Xiaohongshu, or “Red” (as users call it), is a social media and e-commerce platform in China popular with millennials and Gen Z.
The platform is known for its vibrant community of users who share reviews, tips, and personal experiences; however, recent developments mean it’s no longer just an online community and a place to purchase items.
Ten years after its 2013 introduction to the Chinese digital ecosystem, Xiaohongshu finally launched its advertising services this year.
After a decade of development, Xiaohongshu has successfully evolved from a platform primarily targeted at females to a comprehensive social and e-commerce platform.
Integrating e-commerce with social features, the platform provides users a place to shop and socialize, share opinions on a range of topics, and seek advice within a community of like-minded individuals.
This multifaceted interaction creates a unique and dynamic user environment that differentiates Xiaohongshu from traditional e-commerce platforms.
Moreover, Xiaohongshu has set its sights on the lucrative market of news feed advertising.
With 200 million monthly active users, over 70% of whom were born in the 1990s, and more than 50% hailing from first and second-tier cities, the platform clearly has a user base with spending power.
These characteristics stand out as Xiaohongshu’s unique advantages in a competitive landscape.
After much anticipation, Xiaohongshu finally launched its advertising platform in September this year, marking a milestone in the platform’s strategic expansion.
Spotlight: Xiaohongshu’s Own Advertising Platform
The Spotlight platform (聚光平台) is a newly launched one-stop advertising delivery platform within Xiaohongshu that is adept at meeting a diverse range of marketing demands for advertisers, including
- product seeding,
- sales volume enhancement,
- lead collection,
- live-stream promotion, and
- competitive positioning.
A distinctive feature of Xiaohongshu advertising is its use of user-generated content known as “notes.” You can choose to use your original notes, or you can select notes created in collaboration with a key opinion leader (KOL) as promotional materials.
If you’re new to Xiaohongshu and accessing this feature for the first time, you will
- see the thumbnail of the note,
- click to enter the note’s detail page, and then
- click on the CTA (the CTA can be a product detail page, an H5 page, or a private message page).
To promote on Xiaohongshu, you need to first have a Verified Business Account.
Usually, you only need to submit the business license, but Xiaohongshu has strict certification rules, so successful verification is not always guaranteed.
Setting up ad campaigns on Xiaohongshu is very simple. You only need to choose your
- online time,
- gender, and
- expected conversion cost.
And, not forgetting the most important one: choosing your type of note. Once you have these things selected, then you can start your promotion on the platform.
Among all the feed advertising campaigns I’ve created across various platforms, Xiaohongshu’s setup is the simplest. Platforms, such as WeChat Moments and Baidy feed ads, can also target users based on their interests; instead, Xiaohongshu intelligently targets users directly, ensuring the right notes reach the right people.
You can set up your Xiaohongshu advertising campaign and start running it in just five minutes.
But you might wonder, will my ads reach the appropriate potential customers and get results?
Advertising on Xiaohongshu
Recently, we launched an ads campaign for an American girls’ high school on Xiaohongshu, and with a budget of just $1,500, we achieved over 1,500 interactions and 300+ direct messages, and also the CPC is super low, only around ￥0.5.
We established an official account for Saint Mary’s School in January this year and have been consistently updating posts.
With the arrival of the enrollment season in October, coupled with the launch of Xiaohongshu’s advertising feature, we began experimenting with Xiaohongshu ads to see how many qualified inquiries we could generate.
During our campaign for Saint Mary’s, this is what we learned.
1- Build a solid account foundation
Xiaohongshu is primarily a social platform, and its social attributes should not be overlooked.
Users typically engage by commenting and interacting with posts that pique their interest, or by visiting the publisher’s profile to find more information. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure your account is not a blank slate before starting your ad campaign. Check our Xiaohongshu marketing service to know more about this.
2 – Choose posts that generate discussions
Given that we are discussing advertising, the appeal of the copy and images is crucial.
Xiaohongshu is very strict with its review of notes used for ad campaigns and doesn’t permit the use of provocative or controversial descriptions. For example, we can’t mention information about a “99% college enrollment rate” because we would need to verify the data.
For our marketers, finding topical content that passes Xiaohongshu’s censors can be a bit of a challenge.
Even after your campaign is up and running, Xiaohongshu’s review of the account will be ongoing, and you might find your ad suddenly paused after being online for a while.
This unpredictability is why we emphasize the importance of having a solid account foundation before launching ads because it ensures you have enough backup notes for testing and deployment.
Here are two notes we prepared for Xiaohongshu ads for Saint Mary’s School. The first note introduced the costs associated with studying in American high schools.
The second note featured a group of Saint Mary’s students.
This note highlights the advantages of studying in an all-girls institution and aims to contribute to public discussion on female education.
According to the promotion data, the second note generated more conversions, which leads us to believe that users respond more to advertisements depicting the experience (rather than the cost) of an education.
3 – Avoid using a mobile web page as the landing page
Xiaohongshu’s social nature makes users more willing to interact with the content creators. However, these users tend to resent mobile web pages because they instantly recognize them as advertisements.
If you aim to get inquiries, we suggest using direct messages instead of a mobile web page.
To encourage user engagement through private messaging, Xiaohongshu offers a direct messaging feature. Advertisers can set up a button in the comments section, prompting users to send a private message.
Once clicked, users are directed to the messaging page.
Additionally, advertisers can set up prompt messages or automated replies in the Xiaohongshu backend to invite users to start a conversation.
We can also enable text message notifications on your phone. When a user enters the direct messaging page, your phone will be alerted, ensuring you can check the message promptly and establish contact with the user immediately.
4 – Don’t ignore the returns
Promotion on any social platform brings many additional benefits.
We shouldn’t focus solely on direct metrics like transaction volume or lead count. Instead, we should also consider the growth in followers, the increase in interactions, and the overall positive development of the account.
If you hope to one day have enough followers to be an influential KOL, these ads can help accelerate this process.
After just two weeks of Saint Mary’s account being active and regularly checking in on it, we already had 200 new followers and—as you can see in the graph below—an increase in the view and interaction data.
This chart shows Xiaohongshu followers jumping massively when we started advertising. That chart itself is based on Google Looker, and is part of our Chinese marketing analytics service.
Of course, Xiaohongshu advertising may not be suitable for everyone.
Your industry or product should fit with the social platform. In my opinion, this platform is more suitable for B2C industries, such as education and e-commerce.
Xiaohongshu advertising is in its initial stages. Therefore, to encourage advertisers to invest, Xiaohongshu has lowered the minimum advertising budget requirement, and you can currently start promoting on Xiaohongshu with just $1,000.
Do you have any questions about Xiaohongshu ads or anything I’ve mentioned today? Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section below. You can also check our Xiaohongshu marketing page to know more about the platform.
For more information on Xiaohongshu and Chinese marketing in general, see our China Digital Marketing 101 page.