Bilibili’s MAUs grew by a staggering 91% in the last quarter of 2020, reaching 202 million users. User engagement was also at its highest level up-to-date. One of the reasons behind this trend is the fact that the platform’s user base was stuck at home for months during the peak of the epidemic in China. The platform offers social ways for audiences to be involved with the video content using its unique bullet comment feature, aka Danmu(弹幕). Some of the largest Chinese brands like Alipay weren’t too late to tap on this emerging need for social interactions and develop more intimate ways to communicate with their customers on Bilibili.
If you are a foreign business and want to reach out to the internet-native Gen Z audiences in China in a fun and unusual way, Bilibili can be a great place to begin. Here are 11 tips to make your marketing campaigns more effective:
Adjust your brand voice correctly
There’s an acronym for all things nerdy in China: ACG(Anime, Comics, Games). Comparable to the Otaku culture of Japan, ACG content was the main driver behind Bilibili’s early success. Although the variety of content on the platform today can range from anything from travel vlogging to how-to guides, the culture that stemmed from that early ACG user base still persists. As a result, companies entering the platform must also speak with this unique voice. Personable, witty, and sometimes even self-deprecating voices resonate very well with the audiences on Bilibili.
A great example is the Alibaba-owned team collaboration super-app DingTalk. Answering an influx of 1-star reviews coming from anxious students who were stuck at home having to attend online classes, DingTalk decided to post what could be one of the most satirical videos ever posted by a Chinese unicorn. Starring lots of low-res memes accompanied by a Vocaloid singer, the response was received very positively, amassing almost 30 million views on Bilibili alone. Following this example, brands should carefully study their target audiences on Bilibili, and adjust their brand voice accordingly.
Same company, completely different marketing approaches. Can you guess which one is Bilibili?
Take advantage of the on-screen comments
Bullet comments, known as Danmu, are the distinctive feature of Bilibili’s video player. Whereas on YouTube you would expect a viewer to comment on your videos after watching them, Bilibili gives your audience the opportunity to share their sentiments immediately. Although you might find the on-screen comments distracting, users usually prefer not to turn them off since it gives the viewer the feeling of watching something together with friends. Skip to a cliffhanger on a trending show, and you will see your screen populating with comments from right to left. Brands can take advantage of this functionality by creating and repurposing content in a way that creates anticipation.
If you are a SaaS company, this could be a live product launch. If you are an education company, this could be live-streaming a scholarship recipients’ announcement. Don’t forget that Bilibili is more of a social media platform than just video streaming. You should speak to your audience like you would on Twitter or Facebook. This will give your audience an opportunity to interact with your content, further benefiting your community engagement rates.
CGI rules Bilibili
Search for any content on the platform and you will be greeted by a tile of thumbnails with at least some graphic allure to it. Bilibili isn’t the kind of place where you can just shoot and upload. Even education videos on the platform have some kind of graphical layer on top. This could be as simple as having the topic title appear on-screen to having cameos from your animated mascot.
Neither can you simply re-upload all your content from another platform to Bilibili. Unless you are in the gaming or anime industry, it is very likely that your visual style is very different from what’s socially accepted here. We aren’t saying you should go out and start a cartoon series for Bilibili just yet, but making sure those visual cues are present is the key to the stickiness of your content with the young and imaginative user base of the platform. Speaking of cartoons, Amazon decided to repurpose their animated content and upload it on their AWS developer training channel on Bilibili like the one below:
Use it as a learning platform
Chinese online consumers have very unique UI habits compared to their foreign counterparts. This usually stands as a roadblock for many SaaS companies who are unable or not willing to create a completely new interface for the Chinese market. You could use this issue to your advantage if you are willing to go the extra mile educating your users on how to use your products.
The above-mentioned Amazon AWS’s Bilibili account has a series of videos explaining anything from launching a server to building IoT cloud applications using their platform. These videos should act as quick references instead of an hour-long demo of your whole product. I would recommend checking in with your customer representatives about what unique questions pop up the most while communicating with your Chinese customers, and making sure your content prioritizes those.
Don’t forget (Digital) KOLs
The unique ACG culture of Bilibili gave rise to the existence of all sorts of fictional characters with sizable fan bases. In fact, the platform is the offshoot of an online community centered around a somewhat obscure Japanese animation called “A Certain Specific Railgun”. As a result, there are hundreds of animated characters shooting vlog-like videos, just like how a real-life KOL would. By cooperating with one of these accounts, you could bring new customers to your business.
Another key thing to note is the user sentiment towards product placements. As long as you work with a KOL that fits your target market, you should expect to achieve similar publicity as you would elsewhere. But in the event that your product/service doesn’t sit well with the viewers, the content is at risk of being labeled what’s called a “Eat rice video”(恰饭视频). Eat rice video simply means pushing out content just for the sake of commercial gain. Soft placements are relatively better received and are more cost-effective too. An example of this would be asking a KOL to use your product or service in their video instead of cutting their content for a sponsor’s announcement.
