Introduction to Douban
User and content characteristics of the social network
Douban for marketing and sales
Foundation and development
Douban is a social networking and review website in China that was founded in March 2005 by Yang Bo, a former IBM researcher. Initially, the website was focused on book reviews and recommendations, but it quickly expanded to include reviews of movies, music, and other forms of media. Over the years, Douban has added various new features and services, including event listings, group discussions, etc. This makes it comparable to platforms like Reddit, IMDB, and GoofReads.
Chinese government pressure and current position
Despite its popularity, Douban has also faced controversies related to censorship provided by Beijing and corresponding Internet regulation and control in China (through page verification, cookies, and other things). It mainly attracts intellectuals who discuss social issues, which makes it vulnerable to censorship policies of Beijing. For example, Douban's keyword blacklist was expanded and some materials were removed in 2009 after the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests due to Beijing's reaction that year.
Notwithstanding the human rights matter, the app has become a popular platform for cultural events and activities, and it has been used to organize book clubs, film screenings, and other cultural gatherings. It is a social networking platform that prioritizes community participation, and users are able to generate content and post feedback on a variety of subjects. Besides, the site's unique rating system has made it a valuable resource for people seeking opinions and recommendations on a wide range of topics.
According to the KAWO 2022 report, Douban users mainly live in Tier 1 cities (49%) and can be related to the Chinese middle class. In addition, the main part of the target audience is related to Generation Y. For example, 49% of active users are under the age of 30 to 40. In terms of gender distribution, there is a balance between male (47%) and female (53%) audiences. In total, the number of MAU is around 60 million, which makes the platform a popular website and app for working with audiences within different niches.
Chinese people use Douban to express their opinions and thoughts on topics that interest them. As a result, Douban's content is more specialized than that of other Chinese social media platforms that cater to a more general audience.
The platform features user-generated content, including book and movie reviews, art, and hobby-related topics. There are also many community groups on Douban, which are a popular way to communicate. Access to most of Douban's materials is available without registration, but unregistered visitors cannot create events or campaigns, or comment on posts.
Douban consists of a whole ecosystem of different services related to different content areas, some of which are presented below.
读书, 电影, 音乐
Douban's books section serves as a platform for users to review and discuss books, as well as purchase them directly from Chinese websites such as JD.com. This has become a significant source of revenue for Douban and an integral part of its core strategy. Users can find a wide range of books, including old foreign classics as well as contemporary Chinese novels and fan fiction. It is possible to conveniently make purchases on the platform using payment services such as WeChat Pay or AliPay.
Douban's movies section allows users to rate, review, and discuss movies, and serves as a valuable resource since IMDB.com is blocked in China. The section offers features such as booking movie tickets, listing current theater showings, and genre filtering. Users can watch trailers and read first-hand reviews and comments to make informed choices. To watch movies and TV shows, users can visit platforms such as Youku or iQiyi, where content is available either for free or through a VIP subscription.
Douban's music section is widely regarded as its most popular feature, providing a platform for new artists to showcase and promote their songs to the audience while receiving reviews. This feature can be compared to the concept of MySpace. It provides a great way for users to discover and support emerging artists.
The platform's main feature is the ability to search for events and activities in any Chinese city, ranging from movie screenings to theater performances. Douban's "City" section offers a wide range of events, including festivals, exhibitions, and group activities. It provides a platform for users in the same city to not only engage in online discussions, but also meet in person.
Douban offers a core feature called "小组" (Xiao Zu), which allows users to join interest-based group communities to share experiences and engage in discussions. The platform recommends relevant communities based on user preferences and provides a segmented categorization of groups for easy exploration. This feature fosters connections among like-minded individuals and enables marketers to target specific interest groups.
Douban.FM is a music streaming service similar to Spotify, but with added customization options. It allows users to listen to tracks based on their personal tastes and preferences. Users have the ability to skip tracks and indicate their preferences, providing a more personalized music experience.
In order to attract and engage users, Douban has introduced "Douban's Goods", a section that offers goods with the Douban logo and other items. In addition, Douban has launched its "new stuff" section, similar to Taobao, where brands can showcase and sell their products directly on the app. While this feature may not be as popular as dedicated e-commerce platforms, it is gradually contributing to Douban's success by expanding its offerings to users.
One of the most popular types of advertising on the site is the placement of banners depending on the interests of the target audience. And the cost of such advertising is not very high: the CPM is from 15 to 20 RMB.
Audio and video Ads
The platform's multimedia format also allows you to run video or audio ads, for example on a section such as Douban FM.
Working with audience
Word-of-mouth is essential for brand discovery among Chinese consumers, who rely heavily on recommendations from friends and family. Brands on Douban can use opinions, ratings, discussions, and more to shape perceptions and engage their community. By actively responding to asked questions, hosting events, and collecting feedback, it is possible to effectively influence the opinions of the target audience.
Douban also offers "brand stations" where brands can share their business stories, logo, history, and other information. There is also a premium version with advanced features.
All in all, Douban is a perspective place for live communication between brands and their niche audiences, including active members of communities on the app. Its services continue to open up many opportunities for marketing in China, making Douban an app you should not avoid when promoting brands in China.
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