China’s digital landscape is exciting and challenging at the same time for marketers with new platforms emerging and existing ones upgraded constantly. Even though apps/ platforms in China are famous for their multi-purposes, each has their strongest point in a unique functionality, such as Wechat as social media and instant messaging, Weibo as social media, Baidu as search engine, Alibaba as e-commerce… Toutiao is a fast growing platform in Chinese digital scene with the focus on content aggregation and distribution which is not a new concept; however, its super smart AI algorithms create all the difference and make Toutiao become one of the most popular apps to Chinese people and one of the most powerful places to influence Chinese consumers for marketers.
In this article, we will explore everything about Toutiao as well as how to maximize this platform.
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WHAT IS TOUTIAO ABOUT?
Toutiao, which literally means “Today’s Headlines”, is an emerging mobile platform of content creation, aggregation and distribution, featured by machine learning techniques. The name “Toutiao” originates from the company’s belief that “Only the things which all the readers care about can be the headlines.”
Toutiao uses AI algorithms to analyze users’ reading habits and then generate for them a tailored feed list including articles, videos or ads. Different from the traditional news platforms, Toutiao abandons the old model of users looking for information and instead analyzes the features of content as well as users’ interaction with content to offer a personalized reading list of content customized for each user.
In this era of information explosion, its new AI content analysis techniques provide a more convenient user experience, raising Toutiao to one of China’s largest mobile platforms of content creation, aggregation and distribution, underpinned in just 6 years’ time.
TOUTIAO’S AMAZING GROWTH FIGURES
By March 2018, the Toutiao App’s DAU (Daily Active Users) reached over 200 million, with an average opening it 9 times per day and using it 76 minutes per day, which is more than the average Facebook and WeChat user. Known as the No. 1 intelligent content distribution platform in China, it has got over 1.1 million publisher accounts, which update over 380,000 pieces of contents and achieve 4.2 billion views per day.
Besides investment in text content, Toutiao also boasts a series of video platforms, including “Xigua Video”, “Huoshan Video”, “Douyin”, etc.
Among them, Xigua Video’s users reached over 100 million by June 2017, and Douyin’s daily views reached 3 billion.
Thanks to the fast growth and cutting edge technology, Toutiao, which was founded in March 2012, now values at 75 billion US dollars!
HOW DOES TOUTIAO WORK?
Toutiao initially showcases general content to a first-time user, then uses machine learning to learn about the reader’s browsing habits and interests based on how the reader engages with the app, and thus is able to recommend the articles you want to read. For example, you can tap the small “close” button on every post to dismiss stories you don’t want to read; this action will then be recorded and analyzed by AI system. By tracking and analyzing such behaviors on the site: What you click on, how long you spend on a story, where you stop scrolling, the type of story you’re reading at a certain time of day, even where you’re physically located, Toutiao’s AI algorithms can come up with the most personalized recommendations for your reading. As the reader starts to use the platform more frequently, Toutiao gets smarter and understands better users’ interests to provide them more relevant content by time.
Notably, Toutiao is not using recommendations from your friends like Wechat or Weibo but rather focuses on your individual preferences.
Remember, unlike those social media platforms, Toutiao isn’t about connecting friends. It has social elements – you can link your social media profile if you want – but the stories it serves up come from its AI recommendation system, not from your friends.
The image below shows the personalized feed of two different users.
WHY IS TOUTIAO ATTRACTIVE FOR MARKETERS?
1. Sticky and Young User Base
Chinese users stay on Toutiao for an average of 76 minutes per day. The data is impressive as the average time people spend on WeChat is only 66 minutes. The size and stickiness of the user base has been growing exponentially, clearly showcasing the power of marketing on the platform.
Most Toutiao users are male, with a gender ratio of 60%. Over 85% of them range in age from 18 to 30 years old and are mostly concentrated in first or second-tier cities.
The education level of Toutiao users is quite high as well, with 41.3% of them holding a bachelor degree or higher. Another interesting note is that 37.8% of the users’ occupations are freelancer, self-employed and private company owners.
