What Are the Main Differences Between Douyin vs TikTok?

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GAB Team

TikTok is the world’s most popular short-form video-sharing app, which despite being owned by ByteDance, the Chinese tech giant, TikTok is not accessible in China. Instead, a search in the Chinese app store brings up ByteDance’s “Douyin” (抖音). Douyin is a similar app that is
virtually unknown in the West.

In fact, Douyin looks almost identical to TikTok; however, Douyin & TikTok run parallel to each other. What happens on Douyin excludes all of the content that is popular in America, Europe, or anywhere OUTSIDE from China. Likewise, while watching content on TikTok, users are not able to see the videos happening on Douyin.

Bytedance was smart to separate the app for China, and the app for the rest of the world. By doing this, they were able to maximize the effects IN/OUT of China. Censorship / the content regulation that China requires would not have allowed it to grow outside from China, and likewise if Douyin allowed videos from around the world, it would quickly get blocked in China.

Both apps are successful due to their algorithms that recommend content to their users on the “For You” page. These recommended videos pop up without the users liking or sharing the content. And these two apps are so successful that long-form video-sharing platforms, like Netflix, consider them major competition.



Douyin and TikTok also both gradually evolved into a search engine, making industry professionals raising the question: Is a TikTok Universe going to exist? ByteDance owns a diverse set of companies across sectors including news, video gaming, and education, in addition to its short-form video apps.

TikTok is fast-becoming a preferred search engine option for Gen Z. While speaking at Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2022 in July, Google’s Senior Vice President made it clear that the company has its eye on TikTok: “In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. For DouYin in 2022 Q1, it established search engine with 550 million active users.



However, there are inherent differences between Douyin vs Tiktok. So, the purpose of this
article is to shed some light on Douyin, the short-form video giant in China.

Users Composition and Video Creation on Douyin vs TikTok

TikTok: TikTok is a TEEN App
As of June 2022, TikTok U.S. users aged 10-19 account for 37.2%, 64% of users are under
30 years old. The content is mainly shared by these young people on a daily basis, with native
content being the mainstream. Generally speaking, young people in Europe and the United
States tend to be cool, Middle Eastern users show off their wealth, and Southeast Asia looks
simpler and rustic.

Douyin: Compared to TikTok, Douyin has become universal. With the rapid growth of
users, another significant change in Douyin is reflected in the content level, which is also
changing towards a more mainstream and diversified direction.

TikTok’s video length can only post videos of up to 3 minutes at the beginning, but with the
rapid development of TikTok, it can now post videos of up to 10 minutes. However, the videos
which dominants the TikTok trend are all around 15 seconds.

The longest video Douyin can post is a 15-minute video.



User Content on Douyin vs Tiktok

TikTok (Douyin)algorithms are 10x more addictive than other social media platforms. The most popular posts differ between the two platforms (Douyin vs Tiktok).

Douyin videos are more content-driven than TikTok. And most videos have a computerized voice
that narrates in Chinese. This automated voice offers no personal touch.

In contrast, TikTok generally rely on the poster narrating their own video. This trend has given rise
to many TikTok celebrities, like Charli D’amelio and Addison Rae. In fact, many amateur singers,
rappers, dancers, and artists have become famous through TikTok.




The content style gap between Douyin and TikTok is apparent. For Douyin, a wide variety of
videos are all in the recommended pages; including skills, film and television clips, travel,
educations, pets, foods, etc. The user base is also gradually expanding its audience age range to
meet the needs of different age groups.

Douyin is no longer positioned as merely a short video platform, but it also offers  sport, fitness and a healthy
lifestyle. During Shanghai lockdown (draconian lockdown for more than 60 days), fitness influencer LiuGenghong and his wife Wang Vivi sparked a revolution on Douyin. During the streaming, Liu encouraged fans to dance and
exercise together, reaching 35 million followers in just 10 days. His most successful livestream
attracted up to 44.76 million views, thereby setting a record for Douyin live-streaming in 2022.



