Xiao Hong Shu, also known as XHS, is an up-and-coming social media platform that has caught the eye of many social media marketers. With over 2.6 million users in Malaysia alone, many are curious to see how it may impact the industry. However, its’ strict focus on authentic, non-hardsell content can prove to be challenging for players in the influencer marketing industry specifically. As a key marketing and industry enabler, Nuffnang recognised a need for clear and concise information directly from the source that can help brands better understand how XHS works.
With that, we got in touch with Grace Low, a trailblazer in Xiaohongshu marketing and the co-founder of Higowhere MY (马来西亚去哪嗨), which holds the distinction of being the first business account in Malaysia to receive the official blue tick verification. Grace is a terrific subject matter expert, having worked with XHS for over 3 years and now shares some of her recommendations and learnings with us.
1. First things first – know your audience.
The first key to succeeding on XHS is knowing who you’re talking to. Grace shares that over 2.6 million users on XHS are from Malaysia alone, with over 80% of this number made up of local Malaysian Chinese. This puts Malaysia high up on the list of estimated active users on XHS, second only after Taiwan. With the platform attracting students to expatriates from 18 – 30, Grace describes the Malaysian XHS audience as ‘young money’.
We’ll let the numbers talk: with over 2.6 million users, brands will be able get first dibs to tap into over 5 million estimated reach on the platform in categories like Beauty and Personal Care, Food, Maternity and Baby, Fitness and more.
2. Leave all pre-conceived knowledge at the door – XHS is a whole different beast.
XHS can sometimes be perceived as ‘just another social media platform’ where we can use existing knowledge to run campaigns on it. We couldn’t be more wrong. Grace emphasises that XHS is an entirely different beast from the likes of Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. The way the algorithm, content and audience work on the platform is widely different from what we already know.
For starters, XHS’ algorithm is more intentional in creating an infinite loop among its audience as opposed to a traditional marketing funnel when encouraging sales. Erin Allsman, president of the Brownstein Group shared on PR Daily, “Influencers can be key in this infinity loop of brand affinity. If you have the right influencer and the right message delivery, then brand trust that may have needed more time to build up [before a sale] gets there a little bit quicker.” As for the audience, there is a higher focus on searching for content that adds value to their life. Be it experience and knowledge sharing or tips and tricks, XHS audiences focus on content that can ultimately improve their lives.
However, there are many other ways XHS is different from other social platforms
3. Trends and restrictions change almost every week.
While each social media platform empowers influencers to create content, it is important to know that content trends and restrictions can change in the blink of an eye on XHS compared to other platforms. As an app created by China, users and advertisers need to adhere to China’s strict media laws and guidelines. As they say, when in Rome…
Through the power of AI crawling through the app, XHS can detect content that breaches these guidelines in any way, shape or form and subsequently update guidelines to further bar similar content. Some of these restrictions include barring direct advertising with explicit calls to action (like mentioning Shopee, Lazada, or websites), restricting phone numbers in captions, and removing content that mentions sensitive topics in China such as religion. This leads to our next point…
4. XHS content requires a different breed of creativity and agility.
If marketers still want to create branded content on XHS despite the restrictions above, each player on XHS, inevitably, needs to get creative and agile. While there are indeed many restrictions on the platform, there can be extremely creative ways to still get your message across while side-stepping them.
Take for example the YYDS phenomenon on XHS. This acronym, which stands for Yong Yuan De Shen (‘Forever God’) was created as a creative way to circumvent the restriction of mentioning “God” or “Shen” when wanting to say something or someone is the GOAT (‘greatest of all time’).
These situations provide a key lesson to all players who want to operate on XHS – we need to be constantly agile to adapt to the quick changes or updates in XHS restrictions or guidelines and figure out interesting yet understandable ways to communicate our messages. Even brand names or items can be communicated via phonetics, emojis or similar-sounding words to avoid sensitive words.
Indeed, the marketing world can be our oyster if we can find creative ways to overcome these obstacles.
5. Influencers are still figuring out how to succeed on XHS too.
As an up-and-coming platform with its own sets of influencers, Nuffnang can also share a few insights into their struggles. Koh Huiying, Nuffnang’s Head of Operations and Analytics notes, “Juggling another platform, alongside other busier platforms like Instagram and TikTok will place additional pressure on these influencers to create unique, tailored content even faster than before. These influencers are also human, so additional workloads can mean a slower pace for them.” Brands and XHS influencers will need to practice more empathy and understanding with each other when collaborating to create content on XHS.
Moreover, XHS influencers are also still figuring out their niche on the platform. Huiying adds, “Starting on a new platform will involve taking on a variety of campaigns from different brands, sometimes even within the same industry. This means that curating feeds with relevant niches while balancing earnings can be extremely difficult for these influencers.” Thus, there needs to be an understanding from brands that being featured on an influencer’s profile can sometimes include the presence of competing brands, as new platforms very rarely include influencers that already have a niche.
It is clear that there is still much more to learn about XHS to figure out foolproof ways to succeed on the platform. If you want to learn more about XHS, get in touch with Grace, who is a certified HRD Trainer that can provide a thorough and in-depth training of XHS to brands. Nuffnang is also excited to see how else they will continue to learn and grow with XHS in the months to come to continue building better campaigns for our clients and influencers.
Want to start your XHS adventure? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
This article was originally posted on Marketing Magazine.