Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) and WeChat are both popular social media platforms in China, but they differ in their focus and usage. What are their benefits? Which one is better? How can brands best utilise them to grow their customer base and drive sales?
I often get questions about Little Red Book and WeChat, the two increasingly popular platforms. Little Red Book is a social media platform that focuses on e-commerce and user-generated content. WeChat is a messaging app that has become ubiquitous in China and has now expanded globally.
Little Red Book
As of 2022, Little Red Book boasts of over 200 million active monthly users, with 65 per cent of them being female. The majority of users were born in the 1990s, and over 90 per cent hail from 1st and 2nd tier cities in China. Many people liken the platform to Pinterest, but Little Red Book’s focus on sharing product reviews and experience-based content sets it apart. It is known as a ‘search engine’ and is highly regarded for its originality, creativity, and local community-friendly approach.
For Companies and Retailers
Little Red Book is a great market research and product development tool. It allows you to access feedback, insights, consumer preferences and trends in the Chinese market. Its e-commerce functionality allows organisations to promote products directly to consumers, generate buzz and connect with potential customers, which means it can be quite cost-effective to reach a wider audience.
For Aussie brands, regardless of whether or not you have an official account registered already, Little Red Book is a great choice to expand and access overseas markets. But for international brands, if you do want to collaborate with talent to promote your business within the Australian region, you have to be strategic with what and how you post, what hashtags you select and which talents to work with.
Little Red Book has the power to influence purchasing decisions. When partnering with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) or KOCs (Key Opinion Consumers), it is crucial to have a deep understanding of their followers’ gender, age groups, demographics, interests, and behaviors. For instance, a KOL with a large male following can help a lipstick franchise drive more sales before Valentine’s Day (Chinese celebrate 5 Valentine’s Days in a year). Interestingly, even an account with over 1K followers in Australia can be considered a valuable investment if these talents are given the freedom to create content that aligns well with the algorithms.
Little Red Book boasts a highly unique algorithm system that is more stringent than social media apps like Instagram. The platform considers a range of factors, including word count, image quality, title relevance, and video content quality when determining reach. Certain words, such as ‘perfect’ are not allowed, and even product features like ‘anti-wrinkle’ or ‘dark spot-erasure’ are flagged by the AI as sensitive.
Don’t be upset if you find negative reviews about you on Little Red Book. The users are given the freedom to express all their feelings and thoughts as far as they follow the app’s terms and conditions.
For Beauty Consultants
As Little Red Book contents are more experience-based than knowledge-based. It gives you an excellent opportunity to open a conversation, connect with your customers and build relationships. Their research results may not be 100 per cent correct or up-to-date. Many products have alternative packaging in different regions globally, or may not be available in some countries. Some reviews may not be relevant to the client’s needs or skin concerns.
It’s impossible to determine the loyalty of the individual who posted the content, so it’s best not to start an argument. Instead, respond by saying, ‘She seems very genuine, I should follow her later. But since you’re with me, let me show you something that suits you.’ Before offering a skin consultation, makeup application service, or testing the product, you can ask questions such as ‘What makeup tips were you hoping to learn before finding this tutorial?’, ‘What is the skin type of the person who posted this content, and what is yours?’, ‘Where is this blogger located?’ and ‘How long ago was this post published?’
I’ve witnessed beauty advisors use their free time outside of work to create content and become social media stars. My journey was quite similar. If you can read and write in Chinese, consider creating a personal Little Red Book account today. You can share your opinions on ‘Five frequently asked questions about eye creams at my counter’ or ‘The hidden gem eyeshadow shades you should try next time you visit a cosmetic counter’. Just be sure to speak from the heart and, most importantly, follow your company’s social media policy for employees.
In recent years, I’ve noticed that more clients have been directing their attention towards Little Red Book instead of WeChat. Does this mean that WeChat has lost its appeal?
For Companies and Retailers
WeChat boasts 1.3 billion active users (2022), and offers messaging, social networking, mobile payments, and e-commerce capabilities. This means that businesses can leverage these features to their advantage.
There are different types of official accounts, including Subscription Accounts and Service Accounts, which are particularly relevant for businesses to register. The latest addition to WeChat’s features is the video channel, which can be linked to official accounts. Whether creating an official account on WeChat is worth it in 2023 will depend on your business’s nature, target audience, and marketing objectives.
A WeChat Subscription Account once was a powerful marketing and communication tool for sharing information about products, campaigns, sales and promotions. Most costumers nowadays prefer video content to reading articles. Which is why WeChat articles are less popular if you would like to drive brand exposure or increase product loyalties for beauty companies.
Service Accounts do face similar challenges, however, when it comes to promotional messages, the results may be better, as these accounts have advanced features. Maintaining a WeChat account requires experienced market insiders, which can be quite expensive. In-store campaigns using WeChat also require extra facilitation or training, which may be less time and cost-effective. Previously, accounts relied on individuals to repost articles in their WeChat moments to drive follower numbers, but this is no longer considered a trendy user behavior. Account holders now have to use group chats to promote their articles. Unless the articles are listed in the in-App search results or noticed by group chat members (most users prefer to mute chat group notifications), the contents can barely reach any new users who haven’t followed/subscribed to these accounts.
For Beauty Consultants
You are lucky if your company has empowered you to use a WeChat account to connect with your customers. Congratulations if you are exchanging WeChat with your customers on a daily basis, as it means you have gained their extra trust! I remember when I was working in retail, I started my second WeChat account only for my customers. If you are willing to and able to (each WeChat is only registered to one phone number), I recommend you do so: it is professional, you can keep a work and life balance and you won’t have to keep changing settings in your WeChat Moment to protect your privacy. With your ‘work account’, rename it as ‘First Name + Brand + Role’ with minimum emoji, and use your own photo as your profile picture, (not your K-pop idol, an animated picture or a landscape photo). That way, your contacts can easily find you.
I used to take notes of their interests after adding each new contact. Which you can do so under their personal description section. Alternatively, when you send the first greeting message, you can confirm with them. Such as ‘Hi, this is X from Y brand in Z location. It’s so lovely meeting you today. Thank you for trusting me and adding me to your WeChat. I remember you mentioned you were interested in A, B & C, in D size and E shade. I will surely inform you once this stock arrives.’ This message not only helps you to understand your contacts’ personal interests, but it also helps you to create a ‘first-in, first-served’ system as you can check which customer requested it first. If you forget their names, you can always use the WeChat ‘in-App’ search feature to help find them.
If you are allowed to take photos in store, make sure you retouch the photos before posting them. And for videos, mute the background of your colleagues, or replace it with nice background music.
Another tip from me, is sharing some of your ‘fancy’ personal life off work, such as visiting art galleries, great books, your cute pets or travel highlights. People love to be inspired by others, and if they do like your style, they will of course visit you more often for your advice. Any other thoughts or questions? You know where to find me – send me a message at @icybutterfly!
This article was first published in Issue 76 of Retail Beauty.