Douyin: A Guide to TikTok’s Counterpart App

Widely known as China’s TikTok, Douyin immensely grew since its launch seven years ago. Today, the app boasts over 700 million monthly active users. So, what should you know about Douyin?

Douyin is a TikTok counterpart app that’s exclusive to China’s residents only. A lot of people are curious whether TikTok and Douyin are the exact copy of each other, especially since only one company developed both apps. 

If you want to know the answer, read to the end of this article. 

What Is Douyin?

Douyin meaning is literally “shaking sound” in Chinese.

Douyin user statistics
The number of Douyin users is expected to increase in the coming years. Source: The WeChat Agency

Douyin is a short-form, video-sharing social media platform available in China. This platform stands apart as it does not take inspiration from social media apps that originated in the West. Instead of being heavily inspired by Western Apps, the Chinese app sets the standard for all other short-form video platforms, such as YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels.

The popularity of this Chinese platform produced TikTok — a simpler version meant for users outside of China. ByteDance, a Beijing-based technology firm, owns both Douyin and TikTok. ByteDance launched the Chinese-exclusive app in 2016 and ahead of TikTok. Since its launch, the Chinese video-sharing platform has been one of China’s most popular social media apps.

Like TikTok, this Chinese social media platform is often based on user-generated content. Hence, it encourages its users to be creative in their content. Furthermore, Chinese luxury brands and KOLs (key opinion leaders) utilize the platform to achieve their marketing goals and promote their brands. 

Is TikTok and Douyin The Same?

Although owned and developed by one parent company, TikTok and its Chinese counterpart possess stark differences. But the platform launched ahead of TikTok and became a sensation in its home country. The platform’s powerful and unique algorithm became the basis and foundation for TikTok.

TikTok and its sister app might seem similar on the surface, but they play by different rules. Here’s what you need to know about TikTok’s renowned sister app:

High Monthly Active Users

In other words, the Chinese platform is super popular. The app has over 700 million monthly active users, and they are all from China alone since it is not available for download outside of China.

Before spawning TikTok, the Douyin app is ByteDance’s major money-maker, raking up skyrocketing revenue via live streaming and in-app tipping.

Unique Algorithm

ByteDance’s founder, Zhang Yiming, became known primarily for his news application named the Jinri Toutiao. This news app debuted a year after Zhang Yiming founded ByteDance. Jinri Toutiao has an unlikely algorithm where it produces a customized news feed for each user.

Then, ByteDance applied the same algorithm to Douyin (and TikTok), and people became hooked. The For You page is a customized feed that differs from user to user. The content on someone’s TikTok FYP varies significantly from another user’s FYP.

A year following Douyin’s launch, ByteDance bought a US-based video startup and created TikTok — Douyin’s overseas counterpart. Furthermore, ByteDance also acquired the famous lip-syncing app All users were then migrated to TikTok in 2018.

Organic Makeup Filter

One of the apparent differences between TikTok and its counterpart is the camera. This difference is as clear as crystal because the moment you open Douyin’s camera, you will be greeted by an automatic Douyin makeup filter. The beauty filter changes its users’ face shape and smoothens the skin, among others.

The emergence of the app’s automatic beauty filter is caused by societal pressure on women to conform to society’s beauty standards. In fact, China has several cosmetic surgery apps due to the rising demand for plastic surgery.

As an aftermath, multiple apps compete to create the best beauty filters that make its user feel better about themselves. Yes, TikTok has various beauty filters its users can choose from, but unlike Douyin, these filters don’t launch automatically. Users still have the obvious choice to use a filter or present themselves as is.

Online Shopping

Shopify webpage on phone
Many consumers prefer to purchase online.

China, especially the mainland, has an enormous online shopping market. Online shopping is a multi-billion industry in China. It peaked during the Covid-19 pandemic and continues up to this day.

In June 2022, there were over 460 million live-streaming consumers or users in China. Douyin is a big platform for live streamers and online sellers, and it is meant for an impressive online shopping experience.

The app makes online shopping easy because products and discount vouchers are displayed on live streams, and purchasing is just one swipe away.

Rampant Censorship

girl with taped mouth
China is stern in its censorship regulation.

It isn’t a shocking revelation that China has one of the most strict censorship regimes in the world, and the platform has no choice but to adhere. Internet watchdogs block sensitive content, especially politics-related ones. Many incidents in China’s history can’t be found on the platform, more so in its history textbooks, such as the Tiananmen Massacre.

However, content surrounding the Tiananmen Massacre on TikTok proves that TikTok and Douyin do not play by the same rules. Hence, they’re not the same entity.

Younger Age Restrictions

Douyin takes on a much stricter take on age restrictions compared to TikTok. Users under 14 can only access the app for 40 minutes and can’t use it from 10 P.M. to 6 A.M daily. These users can only access child-safe content and nothing more. 

