June 7, 2023

Can Little Red Book make money? | Geek Park

Let me ask you a question, what do you think is the number of monthly active users of Xiaohongshu?


“One hundred million?”

Neither is right.

Xiaohongshu currently has 260 million monthly active users.

The growth curve of Xiaohongshu in recent years has a very steep slope. It took 8 years for Xiaohongshu to accumulate the first 100 million monthly active users. And it took less than two years for Xiaohongshu to go from 100 million monthly lives to nearly 300 million monthly lives.

Xiaohongshu, established in 2014, has hardly changed the basic logic of the community over the years. It has always insisted on double-column information flow and only “notes” as a content publishing method. UGC as the primary source of content.

The breakthrough of Xiaohongshu is mainly due to the expansion of user attributes in the community. From a few first- and second-tier “Bai Fumei” outbound travel strategy platforms, it has grown all the way to a female platform, and then broke through male users, making the platform The ratio of male to female reached 3:7. Each of these steps means leaps and bounds of change and growth for the community.

But the community, as always, is too difficult to make money. The user value and commercial value of Xiaohongshu are obviously not something that can be “drawn in one stroke”.

Xiaohongshu didn’t want to do commercialization in the marketing field at first, it has always placed its hope in the trading business. From cross-border self-operated e-commerce to third-party e-commerce platforms, Xiaohongshu has done a lot of exploration in e-commerce. But today, in all fairness, Xiaohongshu’s e-commerce transaction business is still a baby.

In fact, in China’s Internet field, marketing has always been a very important means of monetization. To this day, the main income of Ali China’s e-commerce business still comes from the sale of Taobao traffic, rather than commissions from Tmall transactions. Xiaohongshu sits on a group of high-quality consumer groups and has formed a strong “grass planting” mentality early on, but it has bypassed marketing, the shortest realization path, for a long time.

Xiaohongshu only really started to make up its mind to start commercialization in the marketing field in 2019, but compared to its self-confidence in community building, Xiaohongshu “want to make money in the marketing field, but is full of vigilance against the impact of commercialization on the community”. The inner drama is all on the face. For example, the rules of the early introduction of institutions and experts are very conservative, and the high degree of cleanliness of “underwater commercial content”, etc., seems quite awkward and tangled.

I once felt that Xiaohongshu’s confidence in user value and lack of confidence in commercialization formed a strong contrast. For example, the Xiaohongshu team I have been in contact with is super consistent from top to bottom—they are very transparent and confident about the value of the community on the user side, and they cherish this “real and beautiful” community atmosphere very much. But on the issue of how to close the loop themselves – to make this such a vibrant community also generate matching commercial value, they seem to have been cautiously crossing the river by feeling the stones.

I remember that in 2021, Pan wrote an article “Little Red Book’s Late Maturity and Irrational Persistence”. The concept of “irrational persistence” he proposed is very interesting. In fact, having attachments is better than not having attachments, but “irrationality” is indeed a state that needs to be overcome eventually. Xiaohongshu, which can draw flowers and birds well, also needs to draw good landscapes, otherwise it will not be a complete painting.

Xiaohongshu may be regarded as the last wave of user platforms established in the mobile Internet boom. When it was established in 2014, there were very few structural opportunities that could be calculated.

From 2011 to 2014, it can be said that China’s mobile Internet has established the country for a few years, and “computing entrepreneurship” is a mainstream style of play. For example, we must first calculate and reason about which scenarios have the greatest chances; calculate how to use the highest efficiency to win this track, forming a winner-take-all pattern; calculate the financing goals and money-burning efficiency in the competition… Today we see Meituan, Platforms such as Didi, Pinduoduo and ByteDance, which have emerged in the mobile Internet era, are not only done, but also calculated.

However, companies such as Xiaohongshu and Bilibili seem to be regarded as “Shanghai style” mobile Internet style. At the beginning of their business, they may not be able to calculate a huge value. What we do has a lot to do with the likes, dislikes and persistence of the founding team. It belongs to a kind of “non-computing entrepreneurship”.

I once talked about this topic with Qu Fang, the founder of Xiaohongshu. She said that your conclusion is “too advanced”. , or use majestic prehistoric power to challenge or subvert something. It is the environment and technology that have given us an opportunity to do something meaningful to the founding team.

When Xiaohongshu started, it was indeed serving the public needs of a small group of people. But the times are moving forward, and more and more people come to Xiaohongshu. It no longer just meets the needs of the exquisite life of “Bai Fumei”, but also brings together more and more common needs of the public.

