If you want to go viral on social media or gain a mass audience in China, get on Weibo, China’s Twitter and now the country’s most popular microblogging site.
INTRODUCED August 2009, by the Chinese technology company Sina Corporation
USAGE 430 million active users a month (for comparison, Twitter has about 326 million)
CONTENT Official news channels have large followings, but there is little political content that is user-generated because censors quickly remove anything that is deemed sensitive. As a public platform, it’s a launchpad of viral content and the place where online influencers, known as Key Opinion Leaders (K.O.L.s), go to amass a following — and perhaps turn their popularity into brand ambassador roles. Live streaming has become a crucial component of Weibo’s offerings (the platform just acquired its live-streaming partner, Yizhibo) and is a major tool for K.O.L. engagement with their followers. In addition, Weibo Stories, which is similar to Instagram Stories, also allows users to upload short visual content.
A STAR Gogoboi, whose real name is Ye Si, has been called China’s most famous fashion K.O.L. He was catapulted to fame when the actress Yao Chen — whose fan base of 80 million is one of the platform’s largest — retweeted a post. Today, he has 9.3 million followers, and Gogoboi’s one-hour backstage live stream of the Victoria’s Secret show on Nov. 8 had been watched 2.5 million times by Nov. 12.
If you rolled all your phone apps into one, the result would be close to WeChat.
INTRODUCED January 2011 by Tencent, one of China’s top tech companies
USAGE With one billion monthly active users, it is the most popular messaging app in China.
CONTENT Primarily a messenger app, WeChat can be used to do everything from hailing a cab to booking a hospital appointment — and payments can be made by WeChat Pay. But WeChat is a closed platform and account holders can see only what their friends post, which means brands can interact with subscribers on a personalized level. José Neves, founder of the e-tailer Farfetch, said at The New York Times International Luxury Conference last week in Hong Kong that, for a brand, “the first and foremost platform for your direct presence as a brand in China is WeChat.” The platform’s Mini Programs, third-party “apps” that run in WeChat without requiring downloads, increased to more than one million in 2018, used by brands such as Burberry, H&M, Dior and Longchamp.
A STAR Mr. Bags, the 26-year-old Tao Liang, has more than 4.6 million Weibo followers and 870,000 followers on his WeChat public account. He has collaborated with the likes of Montblanc and Givenchy and, in June, introduced a “BaoShop” Mini Program to sell a limited-edition bag created in collaboration with Tod’s. The bag sold out within six minutes and generated 3.24 million renminbi, or $465,615, in sales.
The two giants JD and Alibaba dominate e-commerce in China, with more than 80 percent of the market share.
USAGE 314 million active monthly users
CONTENT JD operates the same business model as Amazon, acting as a direct retailer that controls the entire logistical chain of stock and distribution. Twenty percent of its investment comes from the tech giant Tencent, and it was the first e-commerce platform in China to bring same-day delivery to customers. On its website, it says that 90 percent of all purchases are delivered on the day of sale, or the next day.
Initially known for quality electronics and housewares, JD introduced its own luxury goods app, called Top Life, in October 2017. Its purchases are delivered by JD’s Luxury Express service, a delivery man wearing a suit and white gloves.
A STAR The Swiss watch company Audemars Piguet is one of a host of brands, including Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, that have signed onto the platform. (The watch company also is selling through its official WeChat store.)
The e-commerce site grabbed headlines last week with news of its $30 billion in sales on Singles Day, the Nov. 11 shopping event it created 10 years ago.
USAGE 552 million active users a month
CONTENT Unlike JD.com, Alibaba is an online marketplace for third-party retailers and has no inventory of its own. According to Wang Xiaofeng from Forrester, a market research company, Alibaba’s stake in a host of businesses such as the food delivery app Ele.me allows it to aggregate a huge amount of data across different platforms and offer customized user recommendations. Alibaba’s consumer-to-consumer platforms include Taobao, a vast virtual mall with more than 600 million active monthly users, known as the place to go for cheap and often counterfeit goods. (Many K.O.L.s have opened their own stores on Taobao and live-stream on the site to a majority female audience, half of whom are younger than 25.)
It also has Tmall, its business-to-consumer platform, which traditionally leans toward fashion and apparel, and Luxury Pavilion, an invitation-only portal for high-end goods introduced in August 2017.
A STAR Burberry, La Mer and Maserati are just some of the brands on the site.
Douyin, or Tik Tok
Douyin (its international version is known as Tik Tok) is the younger, edgier “new kid” live-streaming site with shareable, snappy video content, as well as memes and GIFs to which users can add music, sound effects and emoticons.
INTRODUCED November 2017
USAGE 154 million active users a month
CONTENT Many of the K.O.L.s who were propelled into public view just a couple of years ago on live-streaming platforms like YY and Huajia are jumping ship to Douyin. The platform is popular with Generation Z, those younger than 24, but that youthful mass audience hasn’t deterred fashion and luxury brands from creating official accounts. “The young are the ones who dare to spend in China,” said Ms. Wang of Forrester, who attributes Douyin’s success to a truly mobile-led era in which 79 percent of shoppers buy on their cellphone. “Douyin also has powerful machine learning capabilities, which means it continuously pushes content it knows the viewer will like, keeping them hooked.”
A STAR Michael Kors was the first international label to debut on the platform. On the Chinese festival that is the equivalent of Valentine’s Day, which was in August this year, Christian Dior introduced the Dioramour bag with five videos, including one from Angelababy, the K.O.L. who is a brand ambassador. In three months, and with 47 video posts, the channel now has more than 208,000 followers.
Little Red Book, or XiaoHongShu
The retail app, which began as a platform for review and discussion of products purchased abroad, says that trust is at the heart of what it promotes. It has become a social network for fashion and beauty products.
USAGE 30 million active users a month
CONTENT A 2017 report by Bain showed that Chinese shoppers made three-quarters of their luxury purchases overseas, often through the diagou system, in which travelers and students buy luxury or hard-to-get items abroad and then sell them at a profit to people at home. (Diagou means “buy on behalf of.”) Beijing recently has been trying to change the practice by easing import taxes, cracking down on travelers at customs entry points and supporting sales via large e-commerce platforms, as well as smaller sites like Little Red Book. The platform, which recently secured $300 million from investors including Alibaba, has A-list K.O.L.s, including Fan Bingbing, who debuted an account in January and, despite her recent tax problems, has more than 10 million fans. It has live-stream makeup tutorials and promotes her own Fanbeauty range, which can be purchased directly from Little Red Book.
A STAR The site really catapulted to popularity this year after it sponsored two of the country’s most popular reality TV shows, including “Produce 101,” a talent search for China’s next big girl band.
There are some growing names like Secoo, a luxury app that partnered with JD.com in August; Vipshop, which specializes in discounted goods and is the official “flash sales” platform of WeChat; Pinduoduo, a newcomer whose “group buy” model is popular with older shoppers seeking big discounts, and Mogujie, another shopping app popular with young women that has become WeChat’s official women’s style platform.
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