Your Guide to Chinese TikTok

There are two main trends happening to video: the want for shorter videos and the need for more content. Much like the internet transitioned from user-consumed content to user-created content, the world of video is going the same direction. These are exciting times, and all you need to do to be a part of it is to turn on your phone and hit “record.”

Douyin was launched in late 2016 by a company called ByteDance. It was developed by a team of eight people in only 200 days, which is remarkable development time for a Triple A app. Its rise to the top of the market was almost as fast.

Within a year of launching, Douyin had more than 100 million users and over 1 billion views a day. ByteDance launched the international version, TikTok, in 2017, and it too became one of the most popular apps in the world, reaching number one in the iOS App Store. In its relatively short life, Douyin became the app to know to be culturally relevant in 2020.

How Does Douyin Work?

Douyin is designed for fast content consumption. You download the app and within seconds a video is playing. No need to search or think about what you want to see (though you can).


Douyin’s algorithm automatically sends you content it thinks you will like. The types of videos you skip, you will see less of. The ones you watch to the end, the app will recommend more which are similar.

For example, if you watch 10 videos in a row involving dogs doing interesting things, expect an avalanche of dog videos the next time you open the app. Skip 10 dance videos in a row, expect to see fewer dance videos in your queue.

Douyin is designed for short videos and is usually a WeChat Moments friendly 15 seconds. This is no coincidence. By offering a time commitment similar to checking your WeChat Moments, Douyin is the perfect app to download for taking an elevator, riding the bus or spending a night in watching video after video.

How is Douyin Different From Similar Apps?

Douyin pushes short videos. The most common YouTube video length is around ten minutes long. Douyin’s are rarely over one minute, which makes the app extremely addictive.

Switching to the next video is done by swiping up on your phone, similar to the dating apps Tantan and Tinder. With such short video time, the types found on Douyin often provide shock value or have a “wow” factor.

Entertaining for sure, but the content is generally less rich than on other platforms. Do not download Douyin expecting a TED Talk.

What is the Difference Between Douyin and TikTok?

Looking at the logo for Douyin, you may have seen it abroad on another app called TikTok.

These two apps are in fact run by the same company. TikTok is the international version of Douyin and is a mega hit abroad. In the first quarter of 2018 TikTok was the number one downloaded app in the Apple App Store, and the sixth most downloaded app in the world.

Despite being an international version of Douyin, this is not a case like WeChat and Weixin, where only a few features are different from the Chinese version and the international version. Douyin and TikTok, while their interface and features are the same, are entirely separate communities with zero user crossover. This would be like a WeChat user in Europe not being able to add a “Weixin”user from China as a friend. Other than being two separate walled gardens and the default languages, the apps are identical.

What Does it Take to Become a Douyin Superstar?

You may have heard about the massive sums of money the top social media influencers in the West pull in. The most successful YouTubers and Instagramers earn hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in a month. You may have thought about getting in the game yourself, thinking about making videos and money. It is not an unrealistic dream.

Dongguan has several high earning social media influencers, and if you play your cards right, you could become one. As we all know, popular Western social media platforms are blocked here. While there are many Chinese social media platforms, one seems to stand above the rest: Douyin.

Why is it Groundbreaking?

Good editing can be the difference between a viral hit shared by millions, or a dud that you beg your friends to watch. The most successful YouTubers figured this out a long time ago.

However, editing is hard… Really hard. Douyin changes that, by including a suite of easy to use editing tools that can turn you into an editing master right out of the gate: music, animations, text and a whole set of effects to add to your video easily within the app. With all the tools Douyin provides, your only limitation for making killer videos is your imagination.

How to Make Money on Douyin?

With the potential to make massive sums of money right in front of me, I want to explore the possibility of quitting my day job and becoming a full-time social media influencer on Douyin. My biggest question was how do I make money?

On YouTube, users get paid a share of the ad revenue their videos generate directly from YouTube. On Douyin, you do NOT get paid from Douyin directly, but from users in the form of tips or sponsorships that you need to secure yourself. Let’s explore how this is done:

Sponsorships
This is where you have the highest earning potential. A huge account with a large following can attract corporate sponsorships that are highly profitable. To get a sponsorship deal, seek a natural fit.

