What Makes a Douyin Video Go Viral?
There are many things that can factor into a video becoming a hit on Douyin, such as participating in a trending topic or a video “challenge” introduced by the platform. We’ve been observing the trending content over the past two years, and we also use our company accounts to test out various types of videos and see what type of content takes off. I have summed up some of the trends along with some examples. You can keep reading, or watch the video below.
Types of Content That Go Viral on Douyin
Content that viewers can relate to - One of our most popular videos is a day in the life of two friends living in different time zones. It received 16K likes, and what’s even more important: hundreds of comments. Users were tagging their friends who live abroad and discussing what they find the most difficult part of the experience.
This video, as another example, shows the differences between southern and northern Chinese people. With over 2 million likes and 85K comments, it became a nationally trending topic. You can actually learn lots of differences between the North and South from the comments section. In general, if you can read Chinese, I suggest you always read the comments. They’re hilarious!
Cute… everything - Just as on Western platforms, cute babies and animals are always very welcome content. On Douyin, corgis are probably of the favourites. Some themes are particularly popular, for example, 1) babies on the train and 2) fathers taking care of babies
Love stories - Douyin users have a soft spot for love stories with a happy ending, which is a reason for some dramas now being shot specifically for Douyin. A lot of influencers also create professional content featuring a romantic story consisting of around 5–10 episodes. Then, they start a new story.
There are also many videos that are either unstaged or pretend to be to look more real. I expect videos like this one, showing love-at-first-sight on the subway, to feel like a real-life Cinderella story that viewers think may happen to them as well.
Series - Douyin users get hooked on the videos in the same way as people who binge-watch TV dramas. Play on their emotions and end with a cliffhanger—and you can be sure they’ll be desperate for more. Here is one of my favourite examples. This video shows a girl who decided to “test” her boyfriend and see if he would cheat on her if he was given the opportunity. As the situation developed, the account was followed by 700K people, and it only took 15 videos and approximately three weeks. I wonder when they’ll monetise the account or turn it into an influencer account.
Themed content - In a nutshell, find one thing you’re good at and stick to it. It’s great if you have a unique skill, but sometimes persistence is all you need. This girl here takes pictures with regular people such as building guards or little shop owners. A level up: a guy who recreates scenes from life as if they were in a cartoon.
Collabs - The more engaging the content, the better for the creator. Douyin has a “合拍” feature which allows you to add your video to other people’s videos. So, this guy created a music video, but he’s singing only half of the lyrics. His original video reached 2 million likes, and over 4K people shot a matching video, extending his overall reach, with the best ones receiving hundreds of thousands of likes. The original creator went on to make two more series of similar videos that received similar results.
When we discussed this topic in this week’s livestream, Tait was also interested in learning if Douyin could be used for video training. And although Douyin clearly wants to get there, inviting popular and knowledgeable content creators and extending their video length, the user attention span is pretty limited, and I’d say that we’re not there just yet. However, I personally do watch a lot of Photoshop how-to videos on Douyin, however, they’re rarely longer than 60–90 seconds.