From the above data, it is likely that a fair proportion of Toutiao users are young Chinese running their businesses or working as managers. Toutiao can be very helpful when it comes to B2B marketing in China. The platform is also suitable for promoting trendy products to youngsters.
2. FREE content exposure to the RIGHT audience
Toutiao has the most powerful recommendation algorithms, which allows it to easily bring your contents to the most interested readers. With a huge and growing base of 200M daily active users who are hunger for information, Toutiao helps marketers reach new potential customers and get a ton of content exposure. Since Toutiao serves articles to users based on their interests, each view/reach that you acquire for your articles on this platform is highly targeted. Content marketing strategies that take full advantage of Toutiao’s smart AI algorithms can definitely receive an impressive ROI.
One example is ” 欢子tv“ ( Huanzi TV). This creator creates short videos about folks’ lives and customs in the countryside of China. Each of his videos has an average of 700,000 views, while the views in his Wechat official account is less than 1/40 of that on Toutiao. Toutiao has enabled the long tail of contributors to reach their most relevant audience more cost-effectively than any other platform in China.
Additionally, Toutiao has also begun offering social features. Users can share articles they like under a separate tab. That gives publishers the chance to go viral both socially and through the Toutiao Algorithm. Becoming a registered publisher with Toutiao is a simple and easy way to open your business to the possibility of going viral. Becoming registered on the platform should be on every business planning to enter China’s checklist. As long as they’re good, your stories will get seen and go viral even though you don’t invest much time in content distribution (since this happens naturally for you on Toutiao).
3. Diverse content formats means diverse tools for marketing
Except for news, Toutiao also provides videos to further entertain the users. Next to the homepage button, you will find a link to ‘Xigua Video’.
The button titled ‘Short Videos’ at the bottom right provides funny short videos and jokes to users. Toutiao manages to keep users busy with these engaging clips. It is easy for users to watch one after another in a series.
The page of ‘Xigua Videos’ (Left); The page of ‘Short Videos’ (Right)
These days with the abundance of information, it is hard to keep people’s attention. Users leave and go in split seconds if they are not interested. Consequently, short videos have arisen as a new popular form of entertainment. Toutiao has taken advantage of this trend by integrating well with Chinese users’ most favorite short videos apps such as Douyin, and aggregating these videos all in one place, enabling users to consume different contents in a very convenient way.
DouYin is a platform beloved by Chinese youngsters. It allows users to watch and produce funny 15-second music videos. Users can lip sync or dance to the music, while the app provides special effects or filters for editing. Even the latest trending meme- ‘Karma is a bitch’ challenge is from DouYin, showing how influential the platform can be. Toutiao is now the “go-to platform” for short video content. More than half of Toutiao’s 76 mins daily usage for each user is spent watching short-form videos.
Meanwhile, Xigua Video and Huoshan serve different video needs. Xigua Video has over 100 million users while Huoshan has gathered thousands of powerful Chinese KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders).
Toutiao’s integration with these platforms not only gives users more choices for media consumption but also more tools and ways for brands to get creative and engage better with the customers as well as increase brand awareness.
HOW CAN BRANDS MAXIMIZE TOUTIAO?
1. Advertising on Toutiao can have exceptional effect
Unlike WeChat users, content consumption is the primary focus of Toutiao users. The app has no additional features such as chat messaging to distract users from viewing new content. Brands interested in using the platform would now have access to millions of users that are constantly using the app to search for new and quality content. Placing advertisements on the platform or releasing advertorials can have exceptional effects on brand awareness and credibility.
Powerful targeting functionality
Thanks to its machine learning algorithm and the nature of the platform, Toutiao is able to offer a richer, more powerful audience targeting functionality similar to that of Facebook.
Here are some of the ways you can target your audience on Toutiao:
- Audience gender
- Audience age
- Audience interest
- Time of day
- Phone carrier
- Phone system
- Phone brand
- Internet environment
Re-targeting based on a series of audience behaviors: Toutiao tracks readers behaviors like reading through, clicking, video watching etc. So, an advertiser can choose to expose the ad only to audience who have clicked on previously launched ads. Moreover, different rates can be set for different levels of customer engagement.
