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UMS chief executive officer Jessica Miao introduces some of China’s popular niche apps.that can help brands to achieve visibility and engage with consumers.

WeChat currently has more than 3.5 million official brand accounts, unsurprisingly this creates a lot of noise and clutter, which means many brands struggle to achieve visibility and engage with consumers. This is particularly challenging for small and medium sized businesses, like many of the Australian and New Zealand brands marketing their products in China.
Rather than trying to compete with big international players for a share of voice on WeChat and Weibo, UMS believe these brands could benefit from creating strategic partnerships with some of China’s popular niche apps.

As UMS chief executive officer Jessica Miao says, “Working with popular, yet more niche apps could really help SME brands make more noise in the Chinese market.

“When you consider that the majority of published content on WeChat receives less than 20,000 views, with many averaging around 5,000 views, it’s clear to see the potential opportunities of partnering with some of China’s more niche apps. These apps still command large audiences – which are often larger than the populations of Sydney or New Zealand – and their followers are engaged and loyal consumers.

“Working with these medium-sized apps and platforms could be a huge benefit for brands, particularly those with smaller budgets. Instead of making a little noise on the big platforms like WeChat and Weibo, brands can make a much larger noise on these smaller more engaged platforms,” says Miao.

Here is UMS second annual report detailing the top marketing partners for SME Brands.

1. 豆瓣
Douban is an entertainment-based social networking platform that focuses on films, books and music. The app has been likened to a combination of Goodreads, IMDb, Blogger, Facebook, Pandora, Spotify and Pinterest – all rolled into one site. While Douban is less well known than WeChat and Weibo, it attracts a core audience of sophisticated and well educated Chinese consumers who are passionate about arts, culture and lifestyle. The site features sections dedicated to films, books and movies, as well as topic-related groups, event listing sections and a music streaming service Douban.FM.

The opportunity for brands:
Douban features brand station’s, which are similar to a Weibo brand page. The Douban brand station enables brands to interact with users as well as employing interactive marketing, O2O (online to offline) marketing and on-line promotion to communicate with the site’s audience.

2. 马蜂窝 Mafengwo
Mafengwo is a a social trip-planning site that attracts a huge audience of Chinese millennials. It launched in 2010 as a social travel website which aggregated user-generated content, which it then used to create travel guides with reviews and information on hotels, flights, maps, restaurants, visas, insurance etc. The site has been likened to a combination of Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet. Mafengwo enables users to book trips via sites such as Ctrip, and eLong and it also features an in-app sales channel spruiking travel related products.

The opportunity for brands:
Mafengwo provides a wealth of opportunities for brands, particularly Travel and Tourism brands.  From advertising, sponsorships and branding campaigns to dedicated content creation, such as posting itineraries and travel information there are plenty of opportunities for brands looking to engage China’s massive audience of travellers. Mafengwo also has a collection of premium KOLs which brands can also partner with to create campaigns and content for the site.

3. 喜马拉雅 Ximalaya FM
Ximalaya FM is China’s largest online audio platform, which boasts 40 million registered users and more than 10,000 daily uploads of content. The daily active users spend 125 minutes on the site per day on average. Ximalaya FM’s platform enabling users to share their knowledge and personal experiences through audio and personal podcast stations. There’s also a host of commercial stations by international and Chinese brands, news organisations and KOLs.

The opportunity for brands:
The platform features more than 5 million hosts providing seemingly endless opportunities for brands to partner with individuals and radio shows in a bid to promote their brand and generate greater awareness of products. Brands such as McDonald’s and Pizza Hut have run promotions with hosts, while others such as Durex have established their own podcast station to boost awareness.

4. 知乎
Zhihu is a social question-and-answer website which is similar to Quora. Founded in 2011, the site has become the biggest knowledge sharing community in China. The online forum is used by experts and professionals from various industries that contribute high-quality insights and it is the primary channel for users to learn expert insights on various topics. Zhihu users spend on average 33 minutes on the site. In September 2017, Zhihu opened the platform to companies and brands, allowing them to create professional accounts.

