Can Douyin Defeat Kuaishou in the Short Video Industry?

Can Douyin Defeat Kuaishou in the Short Video Industry?

In case you have not caught the news, Weibo and Momo is now outdated. And, Douyin is the new “it” in China.


What is Douyin?

Douyin is a creative short video mobile app with a wide selection of music and variety of editing function producing unique and cool short videos within 15 seconds.


Douyin first launched in September of 2016, becoming viral in April of 2017.

douyin mobile app

It all began with some of the popular users from “Kuaishou”, “Miaopai” and other video apps sharing their 15 seconds of videos from Douyin, leading up to its crazy trend with people staying up all night watching them all. This addictive app is now the most popular short video app, surpassing 10 billion views daily.


According to statistics, during the Chinese New Year period, Douyin gained a total of 40 million new users, and a 46 million increase of active users, reaching 65 million daily users. Within this period, Douyin have also continuously been listed on the top of the free downloaded app in the App Store on Apple. As of the end of February, the market penetration rate has reached 14.34%, with an apparent increase of new users daily.

douyin recording video short

The app that has gone viral in the entire Chinese social media of 1.3 billion population country in less than a year, whats it to it?


Douyin’s Secret To Success

Effortless Content Production

Douyin have provided users with a helpful guide to produce content. The app provides rap, electric music, anime dialogues, film dialogues, catchy music and more with 14 music genres to select from for background music, then users can incorporate their own interpretation of the according BGM. In the early stages of Douyin, they have brought in a group of performers, hip-hop artists to demonstrate and created examples for users to follow. The group have demonstrated different types of functions, special effects such as adjusting the video speed to create quality video, and editing function to create montages, enhancing the performance and quality of the content, providing with an audio and visual impact.

douyin demonstration short video

The content produced in Douyin is often an replication from an trending topic, and this action is often encouraged by the platform, lowering the standards for content. Additionally, with the lower standards, users are more encouraged to be a video producer, providing continuous content for the platform.


Douyin also promote challenges irregularly, such as the viral trend of “Karma is a bitch” and “Holding the chin” to encourage participation and creation from users, while increasing the activeness and addictiveness of the app, gaining more users.


As a content-related app, creating surprises is not as important as an innovative tool that can provide a guide to users, ultimately having endless content generated.


Celebrity Effect

It was thanks to the help of Yun Peng Yue, who have over tenths millions of followers on Weibo, that Douyin have entered the eyesight of the internet users.


In March 13, 2017, Yue have shared a video on Weibo with the Douyin logo on the top corner. The person in the video have looked quite similar to Yue and triggered nearly 5000 shares, 15,000 comments, and 80,000 likes. Within the day after, these stats have increased by 2000, and steadily growing within the next few months as well.

yue zhang peng douyin weibo

After a bit of hype on the app itself, tons of celebrities have tried out the app, such as the music artist, Tiger Hu using his new song as the BGM starting a music challenge. One of the dancing videos with the music have over 20,000 likes. And there is also Christy Chung, Du Haitao, Zhao Liying, Da Zhangwei and more that have joined the community.


In June 2017, the reality show called “The Rap of China” have used the app to broadcast the promotional film for the show created by Kris Wu. With the similar style between the reality show and the app itself, this was considered one of the successful cases of promotion on Douyin, as it been well received from the young adolescents and music lovers.


Now if you just open Douyin, you can see the recommended content produced by celebrities, and these celebrities is also willing to interact with the general public, giving them those likes. Thanks to the celebrity effect, Douyin was able to begin with a good foundation.


Decentralized Algorithm

As the leading product of Toutiao, Douyin have utilized the algorithm from its parent company, using a decentralized system.


Douyin does not purposely direct trafficking to any of the celebrities but focusing on supporting some of the influencers of a certain community, because these KOL are highly active and can directly influence a group of users, and the platform does not have to suffer from any severe loss of traffic when a celebrity becomes inactive, which is a case of Xiaokaxiu.


As one of the unique mobile products of lip-syncing performances, Xiaokaxiu first went viral in 2015 leading to over usage by over 1500 celebrities on Weibo, climbing to the top of the list in the app store in the China region.

xiaokaxiu app mobile trend

And because Xiaokaxiu have remained as an vewing app, there is a lack of participation and content by average users, and especially after the early stages of popularity from the celebrities, most of the population have gotten bored of the app, and Xiaokaxiu have slowly dissipated.


The brilliant aspect of Douyin is their insistence on decentralization, and the algorithm of the system will also recommend similar content to cater to different users, making it more addictive for the users. The algorithm also guaranteed the equal amount of viewership to all the content produced, which means, as long as your content is interesting, even new users will receive attention from other users.

douyin fei qi ming popular viral

And, Fei Qi Ming is one of the best examples, his representing piece is his 15 second video on douyin with the following dialogue, “If your ex-boyfriend and your current boyfriend both fell into the water, would you let me be your boyfriend?” receiving over 2.6 million likes on the video, currently with 15.6 million followers.


As of the present, Douyin have not put any emphasis on promoting celebrities, but encouraging users to participate.


The Guidance And Trending Of Topics

Douyin have first positioned as a music video app into the market, but the undeniable factor is the influence and popularity that Douyin have on the population with its topic generation and guidance.


There is a large amount of trending topics in Douyin, such as the “Hand dance”, “Subway pick-up”, and “Seaweed dance” started by average app users and based on the popularity and participation rate to be displayed on the page, and the trending topics are typically very easy to follow and mimic.


