Have you thought of incorporating Bilibili marketing into your mix for China? These days almost everyone has heard of Alibaba, WeChat and TikTok (or Douyin as it’s called in China) but over the next few weeks I want to look a bit closer at several lesser known Chinese platforms you should consider for your brand marketing. Bilibili, Kuaishou, Zhihu & Toutiao. Of course, this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but these 4 are important players that you should know about and consider using. Even if you are selling B2B, these platforms can still play an important role in your brand awareness.
I’ll start with the medium-length video platform Bilibili and how you can use Bilibili marketing to reach Gen Z consumers in higher tier cities.
What is Bilibili?
Bilibili, nicknamed B Site (Chinese: B 站), is a Chinese video sharing website based in Shanghai, themed around animation, comic, and games (ACG), where users can submit, view and add overlaid commentary on videos. It is often described as a kind of Chinese version of YouTube, although it’s more like a mix of YouTube and Netflix. Videos are usually mid-length.
Bilibili is a full-spectrum online entertainment world, covering a wide array of genres and media formats, including videos, live broadcasting and mobile games. The site provides an immersive entertainment experience and high-quality content catering to the evolving and diversified interests of its users and communities. The platform has been built on the strong emotional connections of its users to the content and communities to be found on there. Bilibili is known for its scrolling commentary system which has been nicknamed “bullet curtain” (弹幕 or danmu) after the effect in “shoot ’em up” videos. This drives me nuts each time I look to consume content there, although it’s possible to turn off the comments.
Who owns Bilbili?
Since 2018, Bilibili is listed on the NASDAQ and has a secondary listing in Hong Kong since March 2021. This secondary listing didn’t go as well as had been planned. Tencent owns 11.6 % of Bilibili while Alibaba has 8.2 % after the Hong Kong offering. Sony also has around a 4.6% stake.
Who is typically the consumer base here?
Starting from the gaming culture, B Site has grown into a cultural community for young people split into 15 different content zones and with over 7,000 cultural circles. The platform had an active user base of 110 million in Q2 2020.
By the end of 2020 Bilibili counted 202 million monthly active users, with 86% of them below 35 years old. They contributed to US$1.84 billion in net revenue from gaming, advertising and other value-added services in 2020.
Users are typically found in economically developed areas (typically tiers 1 & 2), and they are well qualified, intelligent and knowledgeable. Bilibili commands immense loyalty amongst its members, especially Gen Z.
Although the vast majority of users are between 18-35, Bilibili has announced for 2021 that they will be recruiting more of the “silver haired generation” as they need to expand their user base.
Requirements to join
Before being able to post comments on Bilibili, users have to pass a test of around half an hour. Can you imagine having to pass a test in order to comment on a social platform? The test is actually focusing on ethical points, with the point of reducing the number of mindless trollish comments on the site.
There is a 79% retention rate for users who passed the test and became full members over time. If a video has a high density of pop-ups, users would be interested in and engage with the content. For this reason, when judging the quality of B-site content or the effectiveness of its distribution, it’s important to look not only at the number of views, but also at the number of bullet comments.
Content on Bilibili ranges from entertainment (eg. Film, dramas, animes) through to serious (such as lectures or open classes) with product reviews somewhere in the middle.
90% of the videos come from PUGV (Professional User Generated Video) content created by UPs (users who produce content). There are also films, documentaries etc which have been produced specially for the platform (rather like Netflix).
Additionally you can find subscription models on the site, although a certain amount of content is free.
How does Bilibili marketing work?
There are 3 main options here:
Target Gen Z consumers
Generation Z consumers tend to be more willing to trust user-generated content and the opinions of the netizens they follow, such as KOLs. They are more sensitive to online information and are more likely to distinguish between true and false information.
Younger consumers are more likely to engage in interactive behaviours related to (& leading to) product consumption. They are also more willing to interact and share, and they’re more proactive in their evaluations. In addition to actively seeking and posting information on social media channels, young Gen Z consumers are less brand-loyal and are more likely to try new products than mainstream consumers.
Focus on PUGV content cooperations (Influencer strategy)
You need to develop a consistent style that is recognisable as belonging to your brand. Bilibili has a huge range of medium and micro influencers (KOLs (key opinion leaders and KOCs (key opinion consumers) so you need to select a good agency in order to produce content which will reflect your brand values.
