CIM046: Douyin in 2019 – Fabian Bern Brings You Up to Speed on the Latest Features and Trends

May 20, 2019

Last spring, I had Fabian Bern on the podcast to give an overview of Douyin, which, at the time, was still an emerging social media platform in China. A lot has changed since then and I wanted to bring Fabian back on the podcast to bring us up to speed on Douyin, share what has changed over the past year and where does he see the platform going in the future.

We discuss user demographics, new features on the platform, and how content is evolving, specifically the increase in mini-series and vlogs. I also ask him what industries he thinks can benefit the most from Douyin, and whether they should be focusing on using Douyin to raise brand awareness or drive sales.

Over the past year, Douyin has introduced the Starmap KOL marketing platform and encouraged many of its content creators to sign with MCNs, and we talk about how that works and the pros and cons of that system.

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Additional Notes:

How Douyin has evolved:

  • Userbase – now more than 500 million users
  • 1st tier & 3rd tier cities are two main user groups
  • 1st tier users interested in brands and celebrities
  • 3rd tier city users:
    • Social commerce on Douyin big in those cities
    • Live streams popular among 3rd tier cities
  • Strategic partnerships – CNY gala

New features since last Spring:

  • Users can post photos too (as opposed to just video)
  • Tmall & JD testing native stores
  • Wallets, red packets
  • Improved AR filters
  • Duoshan messaging app integrated with Douyin
  • In-video shopping
  • Mini-programs, most popular so far are mini- games
  • Stories feature (seems to still be in Beta)

Shift in Content:

  • Short web series
  • Micro vlogging popular, real and relatable
  • Douyin seems to be shifting to promote more series-type content, which keeps users coming back, and is more sustainable. People get bored of little skit videos after a while.

Brands on Douyin:

  • 150k official brand accounts
  • China government does a great job
  • Local companies generally do much better than foreign ones
  • Foreign companies often use existing content and cut a piece out and put it on Douyin, which really does not work
  • While there are a lot of brands on the platform, most of them aren’t making good enough content for it to organically spread on the platform

Industries most suitable for Douyin:

  • Auto industry has done very well
  • Electronics
  • Web series use Douyin to spread awareness
  • Cosmetics & fashion easiest to drive sales
  • Gaming, F&B growing
  • Education – Douyin now has “child accounts” where parents can filter out content

Thoughts on TikTok:

  • Douyin one year ahead of TikTok
  • Can guess what features will come soon to TikTok
  • Content is a bit different with localization, create virality in country itself; Indonesia good example
  • Thinks TikTok will generally follow Douyin’s path
  • Young audience and people struggle to learn how to use it

KOL marketing on Douyin:

  • MCNs and the Starmap platform
  • Douyin KOLs getting more mature
  • Many KOLs started their own MCNs and they are doing well because they understand the platform
  • Platform pays more attention to users with 500K+ fans; smaller accounts less regulated
  • Still a couple independent KOLs but don’t get much support from the platform
  • A cut of the KOL fee will go to the MCN and Douyin
  • Approx. price = 20-30 RMB/1000 fans


  • Videos can now be up to 60 seconds for all users
  • Recent campaigns to promote vlogging; Fabian believes that since they specifically used the word vlog means they are putting resources behind it

Opportunity for music industry:

  • More opportunities for music labels, need new songs, especially music + vlogs, movie soundtracks
  • Releasing new music through Douyin

Douyin Vloggers he Recommends:

  • Tuoluoyi – pilot who documents his trips
  • Itsrae – travel vlogs

Guest: Fabian Bern



Host: Lauren Hallanan



WeChat: H1212118514

Check out my book: Digital China: Working with Bloggers, Influencers and KOL

Thanks to our sponsors PARKLU: and The Meet Group 

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