“Bad Meow” livestreaming to an audience of 7000. Not a rare sight to see on Bilibili.
Bilibili is a fast-moving platform, and even if you manage to create momentum once, you have a very limited time to prove you’re worthy of more than one popular video to gain followers. Even some of the most successful brands who had a spotlight moment saw their viewer counts drop in the following videos due to bland, late-arriving content. Therefore, we suggest you have your content ready for at least a month before you begin your campaign.
Another thing to note is how the company operates. Instead of focusing solely on ad revenue, Bilibili is trying to build different ways of monetization. It’s very likely that by the time you are reading this, there’s an array of new features you could try. While some of them stick (e-commerce integration), some die quite quickly (Choose Your Own Adventure-style videos). Nevertheless, you shouldn’t fear trying out these new features.
We discussed in an earlier post how to register and verify your account on Bilibili. Your verification level has a direct effect on the exposure of your content, so we suggest you apply early on. Having a channel with a high-level verification status is also somewhat similar to a badge of honor. Keep in mind that so far only businesses from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, USA are eligible to apply for enterprise verification. Although it’s easy to apply for most companies, more sensitive industries like media and games require more materials to be submitted.
Let Someone from your Audience be your Speaker
As an established business, it’s easy to commit faux pas to Bilibili’s unique cultural environment. Some brands who studied the right content and the right media with budgets allocated for a full-fledged PR campaign still suffered negative press due to missing the communication link. Adapting your messaging to a younger audience isn’t as simple as saying funny things. Many large corporations testing the waters on Bilibili would agree with that. The community developed a good sense of what is genuine versus what is trying to be imitated. So if having enough money resources isn’t a sure way of success on the B-site, what is?
Having someone from the same generation, with similar tastes running your campaign at least at the implementation level will make your content sound less foreign to your target Gen Z audiences. This not only transfers your values with a more familiar voice but also serves as quality assurance at the point of delivery.
Take advantage of the different advertising options
The YouTube standard, in-stream ads are sometimes taken to the extreme in other Chinese video streaming services. This isn’t the case when it comes to Bilibili. The early days of the website featured mostly user-generated content, with many IP-infringing cutscenes from popular TV shows. So in-stream ads weren’t really possible. Although this policy is still active to this day, the platform found new and intuitive ways to advertise content. Since the company is still growing, they are constantly releasing new features.
Bilibili takes launch screen ads (very popular in China) to a new level by seamlessly integrating them with video banners. This gives you the ability to create multiple touchpoints in a single ad.
Wouldn’t you want to give your audience a second chance to click?
Moreover, you can launch a landing page within the app very easily. This is a crucial feature in China where apps get a lot more screen time than browsers.
Bilibili allows for launching landing pages in-app, as well as outside of it
Again, copying campaigns from other platforms isn’t always preferable, since most ads follow the general content style of the videos we discussed earlier.
Use the e-commerce functions
Bilibili’s e-commerce revenue jumped from 22 million USD in the first quarter of 2020 to a staggering 113 million by the end of Q4. This shows how Alibaba’s 8% stock purchase of the platform is showing results. There are e-commerce call to actions under the video player, which are generally paired with a KOL discussing the product in their channel. This is where the importance of being multichannel in China comes in. When your leads click on a purchase button, they are transferred to a popular 3rd party e-commerce website to complete their purchase. Alternatively, you can sell products directly in Bilibili’s marketplace, but keep in mind that it’s mainly focused on ACG-related and electronics product purchases.
Another way you can draw revenue from the platform is through selling your content. Although this may not work if your goal is to create brand awareness with guidance videos, it works particularly well with online courses.
You can provide a couple of free courses to act as lead generators.
Know the Algorithm
A leaked document from Bilibili shows how the platform’s recommendation algorithm works. In a nutshell:
Content Grade= ([coins x 0.4] + [favorites x 0.3] + [Bullet Comments x 0.4] + [Comments x 0.25] + [Views x 0.25] + [Likes x 0.4] + [Shares x 0.6]) x 1.5 (if the content was published within 24 hours)
Pay attention to how engagement versus views is weighted. Bilibili favors user engagement through likes, coins (basically a super like), favorites, and bullet comments more than other factors. Since advertising content on the platform is somewhat limited, encouraging your audience to interact more with you and your content is the most organic way to land your content on users’ screens.
Based on these tips, you should really register as a user first and get the feel of the platform and its content. If you want to dig deeper, our team is always here to assist your marketing efforts on Bilibili and carry your brand to China’s Gen Z.