow their audience base and increase opportunities for lead generation. It’s clear that Gen Z are receptive to explore and try non-Chinese lifestyle products and services, and Douyin acts as an cost-effective facilitator between them and the brand.

Ecommerce Integration on BMW, Dior and Michael Kors Official Brand Pages on Douyin
Ecommerce Integration on BMW, Dior and Michael Kors Official Brand Pages on Douyin

This is part two of a five-part series on Chinese social media platforms covering WeChat, Bilibili, Douyin, Weibo and RED. To read the other four articles, visit our Intelligence page.

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