China has its own version of almost every mainstream Western social media platform. Case in point: WeChat, an equivalent to Messenger and WhatsApp combined. Then there’s Baidu, which rivals Google. But one social app has managed to gain its own international fandom: Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu).
Billed as a Chinese version of Instagram, Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) is China’s most trusted social shopping platform. Every month, it’s estimated that over 200 million users (mostly Gen Z women) log into the app looking for beauty tips, travel recommendations, and dinner advice.
The app (Xiaohongshu) blends e-commerce, content creation, and community building into one comprehensive social marketing platform. It’s rewriting the rules of online shopping, revolutionizing product discovery, and creating a whole new way for brands to engage with Chinese Gen Z consumers.
Think Instagram, Amazon, and Etsy all rolled into one.
So, if your business is looking to break into the Chinese market, Xiaohongshu should be at the top of your list. And to help you work your way around the app, we’ve prepared this guide to walk you through the basics of marketing your brand on Little Red Book.
What Is Xiaohongshu?
In China, Little Red Book is referred to by the name Xiaohongshu, which translates to “Little Red Book.”
Globally, users just refer to it as Red. It was launched in 2013 as a photo and video review platform. Chinese travellers would recommend beauty products purchased outside mainland China and share their experiences — hence the slogan “Finding Stuff Overseas.”
Eventually, the platform would start attracting people with no travel intent. As a result, Red was forced to expand its missions, incorporate more features, and build an ecosystem that serves users with various interests.
That would see to it that they also changed their slogan to “Marking Your Beautiful Things.”
Although the app mainly specializes in beauty and fashion products, it recently positioned itself as a lifestyle app, catering to all sorts of interests and passions, including gaming, home, food, travel, entertainment, parenting, creativity, culture, and education.
It also expanded its content to include original articles, live-streaming videos, video reviews, social events, etc., transforming from a product discovery platform to a comprehensive social app.
How Does Xiaohongshu (Red) Work?
One of the most impressive aspects of Red is its incredible number of features.
At a casual glance, the app combines social media and e-commerce, powered by user-generated content.
Red users can share experiences and recommendations, create their own mini-blogs (“Notes”), upload videos or photos to the platform, and join events and group activities.
So, how do all these features blend together?
Well, the app has three different feeds:
Users who log into the app will first see the posts on the Explore feed. Here, they’ll see posts they’re interested in based on their browsing history and previous interactions with the app.
The Follow feed, on the other hand, is a more personalized version of the Explore feed. They’ll see posts from the users they follow, the same way it’s on Instagram or Twitter.
The Nearby feed is a bit different. Here, users can check out recommendations and other posts from people who live in their area or city. They can sort posts by distance, making it especially helpful to those travelling or looking for cool places to shop, eat, or hang out.
These features allow Red users to build their own community and explore interests and passions from all around the world — and that’s why it has become a popular choice for brands looking to reach out to their target audiences.
The Key Features
Little Red Book’s user interface isn’t any different from any other big social media platform. Its feed includes images, text, videos, live streams, hashtags, and descriptions.
The app also offers a trendy “browsing” feature that helps users discover products, stores, events, and services related to their interests. The platform also enables users to search for products using its highly effective search bar.
As far as text goes, the longer the post, the better. Red users are known for being quite detailed in their posts, and long-form content is very popular on the platform as it gives them more room to express what they’re talking about.
Lengthy posts are referred to as ‘notes’ and are particularly helpful to users who want more information on a product or service. Users can comment on them, share them, and even save them to their collections.
Users can add a hyperlink to a “note,” directing their followers to the brand’s app page or website. That makes up for a smooth transition from social media to e-commerce, which is appreciated by brands looking to drive sales through Little Red Book.
Finally, users can interact with the platform the same way they interact with other social media platforms. They can like, comment, share posts and follow users that they find interesting or have similar interests.
Little Red Book Vs. Instagram: Compare and Contrast
Red in China’s version of Instagram, but that’s not to say it’s a copy-and-paste of the world-famous platform. Little Red Book has many unique features that distinguish it from Instagram, making it an ideal choice for brands targeting Chinese audiences.
Let’s look at the similarities:
The interface is very similar to Instagram. Both have a feed-style layout, with images and videos in a grid formation. Users can add text descriptions, hashtags, and emojis to each post.
Users can like, comment, share, and follow other users. They can also share posts from other users to their own feeds. Brands can post content either through the app or via a web browser.
Now for the differences:
Instagram puts a lot of emphasis on visuals and aesthetics, while Little Red Book focuses more on content. Unlike Instagram, lengthy reviews, personal stories, and other editorial content are highly encouraged.
Little Red Book gives brands more room to be creative with their content because it allows them to post interactive quizzes, polls, coupons, and even live streams! This kind of engagement is tough to replicate on Instagram.
Also, Red is more focused on selling products. Instagram is more of a platform for people to show off their lifestyles. On Little Red Book, brands can create product pages and link product listings directly to the app. That makes it much easier for users to purchase items if they like what they see.