You need to ensure the content is valuable, interesting and knowledge-based.
Livestreaming & bullet comments
This method exploded in popularity during 2020, as people were home with little to do. Of course, that wasn’t only the case on Bilibili, but also on all major platforms. These kinds of interactions cultivate a high sense of engagement, and appeal to mainstream consumers. Both Durex & Millet have used this method successfully for their Bilibili marketing.
It’s important to remember that livestreaming is a skill to be learnt, and should be a core part of the onboarding training for new members of your sales team.
Yes, you can do livestreaming with KOLs but this rapidly gets pricey so if you have a restricted budget, the best option is to have 5-8 hours per day of livestreams run by your local teams.
What are the mechanisms for delivering that content?
Brand Official Account
Here of course you can produce and distribute your own content, providing your product or service is suited to the platform. So for example that could include
- Digital brands: these brands tend to bring their own traffic so videos about how products work or reviewing products can be popular
- Beauty & fashion – in some respects, Bilibili is like a video version of Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book). The huge young consumer base and the lack of time limits on the videos make the platform ideal for fashion or beauty demonstrations
- Games, films, music – this was the core of the Bilibili platform from the beginning & a great driver of profit for the platform
- Professional services like health or law – this group of accounts gathered a lot of momentum during 2020. The longer form of the videos and the interactive nature of the livestreaming function makes it especially suitable for products which need more detailed explanations.
- Copyrighted official (OGV) content (eg. cartoons, films, documentaries, series, esports)
For larger brands, a cooperation with the intellectual property (IP) of Bilibili can be a strong way to gain traction. Eg sponsorship of a game show or cartoon, product placement
PUGV Content Cooperation
Users often call this kind of videos “Survival Content” (as they provide the bread and butter income for the UPs to survive). Compared to in many European markets, users are very tolerant of such videos and want their favourite influencers to earn money; however, on the other hand, they are swift to turn on those KOLs with harsh criticism. Should the quality of the video not be up to the usual standard, or if there are obvious problems with the products of the cooperating brands, users will viciously attack the owner online for “earning unethically.”
How can we sell on Bilibili?
Social commerce in China has the big advantage over social commerce in Europe or North America that it’s possible for the users to carry out the total purchasing process without leaving the app.
These can be placed on personal homepages, on pages (& videos) of UPs.
Bilibili’s commercial advertising platform
Bilibili has their own commercial advertising platform called Huahuo. KOL agencies are able to register here to gain support from the platform for accounts that they represent. There is also the option of support for commercial advertisements by providing additional promotion to help push the content effectively.
IP Content Commercialisation & Content Ecommerce
Bilibili cooperates with Taobao in this field, and supports UPs who sign up with the platform to set up certified Taobao Da Ren accounts, thus directing external traffic and realising business monetisation.
Cutting Edge of Marketing
If you need further proof of how fast things are moving in China compared to Europe with marketing, take a look at this video. Just a couple of weeks ago (April 2021) Bilibili used 1500 drones above the Bund in Shanghai for a publicity drive. At the end of the video, the drones form a QR code that can be scanned to be taken to a website promoting a video game that was launched in China last year.
Bilibili drone QR code in Shanghai
Recommendations for Brands
If you’re going to do it, do it well
As with any other kinds of marketing, don’t leave it to chance. You need a professional team to create winning video content. The right director, scriptwriter, actors, equipment and storytelling is a minimum if you want to see viral videos on your channel.
As mentioned in other posts, China can “eat” a huge quantity of content so you have to be prepared to work on both quantity and quality.
Embrace fast and agile decision making processes
If your internal processes are too static and slow this won’t work well to get approval for content for China so be prepared to work at “China speed”.
The length of content seems to be increasing for China, so Bilibili fits well in this trend
Until now, there are still a relatively low number of brands who are particularly active, although this is growing exponentially. So, as with many things, it’s better to start sooner rather than later before this space becomes too overcrowded for you to make your mark.
Invest in your own IP and teams
It’s both risky and expensive to rely on KOLs or KOCs to help you build your brand. Whilst it might take longer, it is probably safer in the long term (& cheaper) to invest in your own teams who will take over the bulk of your livestreaming activity. You can always use a professional KOL for special festivals such as Singles Day. Of course this is not purely limited to Bilibili marketing but the technique should be spread across all the platforms on which you are active
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