The opportunity for brands:
Zhihu offers a unique offering to brands with a lot of information to share with consumers, for example nutritional or scientific brands. Brands can use the platform to connect with consumers by answering questions and sharing information. Another opportunity is for brands to partner with KOLs to create content and answer questions from the community.

5. 下厨房
Xiachufang is recipe app that is immensely popular with Chinese consumers. Operating as both a catalogue of recipes and meal ideas as well as a community, users can search for inspiration and upload their own recipes, photos and text to add to the huge resources already on the app. Xiachufang has a lot of influential KOLs that command large followings on the site.

The opportunity for brands:
Xiachufang has recently launched an in-app selling channel for all things food- related which means there are endless opportunities for brands to leverage this platform to promote their products and engage with consumers. Brands can also partner with the KOLs to promote products and recipe ideas.

6. In
‘In’ is a youth focused photo-sharing app and community where China’s young people share their fashion-conscious pics. The app is similar to Instagram, or Butter camera, and is very popular with China’s young people, especially young women from the post-90s generation.

The opportunity for brands:
Much like Instagram, In provides a great opportunity for marketers to share images and brand values while creating a community of following. In attracts a large audience of young women who enjoy engaging with brands, which is why it is already attracting big name brands such as L’Oreal, Armani Beauty, Maybelline, Tmall, Estee Lauder, K11, YSL, KFC and Coach.

7. 网易考拉海购 is a cross-border e-commerce platform owned by Netease, a leading Chinese internet, email and gaming company which is worth about $35 billion. NetEase launched the ecommerce offering in 2015 to sell high-quality foreign products to Chinese consumers.  It now stocks products from 5000 foreign brands from across APAC, Europe and the US. Kaola operate warehouses in free trade zones to speed up deliveries which take between one to three days to complete.

The opportunity for brands:
Much like Tmall, brands using Kaola can create their own branded storefronts to sell their products and generate awareness of their brand through the site and across NetEase’s ecosystem of sites and platforms. While Kaola does not have the scale or active users of Alibaba, this means the prices are much more cost efficient and it enables more targeted advertising.

8. 悦跑圈 Joyrun
Joyrun is a social running app that focuses entirely on – you guessed it- running. As the sports and fitness category explodes in China, running has emerged as a hugely popular hobby for China’s wealthy middle class. Joyrun has used this passion to create a highly engaged community of runners to share routes, record running times, form running groups and attend live events.

The opportunity for brands:
Joyrun offers great opportunites for exercise and fitness brands such as activewear brands, running equipment companies and food and nutrition brands to advertise and sponsor content across the site. Brands looking to engage with health and fitness conscious individuals can also sponsor content on the site.

9. 蜜芽 is an e-commerce platform and social community for mothers and mothers-to-be.  With China’s maternal and infant product industry expected to grow by more than 15% this year to reach more than 3 billion, this audience is highly lucrative to brands and marketers. much sought after. Chinese parents have created a huge demand for overseas baby products – beyond formula and brands such as Danone, Huggies, Nestle and Pampers already work directly with the site. features an in-app community, Mia Circle, where loyal users share advice and experiences with other mothers.

The opportunity for brands: give brands access to a huge audience of women. As one of China’s leading social networking sites for women – particularly middle-class women from Tier1, 2 and 3 cities, brands can engage with the audience through advertising and ecommerce channels. The site’s large selection of influential KOLs is also a big opportunity for brands to help generate awareness and promote products.

10. 好好住 is a home furnishing social media platform. The site, which is similar to Pinterest, enables users to share pictures of their home interiors to showcase designs, layouts and furnishings. The site’s users are young (80% are aged between 23-38 years) and are predominately women (70% of users). They are well educated and consumers of high-end brands and more than 70% own their own home. More than half (60%) of users live in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Chongquing, Xi’an and Wuhan.

The opportunity for brands:
Haohaozhu offers great opportunities for brands in the homeware, appliance, whitegoods, furniture, interiors and design categories. The app enables brands to create their own channel, which can be used to post images and products to generate awareness of the brand and build a fan following. Brands can also take advantage of the ecommerce functionality to sell products.

Note: All the data of MAU & DAU of each app was collected from

This article was reproduced with permission from United Media Solution BLOG.
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Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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