Xiaohongshu Marketing Essentials: Hands-On Marketing Know-Hows For Your Business
Xiaohongshu has become one of the fastest-growing social e-commerce apps in China, winning over the hearts of young Chinese consumers. We've introduced the platform in the previous blog post of the series, have a look here. Otherwise, keep reading to learn how to use Xiaohongshu to market to the savvy Chinese consumers.
This article will introduce you to:
- How to use Xiaohongshu for marketing
- How to set-up your online store in Xiaohongshu store
- Brand case study on “Perfect Diary” (a local cosmetic brand)
- Key takeaways
How to use Xiaohongshu for marketing
Use the platform to keep up with trendy searches and the social buzz
If your brand or product is targeting Millennials and Gen Z, Xiaohongshu can become a great learning tool for your business to understand the target groups’ trends and online behaviors.
Using the various tag functions can help you find out what your potential customers are talking about. For example, you can discover how they’re displaying products, which tags are mentioned together, how product tutorials are made, who’s the biggest competitor in the platform, etc. Trending search words and hot topics can also educate you on what your targets’ interests are and how buzz marketing is created inside the app.
Open an official brand account for organic marketing
If your business has a social media account in China, then why not open an official brand account on Xiaohongshu? A brand account is different from a store account. The brand account enables your business to promote your brand via posts while engaging your customers. In addition, it helps with understanding the Chinese market by allowing you to see what your customers are saying about your brand (e.g product reviews and feedback).
Xiaohongshu notes (posts) can be optimized, just as websites are optimized for search engines. So make sure to include the right hashtags and keywords when writing content, so that your post reaches the right audience.
In order to open an official brand account, you have to register your business (more information below). Your account will be verified as an “official” one.
Create word-of-mouth effect with influencers (KOLs)
Try to leverage word-of-mouth marketing with influencers, otherwise known as KOLs (key opinion leaders). Influencer marketing at Xiaohongshu may bring more tangible outcomes, especially if your business has an online store inside the app, as consumers can click the tagged item and buy directly from the in-app store.
Influencer marketing is getting easier at Xiaohongshu, as the platform rolled-out an influencer management system this year. The new system places qualified influencers into a ranking system and helps them connect with brands and marketing agencies. The price of a lower-level influencer's posts can range from 10 to 40 RMB and ~10,000 RMB for a post with higher-level influencers. However, it's essential to have a clear content strategy and the right influencer with the right audience. Avoid choosing an account to work with solely based on the number of their followers. A good combination of higher and lower-level influencers may do the trick. Have a look at the case study below.
In Xiaohongshu, influencers are largely divided into 5~6 levels according to the number of followers and certifications.
*Please note that there are strict guidelines when executing an influencer strategy or sponsored ads in Xiaohongshu. For example, if the selected influencer has more than 5K followers, one must mark the post as an ad or commercial activity. Refer to Xiaohongshu guidelines for details.
Investing in Xiaohongshu's paid advertisements
Xiaohongshu sells various advertising products for brands. If you have doubts about the effectiveness of influencer marketing or organic marketing, choosing a more traditional way can be a safe way to start.
So far, brands from education, wedding, and furniture industry sectors have shown good results from paid advertisements.
Different types of display ads can be linked to H5 pages, stores, notes, etc. Cost-per-click of the paid advertisements starts at 0.3 RMB/CPC; the minimum ads fee is 5K RMB. However, paid advertisements also follow strict guidelines. For example, industries like finance and social media are not allowed to roll-out ads and brands must verify certain requirements, etc.
*Refer to Xiaohongshu guidelines for details.
Generating buzz from hot topics and trends
Creating a trending search word is often a difficult and expensive marketing tactic. This method is similar to Instagram's early hashtag marketing where brands created key campaign hashtags to promote events - encouraging campaign participants to use the hashtag in their social feeds.