China has been very proactive in trying to curb online-gaming addiction and other harmful online habits among its young people. Hence, most of its apps– gaming and social media– have tight restrictions in terms of age and usage.

While TikTok has age restrictions, it isn’t as tight as Douyin’s. 

Other Chinese Apps

TikTok isn’t the only Chinese-owned app that’s popular outside of China. Four of the most popular apps on the App Store are developed by Chinese app developers. Aside from TikTok, the other viral Chinese apps include the video-editing app Capcut (also developed by ByteDance), the online shopping app Temu, and fast-fashion retailer Shein.

These apps are experiencing viral success in the US and all other parts of the world. However, TikTok is the most popular among all four, with billions of monthly active users worldwide.

What Is The Content in Douyin?

Since international users can’t access Douyin outside of mainland China (the same way Chinese users can’t access TikTok), you might be curious about the content of this Chinese social media app.

We can categorize the platform’s content into different categories and themes, such as dance challenges, infotainment, pranks, life hacks, tutorials, and many more. While TikTok is more focused on artistic expression and entertainment, both platforms’ content is quite similar as far as their category is concerned.

The Chinese app is primarily more focused on educational content. However, a number of its users and creators are gradually flooding the platform with entertainment.

Who Is Douyin’s Audience?

Unsurprisingly, most of the platform’s avid users are Gen Z. According to statistics, 84% of Douyin’s users are 24-year-olds and under. The majority of these users reside in major cities in China — Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, to be exact.

Most of these users are middle to upper-class young citizens with sufficient income to spend on themselves. So, they’re the perfect target audience for luxury brands like fashion, gadgets, and beauty products.

How Can You Use Douyin for Marketing?

To start using the app for marketing, you must create a business account first.

Create a business account.

TikTok on App Store
Unlike TikTok, you can’t download Douyin on your Play Store or App Store.

If your company wants to create a Douyin business account, you must secure the following:

  • Application Letter
  • Chinese business license
  • ICP license — to link to your website if you have any

Aside from these documents, you must also pay a yearly fee of 600 RMB for your account’s certification. Furthermore, you must also undergo a verification process on the platform to start a business account. After submitting all the necessary documents and forms, the platform will review your application which takes up to a week or two. 

A Douyin business account offers multiple features brands could use to generate leads and increase brand awareness. You can do this through user-generated content, influencer marketing, viral challenges, branded hashtags, in-feed ads, in-app stores, and the platform’s native e-commerce integration. 

Collaborate with KOLs and influencers.

influencer filming
Influencer marketing is an unstoppable marketing strategy.

Influencer marketing is a leading marketing strategy on the platform. The platform is viral among its users mainly because of Chinese influencers. 

Collaborating with social media influencers or Key Opinion Leaders will help brands build brand awareness, increase reach, and generate more leads. There are hundreds of influencers and KOLs in different niches or specialties. Hence, you must collaborate with the right influencer or KOL to attract the right audience and achieve your marketing goals. 

Finding the perfect influencer for your brand is not as challenging with influencer marketing tools. You can learn more about this on our Popular Pays review

Produce high-quality content.

Producing creative, engaging, and captivating content is a sure shot at capturing your target audience. Strive to create content with head-turning visuals to compel the viewers to finish your content. Furthermore, avoid forgetting the three-second rule for social media videos which you can apply to all Douyin content. 

In addition, it is highly beneficial to incorporate backlinks directed to your brand’s website to increase traffic. For further Douyin content inspiration, you can check out successful brands, influencers, and KOLs. 

Maximize paid ads.

Douyin offers three types of advertising that you can use to market your brands to your desired audience. Here are the three types of paid ads that you can choose from: 

In-Feed Ads

The in-feed ads allow you to promote your unique stories through a native ad style ranging from five to thirty seconds in length. In-feed ads are free and seamlessly integrated into the app’s natural flow. In addition, you may share these ads across multiple social media channels.

Cross-posting on different social media platforms can be made easy by using the right automation tool, such as Facelift Cloud. You can read more about this tool in our Facelift Cloud review

Open Screen Ads

Open Screen ads appear the moment a user opens the app. These ads can be static or dynamic and will surely leave a lasting impression when done rightly. Open Screen ads guarantee uninterrupted exposure without interference from other’s content resulting in maximum impact on its viewers. 

Sticker Ads

One of the most novel and innovative ways of engaging the audience is through customized sticker ads. Users can have fun creating entertaining content with your unique stickers and encouraging others to enjoy the whole experience. Unlike any traditional marketing method, the sticker ad will surely boost your visibility. 

Final Thoughts

Douyin is, without a doubt, one of the most popular social media apps in China. While it is a tighter version of TikTok, the app is also entertaining and beneficial for marketing. 

Now that you know what Douyin is, you may want to read more about its international version of TikTok in the article “Get on TikTok: The Beginner’s Guide to Using TikTok 2022.”