Western Influencers Invading The Media Industry With Short-form Video in China

  • Jun 25, 2018
  • Comments 112

With the current digital development in China, it’ll take you more than just a mouthful of Chinese, like Dashan, to become an successful Internet influencer.


In the last two years, there has been a infiltration of foreign Internet influencer, specifically westerners,  actively releasing content on a various social media platforms in China. Using short clips that are under five minutes to visually display the lifestyle and culture of China, while promoting China on an international level as a source of cultural exchanges.


The clip series known as “Laowai in China” –laowai is a term used to define foreigners – produced by “YChina” first came into the spotlight in September 2016 to present days, accumulating over 2 million followers. In the span of two month, each clip posted average over 11 million views, also accumulating another 1.2 million followers with approximately 60 million views on a different platform.

In 2017, a series known as “Amazing China” began broadcasting on CCTV, to exhibit the historical achievements and figures within the Chinese economy in the past five years. In the sixth and final episode of the series, the journey to success for the founders of YChina, You Si Gao and his father was broadcasted.

YChina Weibo

The Irresistible Opportunities in China

After the era of text and pictures as the only content, calls for the arrival of the Internet network era for China.


According to statistics of China Internet Network Information and Quest Mobile as of December 2016, the amount of Internet users in China has surpassed 10 billion.


Along with the flexibility of data roaming and low costs, data roaming and smartphones have both gained its popularity within the population, with a good amount of spent on social media apps and videos.


In current era of information technology, video clips is able to circulate faster, appealing to the general population as a new form of content, allowing users to make use of spare time on it.


According to the statistics from iiMedia , there are a consistent total of 1.53 billion users for video clips on mobile, and estimating 2.42 billion users in 2017 with a growth rate of 58.2%. Looking at the statistics for Toutiao posted in July, the headline video clips average up to 20 billion per day. Comparing to the average view of 16 billion in April, there is a total of 25% growth rate within just 3 months.

Under the demands and promotion of the population, video clips have grown drastically, along with a series of apps created to uphold the video clip contents, such as “Miao Pai”, “DouYin”, “Kuaishou”, reducing the production time and tools needed for content. And for the younger generations who have participated in this era is also able to accept other cultural differences within the content.


As a foreign content creator, how can you not take the opportunity of ten billions potential viewership?

How to penetrate the Chinese Market: Video clips

Focus on native themes and exploration

To better cater to the Chinese population, content creators, specifically video creators, have developed a set of strategies.

As foreign influencers in the video industry, creators like, YChina, Heilaowai, Zhang Dou Zhang Hua provided contents relative to the China that was much to its current state, attracting a surge of loyal Chinese fans.


Within the list, Heilaowai have shown various fascinating and intriguing series of experiences. The “Food series” have included dishes such as crayfish, spicy sauté chicken Xinjiang style, Cantonese preserved meat and more, while “Street experiences series” include, Chinese chiropractic, community fitness equipment, traveling in wheelchair and so on.

The contents produced by Internet influencers have better catered to the fans, while following the internet law in china, using internet slangs and emoticons create interaction with their fans to meet the fans’ preferences. Taking Thomas from Germany as an example. Thomas graduated from Fudan University with a Chinese major, then later marrying his wife who is from shanghai. Thomas uses the Cantonese and Shanghainese for comedy purposes to show others what it’s like to marry a Chinese wife, and unexpectedly, his content went viral. A specific video of his on a platform currently have 4 million views and 620,000 followers on Weibo, where he is speaking in Chinese introducing a specialty vegetable from Germany, driving 3 million traffic to his video.


Logan Paul and Jake Paul on the other hand have a total of 16 million followers, and over billion views on their content, yet struggles to sustain on the Weibo platform. Mostly because of the language and cultural barrier between China and western. For example, YouTube is set at a international level, and does not specifically cater to the Chinese market in terms of the content, so a lot of the times the Weibo posts and videos are in English, so it’s difficult to disseminate within the community.


Working with the natives

When it comes to the Chinese industry, it is more suitable to employ natives for a production team to create content that accommodates well to the population.