Likewise, your business can gain exposure at Xiaohongshu by using specific keywords to rank up in trending topics. To do so, your generated brand content needs to strategically include keywords and hashtags in the post’s title, paragraphs, and pictures under certain rules to get enough exposure. Also, if your business has an online store within the app, tagging the store information to the post can help boost interests towards your brand. If a right number of notes have been released and exposed, your brand can expect to see users’ self-generated content with the keywords you’ve set.
However, it is recommended that your business consults with local experts to launch this type of marketing as Xiaohongshu SEO marketing differs from other platforms and follows a different set of rules. Quotes for this kind of marketing can start with thousands of RMB.
How to set-up your online store in Xiaohongshu?
1. Register to set-up a store in the enterprise system (individual sellers cannot register).
2. Fill in your company's information and upload related documents for proof: company profile, basic banking information (if your company is not based in China, there is no need to have a Chinese bank account), the main contact's information, address, logistics and delivery information, etc.
3. Provide documents proving your business link with a Chinese entity (if your business is based outside of China): business license and customs registration license of partnered Chinese entity, and other documents proving the relationship.
4. Submit brand information.
- Identify whether your company is a “single-branded” or “multi-branded” store.
Single-brand: business owns a sole proprietary license of the brand.
Multi-brand: business owns more than one brand or if your business is not the exclusive distributor of the brand’s product (e.g. Estee Lauder Company owns MAC, Bobbi Brown, Aveda, Benefit, Estee Lauder and many more)
- Other brand information: brand name, brand profile, information, description, image, country-of-origin of the brand, links to Tmall online stores (if any), brand promotional image etc.
5. Submit brand license information and legal documents, inclduing official legal documents (with a seal) proving company’s ownership on brand license or distribution right.
6. Set-up approval/ feedback from Xiaohongshu.
7. Sign online and hardcopy contract with Xiaohongshu.
8. Receive education on Xiaohongshu store management
9. Start your online store business
Getting setup on any platform in China will require some paperwork. We provide a single point of contact for Western clients that want to launch into China. Learn more here.
Brand case study on “Perfect Diary”
"Perfect Diary" is a new beauty brand from China. In just three years, it became the No. 1 domestic brand credited to its effective use of Xiaohongshu. It has done various marketing activities and is especially known for yielding high success by collaborating with niche beauty influencers from different levels.
Knowing the system and the significance of word-of-mouth marketing in Xiaohongshu, Perfect Diary hired influencers in a top-down ratio of 1:1:3:46:100:150 (see the table above). Influencers immediately ignited attention on the new brand by sharing various hot beauty makeup style content, which then created word-of-mouth effects and various customer reviews.
The effect also directly showed on Perfect Diary's sales. Since marketing with Xiaohongshu, sales in Tmall began to rise. On Tmall's 2018 Double Nine Promotional Day, it became the top volume seller in the beauty makeup industry. As of September 11th, 2019, Perfect Diary continues to be loved by many fans in Xiaohongshu, with 1.7M followers on its official account. This is in comparison to global brands such as MAC (173.7K followers), and L'Oreal (176.8K followers).
Key Takeaways of Xiaohongshu
1. Study and understand the platform. Learn the consumer journey and see how users are playing inside the app. As explained in the introduction article, Xiaohongshu is very different when compared with traditional e-commerce platforms in and outside of China. The strategy that worked on other platforms may not create the same effect.
2. Remember, Xiaohongshu is a community-based e-commerce platform. Avoid using a traditional push message strategy. Instead, try to construct a strategy that could encourage users to create content on their own. This strategy could increase sales within the app, WOM, etc.
3. Stay updated with new marketing services and regulations. The app is gaining a lot of attention in and out of China and is being subject to various new e-commerce regulations. What may have worked yesterday might not work today. So make sure to follow-up with the new rules to avoid such situations. However, Xiaohongshu can also be a great place to experiment with upfront digital marketing services in China as it regularly launches and updates new services. Your business can have the chance to become the first successful case story of a new service.