Do not expect to drink a Pepsi or wear Nike clothes in your videos and have these companies come knocking; however, if you do makeup tutorials, you may have success partnering with a cosmetics brand. If you do videos on driving cars, a tire manufacturer may be a good fit. If you have a cooking channel, perhaps there would be an opportunity for a lucrative soy sauce partnership.

Fan Donations
Maybe a corporate sponsorship is not for you. Face it, you may not be sponsor friendly. You like to call it like it is; you are a champion of the people, the voice of a generation and you do not like answering to “the man.”

The other main Douyin revenue option is from Douyin users in the form of tips. This option is great if you specialize in live streams. If you can talk the talk in a live setting and interact well with your fans, they can tip you in the form of Dou Coins (Douyin Coins). These can be converted into RMB and cashed out to your Alipay account.

My Douyin Journey

After learning the rules of the game, I wanted to find out how to win. I needed to know what makes a successful video, and what makes an unsuccessful video.

What Clicks?

With such short time constraints, you need your audience to be engaged in the first five seconds. Remember, you are a swipe away from being

With such short time constraints, you need your audience to be engaged in the first five seconds. Remember, you are a swipe away from being skipped.

The most successful videos often include pranks, reactions, money, challenges or famous people. The more people who watch your videos to the end, the more your video will be pushed to other users’feeds. The more you get skipped, the less your videos will be pushed to other users’ feeds.

Jumping on trends is a way to get big views. For example, if you make videos about the coronavirus in 2020, the potential for big views would be high. Keep in mind you are competing with millions of other content creators. A successful video stands out from the crowd and gets people to stop, watch and not swipe up.

What Skips?

Defining what makes a video unsuccessful is harder than defining a successful video.

A lazily made video of a reasonably attractive girl waving at the camera does not seem like it would get a lot of views, especially with all of the competition. However, some of these videos get thousands upon thousands of views.

Types of videos that people seem to dislike are copycat videos. Videos that simply recreate another user’s viral content are sure to get a lot of skips and resentment from the community, but those videos are surprisingly wildly successful. While one can get lucky making these types of videos, the success they will enjoy is likely to plateau quickly. Remember, no one gets paid just for views, and these types of videos are unlikely to provide the power longevity needed to monetize a channel.

How to Setup a Channel?

Starting a channel is easy. Download the app, pick a username, confirm your identity with an SMS code and click the record button on the main page of the app. Next, you are going to want to pick a theme for your channel. what type of videos do you want to make?

I always enjoyed food eating challenges, so I made a channel where I would eat various foods in a fast and barbaric way. In one challenge I ate 40 chicken wings at Running Plus in Dongcheng. I also brought pets in on the action, putting myself against my dog in various eating challenges.

After recording a video, I used the Douyin tools to add music and time lapse the eating competitions so they would fit in a 15-second video. I expect a lot of refinement will be needed to compete with the most successful accounts. Becoming a full-fledged Douyin superstar is likely to take as much work and time as a full-time job, if not more.

Dongguan Douyin Channels

An interesting thing happens when you search for videos from users in Dongguan.

Click the “same city” tab (同城) and you will find a page full of videos. This is different from the main page of Douyin which will push videos automatically. When searching for videos of Dongguan users, it will show the distance each user is from your current location.

I loaded up a fresh install of Douyin on a brand-new phone, with a brand-new account to get an unbiased algorithm of videos to see, and all I saw were pages upon pages of girls singing, working out and walking. Your experiences may differ depending on your viewing choices made on the app.

Discover the Top Five Must Watch Douyin Channels

Talking Liu Er Dou: Has 45.5 million followers and shows snippets of the life of two adorable cats.

Chen He: Has 42.3 million followers and is a creative video maker producing short entertaining sketches about everyday life.

Guo Cong Ming: Has 38.2 million followers and shows a spontaneous rising star producing musical content with original songs, covers and dances.

Austin: Has 37.1 million followers and shows makeup tutorials and unboxing videos by an authentic young man.

OvO: Has 31.7 million followers and is a gaming and products tester.