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The offline world may have come to a standstill in 2020, but online activity intensified and flourished in new directions as lockdowns extended into months. And Douyin, China’s version of short-video platform TikTok, offers living proof.

According to the 2020 report released on January 5 by parent company ByteDance, Douyin’s daily active user base now exceeds 600 million and its average daily video search volume reaches upwards of 400 million. 

These swelling figures reflect Douyin’s effective marketing strategies and ability to broaden its appeal across demographics and geographies. Throughout 2020, the platform continued aggressive promotions and fine-tuned its capabilities in livestreaming, social networking, e-commerce, and search.

Below are four key takeaways from the report that offer insights into the ways audiences used the platform in the past year and the role it will play in 2021.

 

Conversations shaped by the pandemic

Douyin might be a platform known for humorous, light-hearted content — as embodied by its slogan “Record Beautiful Life” — but in 2020 it was also a place of solace and community for socially distanced audiences experiencing hardship.

In 2020, Douyin users uploaded 2.2 million videos using the keyword “doubt” (怀疑), 7.61 million videos on “giving up” (放弃), and 14.91 million videos that opined “too difficult” (太难了). It wasn’t all negative: Douyin also saw 69.13 million comments related to “persistence” (坚持), 130 million that implored “believe” (相信), and 1.8 billion that offered encouragement (加油). 

The growing diversity of Douyin’s audience

For a new media platform that has already entered thousands of households, it’s no surprise that Douyin hosts a diverse audience. According to the report, its user base covers a wide geographical swathe, spans age groups, and ranges from students to white-collar workers to artists. 

That same diversity is mirrored in the content users post and interact with on Douyin. While the post-1960s and ‘70s generations enjoy photographing food, and watching weddings and babies, Millennials and Gen Z-ers largely consume news on the platform, and love shooting and watching anime content.

The content preferences of Douyin's audience in 2020 span a diversity of interests. Image: Douyin

The content preferences of Douyin’s audience in 2020 span a diversity of interests. Image: Douyin

E-commerce emerges as a major force

Douyin developed an edge in China’s e-commerce landscape serving as a popular and handy marketplace for brands to conduct sales, marketing, and advertising. In 2020, the platform served as a storefront for more than 5,000 Chinese craftspeople, ensuring the reach of the country’s intangible cultural heritage. Expect this area to grow. 

Douyin’s participation in the recovery of Hubei province, the first epicenter of the virus — it helped 42,000 merchants shift $633 million in goods — shows how the platform can be a new e-commerce frontier. 

For artists and sellers, Douyin’s marketplace is a uniquely attractive prospect. Its audiovisual functionality encourages self-expression and aids in publicity, while its massive traffic aids exposure. By building a direct and efficient bridge between creators and potential buyers, the short-video market is poised to play a vital role in online arts and crafts commerce. 

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Domestic travel and tourism rebound

As the pandemic gradually came under control, China’s domestic tourism economy gradually recovered over a series of national holidays. The report notes that on National Day, the average daily check-in volume at attractions across the country was more than 10 times that of the Lunar New Year. 

Douyin most popular destination in 2020, Yinji Animal Kingdom in Zhengzhou staged an immersive light show in November 2020. Image: Christie Digital

Douyin’s most popular attraction in 2020, the Yinji Animal Kingdom in Zhengzhou staged an immersive light show on its grounds in November. Image: Christie Digital

Wuhan, which became the focus of national attention following the pandemic outbreak, received 8.3 billion likes in the past year, closely followed by Beijing and Chengdu, an emerging “internet famous” (网红) city in the eyes of domestic tourists.

The hottest spot on Douyin in 2020? The Henan Zhengzhou Yinji Animal Kingdom, which saw growth of more than 3086 percent in its number of likes. Other such smaller and unique attractions also gained attention on Douyin: the Hengshui Wildlife Park, Shanghai Siyuan Warehouse Anti-Japanese War Memorial, and Jinan Wildlife World were some destinations that received 10 million-plus likes. Douyin hasn’t just documented the trajectory of China’s domestic tourism recovery, but has helped renew interest and confidence in travel.

Translated by Min Chen

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Cultural Insider, Industry Insights