Everybody is talking about WeChat, which is understandable. Called WeXin in China, WeChat has become one of the largest social networks in China within just three years since it was debuted. As of Q1 2015, WeChat has 549m active monthly users with 1.1bn registered accounts worldwide. 100m of users are based outside of China. In 2014, WeChat restricted the number of friends a single user could have to 5,000. The momentum of its expanding  user-base seems unstopper.

Also enjoying a large user-base is Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service. While it is true that users are less active than they were six years ago (the year of 2010 is referred to as “the beginning year of the microblogging age”), it still has 198 million monthly active users, as of Q1 2015. That number is up 11.2 percent from 175.7 million in the previous quarter, a rise of 38 percent year-on-year. Weibo hit 89 million daily active users in March, 2015 up 34 percent from the same time last year. (Read more about WeChat and Weibo: Three Things to Bear In Mind When Reaching Out to Chinese Market with WeChat and Weibo)

So why bother to market elsewhere? Well, truth is, much as these social media platforms emphasize the low bar to launch and maintain marketing accounts,  it is still a place for big companies who started running their accounts since the early days and have built an enormous fan base already. The business model of Weibo public account and Weibo enterprise accounts does not flavour the small guys or late comers. That being said, without an EXISTING large user base, your marketing efforts, no matter brilliant they are, still have lesser chances to be circulated around. And this is exactly where Toutiao 今日头条 kicks in.

Toutiao: Algorithm-based social networking app

Toutiao, a popular news app, provides valuable and personalized information for users in China. Since its launch in August 2012, the Toutiao smartphone app has gained 350 million users in China, with that number continuing to rise. The outstanding feature of Toutiao app lies on its algorithm. Like Facebook which tailors the ads for each user, Toutiao analyzes a user’s behavior and would recommend articles or Toutiao accounts to the user based on the analysis. According to Zhang Yiming, CEO of Toutiao Xinwen, if/when users log in to Toutiao with their Sina Weibo account, Toutiao will mine users’ social data and analyze information of their interests. Toutiao will also gather users’ location data and reading habits to make their content recommendation more accurate each time.


This particular feature distinguishes Toutiao account from other popular platforms such as WeChat public account and it significantly affects how we should run these accounts differently. Unlike WeChat where users cannot follow our public account unless they actively search for it or see it elsewhere, Toutiao app will automatically promote our account and/or articles to users with relevant interests in travel, Canada, food, etc. Moreover, the more users read an article, the more likely Toutiao will promote it to other uses. In general, content in Toutiao is easier to disseminate. Even new accounts have the potential to become viral if they have quality content.

User demographics and behaviours

A report shows that the majority of Toutiau user is male between 20 to 40 years old living in Tier-1 cities. Toutiao’s own annual report also portrays its general user profile: Over half of the Toutiao app users are using a phone that costs less than 2,000 RMB and they are also the one most active on the platform. Male users’ top reading tags are (in descending order): society news, entertainment, local news, automobile, current affairs, global news, financial news, digital, military, health, technology, laughter, history, and family. Female’s are: entertainment, society news, fashion, parenting, health, local news, emotion and relationship, food, furniture, well-being, laughter, global news, weirdo, history, and current affairs. Generally speaking, male users have high reading frequency and short reading time whereas female users read less but linger on the app longer.


Another important factor the longer an article is, the more likely users stop reading it and move on to another one. Users are likely to spend 48 seconds on an article with less than 1,000 words before they stop reading it. About 40 per cent of the users will stop reading an article after a minute when it is 1,000 to 2,000 words’ long. More than half of the users will stop reading an article with more than 2,000 words.

For those in the tourism/lifestyle industry, this is you advantageous platform as Toutiao users are more likely to be using travel-related apps every day. They are also more likely to be car owners[1].


[1] TrustData:2015年Q1-Q3今日头条 APP 用户分析报告http://www.useit.com.cn/thread-10571-1-1.html