Auto expanding on seeds audience: Marketers firstly upload an “audience pack” as a seed pack and the system would automatically recognize the similarities (age, geo,interests etc.) of the audience and expand on it to find more “lookalike” audience. Target audience base will double or triple easily by leveraging this tool.
3 most popular formats are Streaming feed Ad, News banner Ad, and App open-up Ad. It supports both pictures and videos display. The app uses artificial intelligence to personalise ads for its users.
Cost-effective compared to Wechat: In terms of cost, advertising in Toutiao is quite reasonable as compared to WeChat. The cost per click on most formats ranges between RMB 0.2-1.0 compared to WeChat advertising costs ranging between RMB 2-5 CPC.
Geo targeting down to 6km: Geo targeting on Toutiao is down to business district with default radius being 6km. Advertiser can launch one campaign in several business districts across different provinces in China. This is very valuable for offline retailers, and advertisers that have customers with specific geo-location.
Comprehensive ad network: With the popularity of its’ other apps, Bytedance has created a pretty comprehensive ad network which covers Douyin (Tik Tok), Xigua Video (A competitor to Tencent Video/Youku), Toutiao, and a range of other publishers, making it very attractive to marketers.
2. Content marketing is everything on this No.1 content distribution platform
Create an official account and share your content
Toutiao created the function of Toutiao Hao or Good Headline, which allows different users to register an account based on their own category and post articles or videos on their own page to gain followers. This is an appealing playground for marketers looking for new ways to amplify their voice through great contents.
As of Q3 2018, Toutiao had over 1.1 million publisher accounts registered on the platform! These publishers include media organizations, government institutions, individual websites/bloggers, and companies. According to thepaper.cn nearly half a million stories are published on Toutiao every day.
You can create and share insightful contents on your Toutiao account to establish/ reaffirm your brand positioning as an industry expert. Read more about how to create an official account on Toutiao https://www.marketingtochina.com/how-to-register-a-toutiao-business-account/
Focus on great ideas
In this age of stiff competition, good content will no longer suffice. Your content has to be above average, because your target audience knows better now. They’re desperately searching for great content that will solve their problems. As long as they’re good, your stories will get seen by people who otherwise would not have been exposed to your content even though you may not invest too much in content distribution (it happens naturally for you on Toutiao). Try your best to provide information customers can’t find anywhere else.
Other tactics your business can implement in order to excel on Toutiao
1. Don’t limit yourself to writing: try other content formats since not all stories need to be expressed in writing. Why not create a comic, illustration, infographic, short videos… and see how people respond? Toutiao’s ecosystem provides various tools for marketers to approach target customers in different ways.
3. Share Toutiao content on other social media platforms: Don’t rely on Toutiao’s algorithm alone to get your content in front of new readers. You should also share your content on your established social media channels. Eventually, you may see the majority of your content views coming directly from the platform, but an initial nudge will be extremely helpful.
4. Share your articles to be published by other established accounts: Prestigious news such as CCTV and People.cn have millions of followers on Toutiao. You can approach and arrange with them for your articles to be published on their account and reach their huge number of keen readers.
5. Re-publish content from your blog or website on Toutiao to get more exoposure.
6. Use UTM parameters to measure traffic from your posts: When you link to your website, landing page or blog in a Toutiao article you should use UTM parameters in order to track which articles are performing the best.
7. Enhance e-reputation at Wukong Q&A: Toutiao developed a conversational forum called Wukong, a community similar to Quora. With Wukong, users can post questions and receive responses from the user community, on topics ranging from travel to retail to health and wellness. Brands should involve themselves in customers’ discussions to understand them more and help them solve problems, through which confirm its position as an expert in the field.
To emphasize once more time, Toutiao is a medium platform with a recommendation system. How many exposures your content can get on Toutiao depends on how well the system understand your content. This requires the creator to have an excellent understanding of its target users and create content that contains reader- and system-friendly keywords.
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