This story is part of our Digital Deep Dive series, which we worked on with our friends over at Hylink Digital who provided today’s piece on Toutiao. The rapid rise of the outbound Chinese travel market has brought with it a host of digital platforms and services. Learning who these companies are, and how they operate in the Chinese tourism space is becoming more important all the time for destination marketing organizations and non-Chinese travel companies. 

With 120 million daily active users, Toutiao is the news and information aggregator of choice for the digitally-inclined Chinese. Many are in the habit of checking their Toutiao feed at the start of their day and use the platform to catch up on news, as well as comment on articles and share information with others.

Toutiao is essentially a smarter, more customized version of Google News for the Chinese market

The platform is comparable to Google News, but a bit more advanced and user-focused. The mobile app is used more frequently than the desktop site, and users are able to tailor their feed to their unique interests. The site features categories including news, government, society, tech, entertainment, sports, finance, and travel. The platform uses advanced algorithms to push content to users based upon their reading habits. But, it is worth noting that most users don’t “live” on the app, as many do with WeChat. Toutiao is where users go for their daily dose of news, once or twice each day.

Toutiao has recently stepped up their game in terms of appealing to their younger user base. The platform partnered with Buzzfeed in January, with select content from the popular Western media company now integrated into Toutiao’s feed. Additionally,  the news aggregator has bought into the short video trend, creating two of its own short-video platforms.

The first, Tik-Tok, features 45-second singing or music videos, predominantly catered to millennials residing in first and second-tier cities. The app is similar to Snapchat, as users can record videos using filters and music. The second, Volcano, is another short video platform, but the content isn’t limited to music. Users can engage with followers about topics ranging from food to beauty and caters toward the older millennial user. Volcano also has a user engagement incentive, as video sharers can gain virtual “coins” for viewing, liking, and commenting on others’ videos. The coins are then used within the platform to make purchases.

Further, Toutiao developed a conversational forum called Wukong, a community similar to Quora. With Wukong, users can post questions and receive responses from the user community, on topics ranging from travel to retail to health and wellness. Wukong discussions are subsequently pulled into the main Toutiao platform, which is yet another way Toutiao has created a holistic and engagement platform for its users.

For DMOs, Toutiao presents an excellent opportunity to increase exposure through ads, since the user base is massive and utilized so regularly. Similar to WeChat, the platform is able to register DMOs with “official” accounts, where destinations can post engaging and informative content to inspire readers to book travel. This content can be posted within the “Travel” category, or even in the “Hot Topics” page.

Toutiao’s potential as a marketing tool for DMOs is still largely untapped

Many DMOs leverage Toutiao’s robust advertising offerings, which include open screen ads, feed ads, or banner ads. The platform is capable of running highly precise ad targeting based on demographics and user behavior, enabling DMOs and travel brands to be strategic in their ad placements.

Generally, OTAs or WeChat are regarded as being more effective for DMO content and ad placements, but the full potential for Toutiao is yet to be determined. That being said, Toutiao is a highly effective mechanism for awareness-raising activities and is certainly a platform to be taken into consideration for any DMO’s Chinese marketing and advertising efforts.

Hylink Digital is China’s largest independent full-service digital agency, internationally based in Santa Monica, Calif. For more information, visit www.hylinkgroup.com, follow @hylinkdigital on Twitter, or drop us a note at pr@hylinkgroup.com.

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Travel Tech & Social Media