Little Red Book Statistics:
- Little Red Book is everything Instagram isn’t, and it’s growing fast. As of March 2023, there were over 174 million monthly active users on Little Red Book.
- The app is particularly popular with female Chinese users, with male users accounting for less than a third of the user base.
- After receiving massive funding in 2021, the app would be valued at $20 billion. That makes Little Red Book one of today’s most valuable social media platforms.
- In 2022, the app had over 400 million registered users in China and over 15,000 official brands.
- Female audiences between 18 and 30 dominate the app.
- Red isn’t only used in China. It’s consumed worldwide and has over 30 million monthly active users outside China, especially in Southeast Asia.
- 70% of the content posted on the platform is user-generated, making Little Red Book one of the most interactive social networks.
- Red’s conversion rate now rests at 8% — 2 to 3 times the average on other ecommerce platforms.
- Little Red Book makes up 15% of the Chinese online ecommerce market share, making it a serious player in the industry.
Demographic: Red is a Female-first app catering to young Chinese women between 18 and 35.
Although different sources have different opinions of the app, most agree it’s the perfect platform to target millennials and the Gen Z audience.
It’s also an excellent platform for lifestyle and fashion brands as they can show off their products more effectively, e.g., by creating content around the product or running campaigns with influencers.
Let’s talk numbers:
- Female users account for about 70 and 80% of the total users on Little Red Book. Other sources report that this number might even be higher, with one source suggesting it could be as high as 95%.
- Don’t get it wrong: while Little Red Book is predominantly a female platform, the number of males using this app has been rising steadily over the years.
In 2021, the number of notes on technology and auto rose at a monthly rate of 7.2% and 28.4%, respectively.
- In 2022, Red users generated about 360 million notes (posts), with many of the notes coming from entertainment (20.342 million), beauty (26.956 million), and food (33.686 million) categories.
- The three categories (entertainment, beauty and food) accounted for about 23% of total notes posted.
Food notes accounted for 9% of the market and were ranked first.
The food notes posted were mainly tutorials, food matching, and shop exploration.
- Beauty notes came second, accounting for 7% of the market, followed by entertainment.
The notes mainly included beauty tutorials, makeup sharing, recommendations, and product reviews.
- What’s more? 50% of these users are between 18 and 35 years old and living in Tier 1 and 2 cities.
- And it’s not just an online thing. In June 2018, the platform launched a brick-and-mortar store in Shanghai.
The Marketing Opportunities on Red
Little Red Book offers a wide range of marketing opportunities at a casual glance.
First, you can easily tell it’s a great match for ecommerce brands in the beauty and fashion industry.
However, it’s not limited to just those industries; you can also find a lot of potential in the automotive industry, financial services, and more.
Red isn’t also just a shopping platform but an information hub. Brands can use it to engage with customers, provide them with detailed product information, and even run short-term giveaways or contests that are guaranteed to boost brand engagement.
Before making any major purchase decision, users engage with other app users to discuss their thoughts about products in the comments section.
How Can Brands Leverage Little Red Marketing Options?
Now that you know what Little Red Book is all about and the various marketing opportunities it provides, let’s talk about how brands can leverage these options.
Open an Official Brand Page if You Haven’t Done So Already
The first step in leveraging Little Red Book’s marketing opportunities is opening an official brand page if you haven’t done so already.
Nearly 20,000 brands have opened official accounts on the platform, which shows how influential it is.
Having an official brand page will allow you to post images and videos, write notes, interact with followers, and, most importantly, set up your store on the platform.
So, why is this a great marketing strategy in the first place?
First, having an official brand account is the only credibility guarantee you can have on the platform. It’s how you win users’ trust and get them to interact with your brand.
Second, it helps you build relationships with users by answering their questions and engaging in conversations. You can share your content, capture their attention, and turn them into loyal customers, provided you do it right.
Last but not least, it will help you reach a new audience and expand your customer base. The followers you get are your brand advocates. If they like your content, enjoy your products, and trust your brand, they’ll help you spread the word.
So, how do you achieve that?
Create video content
Videos are the new language of the internet. They have better interaction rates than text and images.
Make sure that your video content is fun, informative, and entertaining. You can make tutorials, product reviews, unboxing videos, and other types of content that will captivate your audience.
It helps to create a content schedule for your brand. You don’t want to overload your followers with too much content, but you also don’t want them to forget about your brand.
After you launch, make sure you post something every day/week. It could be a funny meme, an informative article, or even a simple update on your brand.
Engage with followers
Don’t just post content and leave it at that. Engage with your followers in the comments section. Ask questions about their experiences and respond to their comments. That will help build trust and strengthen your relationships with them.
Be sure to respond to comments quickly so they don’t feel ignored. You also want to visit other brands’ pages and comment on their posts.
Optimize the Keywords in your note’s title
Red’s algorithm works much like Google’s. It looks for keywords in the title of your notes, analyses your post engagement, and ranks it accordingly.