TikTok is a COMMUNITY: TikTok gives priority to pushing content from the region through big
data algorithms.

Douyin is a MEDIA platform: The search rules mainly rely on keywords, the more fans and likes
the account ranks on top, and the keywords of pushing rules are traffic pool, overlay
recommendation, heat weighting and user psychological pursuit.

Live-Streaming Douyin vs Tiktok

Livestream videos have become popular in the Chinese e-commerce industry, and Douyin has taken on the trend. A small tv icon on the top left corner of the screen directs users to its live broadcast feature. The page mainly features small businesses looking to promote content, build brand awareness, and sell their products directly.

This feature is an excellent way to help businesses with products or services. Furthermore, users pay in the embedded Douyin shop. They are not taken to another site. Thus, live streaming, KOL marketing, and in-app purchases often go hand in hand and complement each other.
Livestreaming is also available on TikTok, although less popular and more hidden. However, unlike Douyin, TikTokers use the feature more to interact with their followers rather than promote their products.


Douyin’s advantage lies in its content ecology, and its unique short video + live-streaming combination model has also become the marketing strategy of many businesses. Brands may engage and establish relationships with their followers by interacting with them in
real-time. They can share dynamic links to items and services during a broadcast, while also demonstrating how to use or apply a product, improving their trustworthiness and sales chances.



A recent study found that:
● 1 in 5 live streaming users watch TikTok LIVE, and of that group 62% watch it every day
● Users on TikTok are 50% more interested in branded LIVE content than non-TikTok users
● 50% of TikTok users have bought something after watching TikTok LIVE
Live-streaming is a very popular trend in the Chinese e-commerce industry and has since struck a chord with Douyin users. To find it, click the small TV icon on the top left corner of the screen.
The page mainly features small businesses looking to build brand awareness, promote content and sell products.


TikTok Drops Plans for Expanding Live-Stream Shopping in US in July, 2022. The move is similar to one Meta made with the Instagram platform in 2020 when it redesigned the Shop tab. It offers Instagram users a place to browse products advertised by their favorite brands and creators. Of course, Facebook Marketplace has all but replaced local swap sites like Craigslist in the last decade. TikTok may be rethinking its strategy of offering shopping to the world, but it’s likely not giving up.



In-app Purchases:  Douyin vs Tiktok

One of the most notable features Douyin offers is its in-app store. Douyin store capitalizes on impulse buys, with the purchase of an item being just a tap away. Purchases can be smaller products like cosmetics to larger products like home appliances. Therefore, many companies
use user-generated ads and directly link products.

The introduction of this feature is due to the growing popularity of online marketing on Douyin. Key Opinion Leader (KOL) marketing has taken over the platform. Users are more likely to trust a brand and purchase a product when recommended by someone they actively engage with.
TikTok, on the other hand, only has a digital coin in-app purchase function. The primary purpose of these coins is to buy digital gifts for friends or creators on the platform. It is relatively barebones and does not facilitate the exchange of money for tangible products like Douyin.
The most popular KOLs on Douyin tend to partner with brands by posting multiple sponsorship videos a month. These videos usually consist of product features included in each KOL’s creative content.

KOLs feature products on their “suggested products” page. They also have links to the affiliated
Taobao Store or the in-app Douyin store on their profile. Douyin is an excellent platform for
brands looking to increase their brand awareness. Or, brands who want to utilize social media
marketing to generate sales with the in-app purchase feature.



In contrast, TikTok KOLs cannot access the “suggested products” feature and may only mention the sponsored products or attach a link in their bio.