For example, more and more people are using Xiaohongshu as a life search engine. However, as a community product, Xiaohongshu probably did not have self-expectations in this regard at the earliest. It is actually a long-term community atmosphere of “true sharing”. Because of the long-term content accumulation and the prosperity of UGC, a kind of user habit emerges .

You see, it is not Xiaohongshu who has grasped the era through careful calculation, but the era has grasped Xiaohongshu all the way forward.


The inner vitality of Xiaohongshu essentially stems from its team’s long-term consistent implementation of a matter that they agree with and feel. And this incident finally resonated with the times. Instead of picking a thing with the most commercial potential in the era, and then complete the land enclosure and realization with the highest efficiency.

So it is easy to understand why the value of Xiaohongshu in terms of commercialization is not “drawn in one stroke” with its user value. Its earliest commercialization path envisages “cross-border e-commerce”. This matter is regarded as the demand of subdivided groups under the condition of limited DAU, and the value efficiency is definitely not enough.

And when the times are moving forward, Xiaohongshu is now given such a huge release space in terms of user value, which requires Xiaohongshu to find a new business model to match this community value.

With the current situation of Xiaohongshu approaching 100 million DAU and nearly 300 million MAU, the most likely value of the community at this stage may still not be the rapid growth of e-commerce transactions, but a sufficient amount of income in the marketing field .

And when Xiaohongshu realizes that it must make a difference in the marketing field, a problem will arise, worrying that this matter will conflict with the “real and beautiful” user value of the community.

I once heard that there were two red lines in the advertising business of Xiaohongshu in the early years: in order to protect the user experience, download advertisements should be avoided; e-commerce drainage and excessive conversion advertisements cannot be done, which will affect the community atmosphere.

At that time, I thought Xiaohongshu was very interesting. Internet companies were commercialized, but these two things that were not allowed to do so were the most important modes of monetization of Internet advertising at that time. Each of these was a clear “reduction in income”!

Obviously, at that time, Xiaohongshu was in the process of exploring marketing as the main mode of commercialization, but the community atmosphere and user experience were always the most valued by Xiaohongshu, so it did not engage in oil fields, and did not engage in the realization of pure traffic , is an attachment they absolutely cannot let go of.

In fact, these “perseverances” are not only reflected in the self-restraint of commercial advertising. In the past ten years, Xiaohongshu still adheres to the setting of double-column information flow in product design. You must know that the efficiency of advertising will be an order of magnitude different between single-column up-downline and traditional double-column.

Back then, Kuaishou experienced the transformation from double-column to single-column, and Xiaohongshu also watched and repeatedly discussed this change. But in the end, behind the conclusion that efficiency is not necessary, Xiaohongshu, as a UGC community, cannot shake the community’s persistence because of commercial efficiency.

This persistence is of course justified, and it has brought about the tremendous growth of Xiaohongshu over the years. But is the value of marketing and the atmosphere of the community an absolute opposite? Looking back at history, the commercial value of Xiaohongshu in the marketing field itself grew out of the community.

In 2017, when Perfect Diary was proficient in Xiaohongshu for brand marketing by planting grass notes, Xiaohongshu hadn’t even started to make any preparations for commercialization in the marketing field. The success of Perfect Diary at that time quickly reflected the value of Xiaohongshu in terms of word of mouth.

The particularity of Xiaohongshu is that a considerable part of the content on the platform is neither knowledge nor a summary of objective information, but the sharing of personal experience, forming a good atmosphere of “planting grass”. The reputation of good products and bad products on the platform will be magnified by such a large number of instant user experiences.

Such native features actually give Xiaohongshu a unique position in the marketing field. Today, all platforms want to seize the mind of “planting grass”, but Xiaohongshu, the birthplace of “planting grass”, once rejected the word “planting grass”.

Now it seems that when the strategic goal of doing e-commerce transactions or cutting marketing budgets is not clear, and there is no sufficient support for related services and B-end products on the commercial side, “irrational persistence” is the essence. The above is a lack of thinking and control.

Even though the Xiaohongshu community has grown astoundingly in the past few years, the tension of its era is far from being fully released. We can even say with certainty that its original uniqueness is continuing to be blessed by the times. Its user scale , The use time is far from reaching the peak.

Perhaps in the end, Xiaohongshu will release greater value in e-commerce transactions, and solve the original idea that it has been thinking about for many years, but has been doing poorly. But at this stage, Xiaohongshu has not achieved true “self-consistency” if it does not realize the value of the marketing field first.

Some changes are happening.

A few years ago, brands that saw opportunities poured into Xiaohongshu collectively, laying out a large number of “underwater” business notes (advertising notes that have not been reported by the platform), and the platform also had a strong stress response , trying to completely stop this problem.