According to the media, Douyin have over 200 operation editors, their position is to find, set, and guide the variety of unique usage of Douyin, using the algorithm of the system to input content suitable to the users’ interest, and predict the next trending topic.

operation editor strategies douyin

*Above image clarifies the management strategies and analysis for content on Douyin


Through the accumulated content and user icons to predict the next trend, guiding the operational strategy for the platform. This mining strategy for topics have attracted many new users and the creativity of users, keeping the platform consistently active.


Products can be replicated, but the content of Douyin rapidly being generated and produced is inimitable.


Understanding Of Younger Population

The target audience of Douyin is geared towards the young adolescents in the first and second tier cities between the ages of 20 to 30 years old with education, this age group have always been the force for the network platforms. Whether it is the usage of Douyin or video content, this age group have a high level of self-conscious and independency, along with usage and responsiveness for social media.

video recording social media event

Additionally, because Chinese people tend to be more on the reserved side, where western people tend to be more open-minded, the effects of Douyin have fulfilled the lack of open-mindedness, which is how the population have quickly become addicted to this app.


The reason for one of the success of Douyin is the idea that Douyin provided users with simply way for approval from the society, unleashing the hidden potential and creatives from the younger generation.


The perseverance and confidence of Douyin in the creativity of the Chinese adolescences have repaid them well, now there are so many unique and creative ways to put out content, innovated by the average users.

douyiin logo sample

The Challenges

Low Quality Content

People have once attributed the third and fourth tier cities in China for the success of Kuaishou for meeting demands with “low standards” for content, but the aspects of short video creations is making Douyin more and more similar to Kuaishou.

kuaishou sample content

Under the phenomenal performance and trafficking of Douyin in the early stages, the entertaining and interesting aspect of the short videos have excited and attracted many users, without any signs of regression, but maintaining and improve the current state is one of the challenges faced by Douyin.


You can also say that Douyin have sacrificed the quality of content for the amount of content.


The challenge is whether the platform has attained a valuable and meaningful aspect to endlessly develop over time after the hype, because eventually all platforms will be faced with new trends surging, threatening the business.


The deciding factor for the future development of Douyin is whether if Douyin can continue to provide users with innovative and creative ways to keep the audience entertained. Quality content is always the necessary component for success and user loyalty.


Neck And Neck With Kuaishou

2017 is the year of virality for the short video industry, with over 100 short video platforms existing.

short video competition apps

Beginning with Kuaishou from Tencent, Meipai from Sina getting a head start in the industry, later with other e-commerce and services type of apps heavily investing in short video creators to collaborate, and Douyin sweeping through them all in the industry.


Starting in September of 2017, the numbers of downloads for Douyin in the App Store have steadily increased, now going hand to hand with Kuaishou.

douyin logo banner short video

Kuaishou, finally feeling the pressure from Douyin, quickly building its brand in 2017. In the Chinese New Year period of 2017, Kuaishou have sent out 6.6 billion RMB Chinese New Year’s red pocket in four days through short videos. Douyin on the other hand have collaborated with 12 celebrities to hand out red pockets. By the end of the Chinese New Year period, the DAU (daily active users) on Douyin have increased by 30 million, where Kuaishou have increased by 70 million, this was one of the first occasion where the two platforms have competed head to head.


However, as Tencent is recently attempting to revive their other product, “Weishi”, the amount of resources available have been largely divided to Weishi, and Douyin have Toutiao to support all its needs and trafficking, the competition has now expanded to a competition of resources and trafficking whether than the value of the platform.


Experimenting Business Models

For “Wanghong”, which refers to internet influencers, such as MCN, the maturation and developed state of the platform is one of the aspects when considering their loyalty to the platform.


A majority of wanghong at this moment utilizes sponsorship as one of the collaborations with businesses. The limits to content marketing, the platform utilization and other commercial problems need guidelines set by the platform to be solved. For instance, Weitoutiao from Weibo, Weirenwu, Project M from Meipai is used to regulate the monetizing of content for content creators, while broadening their commercial channels.


On the topic of content monetizing, Douyin have selected to allot content marketing and support official brand account and other marketing strategies. For example, at the end of March, a hyperlink to Taobao have been incorporated in a Douyin video. The monetizing model for Kuaishou on the other hand is quite singular, where users rely on a donation system.


Although the current experimentations for business models have not threaten the platforms, the competition is still focused on the loyalty of users, whether it is Kuaishou or Douyin. The recruitment of wanghong is to key to contest for the top spot in this industry.

Relevant Policies & Regulations

Since the beginning of April in this year, the continuous popularity for short video in China is faced with stricter regulations.


Due to the sales of fake videos, underage mothers being criticized by CCTV, individuals in charge of and related department of Kuaishou and Toutiao have been in discussion for rectification.


Following this incident, Kuaishou and Huoshan have been taken down on some of the app stores, as well as Toutiao, iFeng News, Net Ease News, Kuaibao news category app have been taken down for reorganization for three days up to three weeks.


Douyin have also announced the first stage of addiction prevention 10 days after the incident occurring within a week. On the 11th day, Douyin have announced the official upgrade for the app. Streaming and comment function was on paused till the upgrade was completed.


The intense supervision for internet regulations is one of the unique aspects of China. Under circumstances similar to this, platforms must improve and strengthen the screening mechanism, avoiding legal loopholes, raising the value of quality content.



Kuaishou with the head start attaining seven billion users, losing its leads to Douyin who have captivated the younger groups of China with the innovative and creative functions. The existence of Douyin is undeniably one of the phenomena in the short video industry, becoming the biggest threat for Kuaishou. However, it is still too early to conclude the ending results between these two platforms because after the changes to the market, the understanding of the market, their products, comprehensive management and business models is the real challenge. As a matter of fact, the real competition has only begun between the two platforms.

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