Three ways users monetize Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese counterpart

Everyone now knows about TikTok, the Gen Z short video app which rose to fame over the past few years. This year has been no different for the app, as it has overtaken Facebook to become the world’s second most downloaded app as people find ways to fill in their free time at home.

Many people will have also heard about the company behind TikTok, ByteDance, and accusations that its moderation policies for Douyin, Tiktok’s Chinese counterpart, have been entrenching on TikTok. Although TikTok and Douyin now have fully separated marketing, legal, and business development activities, the two apps share similar features and use the same musical note logo.

TikTok and Douyin. Credit: Jing Travel

According to Douyin’s annual report published at the beginning of the year, the app has now surpassed 400 million daily active users and plans to create thousands of new jobs this year. But how do Douyin’s users make money? In this article, we take a look at how people are monetizing their content.

Product advertisements

The most apparent method Douyin users make money is by selling goods through in-app advertising. Advertising on Douyin has been a success, in 2019, overtaking Tencent and Baidu to become China’s second-largest advertising market behind Alibaba.

The way ads are implemented often blurs the line between e-commerce and content as not to affect the user experience. For example, users can watch videos of apples being harvested, then have the option to buy apples directly from the video’s creator.

ByteDance has been pushing for the effectiveness of its advertisements, releasing apps that allow users to track ad and marketing campaign performance, as well as apps that offer tips on how to create more compelling content.

Live streaming shopping

The next big trend on the app has been live streaming. The new D2C (direct-to-consumer) method is being taken up by grassroots sellers all the way up to Western luxury brands

According to a report by QuestMobile, live streaming already makes up more than a quarter of traffic on Douyin. China Consumer Association says users it surveyed enjoy live streaming shopping because it is more social and interactive than merely browsing for items on static websites. 


For users who want to reward their favourite content creators, Douyin allows you to buy and send virtual gifts, which can then be exchanged for fiat currency. Last year on Douyin and TikTok combined, users spent nearly US$177 million on tips.

If a user goes viral, this method can be lucrative. One man from Jiangxi province received over US$4,000 for sleeping alone – he was just trying to see whether he snores at night. Bootcamps on how to go viral on Douyin have also begun to prop up in China, as one journalist from the South China Morning Post recently reported after having attending one.

Douyin is only available in Chinese app stores. However, if you have an Android, you can download the APK on the official website.

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