Douyin has emerged as a digital marketing platform full of potential for brands in China

Make the most of Douyin
Make the most of Douyin


Even in a digital environment where everything moves at lightning speed, the rate of Douyin’s growth stands out. The app, launched in September 2016, is the brainchild of Toutiao CTO Liang Rubo. After an initial few months of relatively glacial growth, the platform’s popularity exploded in mid-2017 and now boasts around 140 million monthly active users viewing a combined 1 billion videos a day.

Douyin: Video App. Whoa !
Douyin: Video App. Whoa !

The app, which literally translates as ‘vibrant voice’, is primarily a short video hosting platform. Clips, limited to 15 seconds, can be edited and dubbed using the apps range of advanced editing features. Users can edit their own visual content or dub over clips from movies, music videos, and tv shows before sharing with their followers.
In November 2017, Douyin’s parent company ByteDance (who also own Toutiao) purchased US-based short video platform for US$1bn. The two platforms were merged and are now promoted internationally under the brand name Tik Tok.

Douyin buys
Douyin buys and names Tik Tok

Because of the nature of the app’s viral content, Douyin has been incredibly popular among China’s youth, with over 85% of users under the age of 24.


The rapid growth of Douyin’s user base and the algorithms that it uses to recommend content to users has led to the rapid emergence of key opinion leaders (KOL) on the platform. This algorithm channels the best quality videos—determined by the number of views and likes—to the most viewers, creating a snowball effect. For those users who create high-quality, popular content, the system allows them to quickly grow their fan base and become KOLs.

One KOL who has successfully exploited the app’s potential is Wu Jiayu. She quit her job as a dentist in Beijing to pursue a career as a professional blogger, quickly becoming one of Douyin’s most popular female celebrities. Wu has 5.7 million followers and has accumulated more than 27 million likes from her content. As a result, in November 2017 she was approached by Michael Kors to create a video clip promoting one of their handbags. So far, the video has attracted 162,000 likes and has generated almost 2,700 comments.

With the emergence of KOLs on Douyin, the platform has become an increasingly attractive digital marketing proposition for companies looking to develop an online presence in China. As a consequence, in March 2018 Douyin introduced a ‘shopping cart’ link to its platform that redirects users to Taobao, where they can purchase the product being promoted.

Douyin promotes Taobao
douyin promotes taobao product cart


Engaging with celebrities and KOLs is just one way brands can utilise the increasing popularity of Douyin. Some of the options are:


By opening an official Douyin account, companies can publish their own creative content in the form of short videos. These short videos are then channelled to users through the app’s recommendations.

One company making the most of the platform is Xiaomi, who regularly publish videos on Douyin. Rather than posting professional video ads, the tech company use amateur-style videos to promote their products. In addition, Xiaomi followers can submit their own content. The company’s content has generated 1.3 million likes from its 324,000 followers.

Douyin Official Account
Douyin Official Account

Another Chinese tech company, Lenovo, have adopted a slightly different tactic; posting daily videos of a young woman singing, dancing, and showcasing Lenovo products. This campaign has attracted over 78,000 likes.


With its enormous—and ever increasing—user base, Douyin is a very useful advertising platform for brands in China. Managed through Toutiao, advertising on Douyin requires an initial investment of 10,000RMB to buy credits on the site. From here, companies have a choice between two main types of ads; in-stream video ads and app-launching ads. Both types of ads are particularly popular with education, interior decoration, real estate, automobile, and video game companies.

In-stream ads appear among the platform’s recommended videos and usually become visible after the fourth scroll-up refresh. These videos are limited to 30 seconds in length and allow the viewer to swipe right (or click on the account’s avatar) to enter a customized webpage hosting more information about the brand and their products. The options for in-stream ads are:

  • Cost Per Click (CPC) – 0.4 – 0.5RMB per click;
  • Cost Per Mille (CPM) – 6-7RMB per thousand persons;
  • Cost Per Action (CPA) – 50RMB per action (user leaving their contact information on the ad page).

AirBnB launched an in-stream ad campaign in September 2017 featuring Taiwanese actor Eddie Peng which generated 67,000 likes and 643 comments.

Buy paid ads in douyin

App-launching ads are the second option for brands on Douyin. These ads appear when the user opens the app and are limited to 5 seconds in length. They are much more costly, at 500,000RMB per day, but these prices can differ if you go through a third-party agency.

These advertising costs are direct from a Toutiao sales representative but can fluctuate over time and across industries.


In addition to official accounts and ads, Douyin also allows companies to hold customized video competitions called ‘Challenges’ promoting designated hashtags. Fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger recently launched a challenge by posting a video of Hong Kong-based singer and actor Shawn Yue. Followers had to shoot their own themed video, inserting a sticker during the editing process, and publish it with a designated hashtag. Finalists were judged on how relative the theme was and the number of likes the video attracted, with winners receiving tickets to one of Yue’s concerts.

Take a douyin challenge

Need help? The profile of Douyin’s user base is different from other digital platforms in China, including that of sister site Toutiao, as its audience is focused in first tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. If your company wants to harvest the potential of Douyin as a communication or advertising platform, contact us for more information and advice.

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Textile and Software Graduate, with a flair for Photography, Programming, Travel, arts, Latin Dancing and blogging. Currently living in China running a software and an export company with interest in O2O and Point of sale information technology, Customer information System, Geographic Information System.

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