TikTok retained its crown as the world’s highest-earning non-game mobile phone app for the tenth continuous month last month:

• $128 million was the total January 2021 revenue from the short-video app and its Chinese version, Douyin. Both apps are owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. Sensor Tower lists both apps as “TikTok” and does not provide detailed breakdowns.
A remarkable difference between the two is how, within three taps, you can buy a product featured in a Douyin video. You can book a stay at a hotel after watching a video shot there. You can take virtual tours of a city’s shops and restaurants, even get coupons for those

« Shopping Cart » : using Douyin to sell to Chinese
The system is based on a deal with the Alibaba group holding the Taobao and Tmall platforms. Users can use links in their videos to link products to a Taobao shop. The products are quite varied, but the most popular are definitely fashion or fashion-related products (accessories, …). It is confident to say Douyin is an even better marketing tool for brands than Tik Tok.



Brand Marketing on Douyin vs Tiktok

What is Douyin and How Can It Help Your Business in China?

Verified Brand Pages,



Targeted advertising. 3 types of promotion:
1. Intellectual: a type of promotion based on artificial intelligence; this is the most cost-saving type with the largest coverage.
2. Targeting based on age, gender, location, and interests.
3. Targeting to followers of bloggers.

Follow Current TikTok Trends:
Using hashtags as part of your marketing strategy is to keep an eye out for trending hashtags. If you are sharing your version of a trending video type, don’t just make it a copy of everybody else’s videos. Find a way to make your video unique.



Use TikTok Ads:
1. In-feed native ads – these are the closest to a traditional ad on TikTok. You can add website links and Order Now buttons on the ad. They are skippable ads, and you can use them in multiple ways.
2. Hashtag challenge ads – with these, a user is served a banner ad that takes the user to a page of instructions and rules of the featured challenge. You can use it to target specific consumers.
3. Brand takeover ads – these use a mix of images, GIFs, and video clips that link to a landing page or hashtag challenge.



Censorship Algorithms on Douyin vs TikTok

Will they approve my advertisement? There are many restrictions to advertised content in China:
Phrases about skin tone in Chinese “smooth skin after one application,” “5 tones lighter” or “depressive” content all will have to be abandoned. In case of a violation, a brand may face a steep fine, or censored content.

A few Douyin Restrictions:
1. Ads may not say that the product is good for health: any mention of health
improvement will lead to a ban of the account.
2. Ads may not employ celebrities: even if you have a photo with, say, Bruce Lee or
Jack Ma, they will not anyway help you to promote in China.
3. Ads may not demonstrate an instant effect in one application.



Does censorship exist on Douyin?

A. Chinese Government-wise:
TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned social network, instructs its moderators to censor videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the banned religious group Falun Gong, according to leaked documents detailing the site’s moderation guidelines.

The bulk of the guidelines covering China are contained in a section governing, “hate speech and religion.”

In every case, they are placed in a context designed to make the rules seem general purpose, rather than specific exceptions. A ban on criticism of China’s socialist system, for instance, comes under a general ban of “criticism/attack towards policies, social rules of any country, such as constitutional monarchy, monarchy, parliamentary system, separation of powers, socialism
system, etc”.

B. What about Hate Speech?
“Content’s getting flagged because they are someone from a marginalized group who is talking about their experiences with racism. Hate speech and talking about hate speech can look very similar to an algorithm.”

Methods Chinese citizens use to COPE with these extreme censorships

– One method is the use of abbreviations to talk about a topic; this is quite common for more serious trending topcis in China. For example, instead of using the terms for different types of trauma and abuse, “domestic violence” might become “DV,” and rape or sexual assault is discussed as “SA.”
– Another method is the use of a synonym or adjacent word that has the same meaning of the original word, but perhaps puts a different spin on it which can trick the algorithm.
For example, instead of using the phrase “commit suicide” on the app, many users commonly use the phrase “un-alive myself” instead.


While Douyin and TikTok are both short-form video platforms, they are very different from a
social media marketing viewpoint. Most of the differences between the two are market-driven.
Whether it is user content, in-app functionality, or brand marketing, you can see how consumer
preferences have influenced the platforms.

We at Gab China are happy to assist you with any marketing needs for the Chinese market.

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