You want to include the keyword in your post’s title and ensure that it accurately reflects the content of your post.
Promote Your Posts on Other Social Platforms
Promote your content on other social media platforms like WeChat, Weibo, and Douyin. That will help you reach more people and extend your brand’s influence beyond the Little Red Book.
Create Special Promotions or Giveaways
People love free stuff! Try hosting giveaways or promotions to give your followers a chance to win something.
Working with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs)
If you’ve ever researched influencer marketing in China, you know that one of the most effective ways to promote your brand is by working with KOLs and KOCs. T
Chinese like referring to influencers as KOLs and KOCs (KOL stands for Key Opinion Leaders, and KOCs stand for Key Opinion Consumers).
Since Chinese users don’t trust the random information, they find online, they tend to look for KOLs or KOCs for validation.
KOLs are revered influencers with big, loyal followings. They are industry experts specializing in certain topics and have a knack for churning out compelling content. They’re reliable, knowledgeable, and trustworthy.
KOCs are everyday users on Xiaohongshu who have gained notoriety and followers due to their honest reviews. They usually specialize in a particular product category or type of content. KOCs aren’t as influential as KOLs, but their opinions and voices still carry weight– since they’re real customer experiences, people tend to trust them more.
By partnering with KOLs or KOCs, you can leverage their influence to reach new audiences and promote your brand on the Little Red Book. Plus, it’s an effective way to get people talking about your product or services.
While KOLs are viewed as mini-celebrities, KOCs are more relatable and easier to get in touch with. Finding influencers who fit your brand’s values can be tricky. However, knowing where to look or how to contact them could pay off big time.
Red supports paid advertising. However, unlike Instagram, its targeting options aren’t as advanced. For example, when targeting users based on their interests, you can only choose from 20 interest groups.
Plus, they only support two ad formats:
- Pop-up Ads: These ads appear when users launch the Little Red Book app. They can be dynamic or static images with accompanying text.
- Integrated Ads: These ads appear in the discovery section of the app alongside organic content, but they have small advertising marks.
Suffice it to say Red’s advertising options are quite limited. However, they’re still an effective way to reach various audiences and promote your brand on the Little Red Book.
A Rising Opportunity for Gaming Apps
The Little Red Book is home to a rapidly growing gaming community.
According to hi-com Asia, gaming is the fastest-growing topic in the app. In fact, notes in the gaming category increased by 31.9% month-on-month in the second half of 2021.
This presents a great opportunity for gaming app developers to reach new audiences and increase user engagement. As gamers are always looking for new ways to engage, they could be the perfect target market for your product or service.
And since most of the top games are produced by Chinese publishers (Tencent, NetEase, etc.), it’s easy to see why the Little Red Book is an attractive option for gaming app developers.
So, what type of games dominate the Little Red Book?
Since most Red users are female, it is no surprise that most games on the platform are geared towards female gamers.
The most popular genres in The Little Red Book are games on couples and other role-playing games. These games are story-based and feature various characters, making them particularly attractive to female gamers.
And since the Little Red Book allows users to interact with each other while playing these games, they can also be used as a platform for building relationships between players – something that appeals to many female gamers.
The Marketing Challenges You’re Likely to Face
While the Little Red Book provides a great opportunity for marketers to reach new audiences, it also presents some unique challenges.
The app has a much smaller user base than other Chinese social media apps such as Douyin and WeChat. Therefore, reaching a large enough audience with your marketing campaigns can be difficult.
Furthermore, the app’s focus on female users makes it difficult for marketers to target male audiences. As such, you’ll need to find creative ways to engage this demographic if you’re looking to tap into this Little Red Book’s user base.
Here are some other challenges you’ll face:
- It doesn’t support third-party links, which makes it difficult to drive traffic from the app to your website or other platforms.
- The platform is largely Chinese- based, so you’ll need to find creative ways to communicate with international audiences.
- It doesn’t allow you to directly mention competing apps (such as WeChat or Douyin) in your promotional material, so you must be mindful of the content you post.
- Conversion attribution and measurement are still a challenge, as there is no support for tracking conversions from Little Red Book on most analytics platforms.
- Words like Number 1, luxury, and expensive are not allowed in the app’s content guidelines because they can mislead users.
- To open a brand account, you need to complete a registration process and have your account verified. You’ll also be required to submit business documents such as your business license, certificate of incorporation, etc.
- Finally, there isn’t an English version of the app, so you’ll need to translate your content into Chinese to be effective.
The Final Takeaway
Little Red Book may be a great platform for marketing, but it requires a lot of preparation and strategizing to make the most out of it. Before launching your campaigns, it helps to ensure you understand the app’s guidelines, target audience, and technical challenges.
Get creative with your content by using interactive elements such as GIFs, images, polls, quizzes, and more — these will help keep users engaged and make your campaigns stand out. Little Red Book is also a great platform for influencer marketing, so consider partnering with the KOLs and KOCs that fit your brand best.