Most foreign content creators would choose a team with Chinese background to reduce the level of cultural differences and language barrier to avoid being ostracized.


For example, YChina’s production team, the team has a total of 10 members, aside from You Si Gao, everyone is Chinese and responsibilities of each member are evenly and clearly divided. One responsibility is assigned to each member, such as creative directing, planning, scripting, cameraman, editor, marketer, and translator, while assisting anyone who needs it.


Native production team is able to produce content that closer relates to the lifestyle and thought processes of the Chinese population, allowing views to feel connected and engaged.


Aside from the pre-production aspect, post-production is also just as important, because the visual and editing effects used is specifically cater to the taste of the Chinese population. For example, the vlogger, “Kevin in Shanghai”, published a comparison video in relation to Before and After years in China, and Kevin was able to incorporate small lifestyle habits and components from the Chinese culture creating a connection between viewers and the content, attracting 22.8 million views.




Consistent and quality content production

It’s not difficult to produce a viral video for foreign Internet influencers because the difficult part is to maintain the quality content and viewership.


What is quality content?


Quality content involves five questions: is it interesting? Does it trigger emotions? Is the editing exceptional? Can it unconsciously processed? Does the content need to be refined?


Currently, contents that are straightforward and dramatic is slowly losing its popularity to quality content that are informational, insightful, and useful to its audiences. For foreign Internet influencers, it’s crucial to understand the current trends for content to have high quality content.


After obtaining a stable fan base, content creators can obtain sponsorships and other source of income to invest in equipment, team members, and other essentials to produce better content. And, following the production process, designing content specifically for targeted audience to attract viewers, and with the work of the production team and media circulation to achieve targeted results.


After the early stages of Internet influencers, the foreign Internet influencers are faced with the challenging preferences of the Chinese viewership market and fans, also the current competitiveness within the market against native Internet influencers, but also turning the cultural differences between native Internet influencers into a beneficial factor.


Despite the backgrounds and cultural differences, the quality and usefulness of the content is the deciding factor for approval from the audiences.


Video lengths

In a fast-paced environment like China, short clips that are 5 minutes are well favoured over clips that are 10 minutes, thus most foreign Internet influencers in all platforms minimize their content to under 5 minutes.



Selecting a suitable platform and partnership

In the western countries, Facebook and Instagram now have short video recorder function, but most of the viewership still remains within YouTube. But in China, excluding live stream platforms, Weibo and Wechat, there are over 15 different types of platform, like Tencent and Qiyi, and more.


Foreign Internet influencers in this custom kitchen industry have to be wary of the complexity of these platforms to carefully choose which platform to use, partner, compete against, and fight for resources from the platforms.


The success of the Internet influencers are not only dependent on their talent, but also third-party support for services, marketing, promotion, social media, and such strategies to truly achieve success.


Maintain political awareness

To survive in the Chinese market, it’s important for a foreign Internet influencer to be insightful, true wisdom, talent and knowledge for the Chinese culture, while being creative.


For example, Christoph Rehage with his level 10 in Chinese once had 800,000 followers on Weibo. But that all changed when he first disrespected Mulan Hua and Feng Lei in a Weibo posts, then a video comparing Adolf Hilter to Ze Dong Mao, followed by a surge of negative response by the Chinese population, later banned from Weibo, dissipated from the social platforms.


On the opposite side, a national couple that is both Internet influencers, known as KatAndSid, Kat is a American and Sid is Chinese. Kat and Sid both like speaking up when it comes to topics related to stereotyping and racism to call forward equality and fairness. In 2017, Kat and Sid enter the eyes of the viewership because of a Weibo video on APA hotel, going viral with 710,000 shares and reposts, now with 2.5 million followers on Weibo.


When faced against this peculiar market, demands and fan base, Internet influencers have to wary of what is put out there on the Internet.



The video content industry has now rapidly gained its popularity along with the technology advancements, enabling more opportunities, but also more competition. Even though there are lots of opportunities and potential in the Chinese content industry, to accurately and specifically target a fan base for foreign Internet influencers is the next step to survival in this industry

About the Author

Betty Yang

Betty Yang

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