At that time, Xiaohongshu required all institutions to settle in Dandelion, a brand business matching platform for talents, and restricted only talents with 5,000 followers to receive business orders through the Xiaohongshu platform; talents were required to publish 4 regular notes before they could post an advertisement note etc.

But today’s Xiaohongshu didn’t make any clear statement to the outside world, but it seems that for this kind of underwater content, it is not so “rather to kill a thousand by mistake than let one go” jump at the first touch. For example, now Xiaohongshu no longer imposes a mandatory limit on the ratio of expert business notes to regular notes. In addition, the Dandelion platform has also lowered the standard for the number of expert fans included in the Dandelion platform to 1,000. The threshold for an expert to accept orders is even lower. Also more.


Image source: Xiaohongshu Dandelion official website

Xiaohongshu no longer wants to simply use “blocking” to restrict underwater content, but chooses to give positive guidance to merchants: only by entering Dandelion (the creator of Xiaohongshu’s business cooperation platform), commercial content can be distributed in a better way. be searched locally, and then use other means of increasing exposure to obtain more data insight services. As a result, entering “Dandelion” as an official planting plant can achieve much greater efficiency than “underwater planting”, attracting businesses to “water” to report business notes normally.

For example, merchants need to do a good job of planting grass in Xiaohongshu, and they must need more high-quality notes that can be included by search engines. Xiaohongshu has made restrictions in terms of rules, and the notes can be normally included by search engines only after the business report is filed through the Dandelion platform. This requires more brands to actively change part of the “underwater” notes to “water”, otherwise it will not be able to achieve real scale and effectiveness. After all, 60% of Xiaohongshu’s daily active users use the search function on the platform every day.

Behind these changes, it may be that the core team of Xiaohongshu seems to be thinking about some issues. For example, marketing revenue and community atmosphere are not necessarily irreconcilable. The core is that you have corresponding commercial product capabilities and effective rules. If you can use a scientific system to bring more certain results to merchants, ” “Weeds” will not become a big problem, so that you can stick to those things you want to stick to more rationally.

In fact, “planting grass” started from Xiaohongshu, and now almost all platforms want to do it, but everyone has different definitions of this word. “Growing grass” has become a vague term that cuts the budget. It is neither scientific nor It is not systematic, and it is not even possible to accurately calculate the cost of “planting grass” ROI What the hell is going on.

From the commercialization conference of Xiaohongshu a few days ago, I felt that Xiaohongshu actually clarified an important task-creating a complete, scientific and efficient system for planting grass. We can’t just be obsessed with user products, but we also need to provide partners with good enough systematic capabilities and better “grass planting” infrastructure on the commercial side.

This change is said to start in 2022. Starting this year, Xiaohongshu really began to try to help brands solve the scientific and measurable problem of “product planting”. So at this year’s commercialization conference, I saw that Xiaohongshu refined the clear value positioning of “planting grass” in the marketing field. Taking grass planting as the core logic, the bones of commercial products with unclear positioning and division in the past have been reorganized.

At present, in addition to the content cooperation management platform Dandelion, Xiaohongshu also has a launch platform Spotlight and Chips (note-paying heating tool), and basically completes basic commercial products. But the key point in 2022 is that in order to solve the problem of “metaphysics” of planting grass, Xiaohongshu has internally rebuilt a set of content understanding about search. Relying on the rich product information in the platform, it starts to use different types of commodities as particles This set of capabilities was eventually placed in Xiaohongshu’s “Consonance” system.

At this point, Xiaohongshu began to rebuild the basic capabilities of commercial products and reconnect them with the measurement index of “Grass Planting Value (True Interest)”.


Image source: Little Red Book

For example, Lingxi can provide insight and analysis of industries, categories, brands, and products based on the data analysis of Xiaohongshu’s existing content and product associations; Dandelion is still a content management platform, but in the future, in addition to the basic function of matching talents and merchants In addition, it may also become a data platform, providing more grass planting data for reference by brands and talents; the platform spotlight, French fries and brand advertisements are a traffic purchasing system with a more complete link. This commercial traffic Like other platforms, its system allows high-quality content to be accurately amplified.

In essence, because Xiaohongshu is still unable to complete the complete self-closed loop of user purchase behavior today, it can only bring “grass planting” ROI Only by becoming more specific and bringing actual and quantifiable influence to the brand can it be possible to make the commercial plate bigger.

Xiaohongshu divides the behavior of users on the platform into two categories: “deep reading” and “deep interaction”. The data, to try to define under what circumstances, the user is really being planted. Therefore, “grass planting value” includes interactive indexes such as positive & begging comments, search after reading, sharing, etc., trying to rationally give brand merchants a set of more scientific and data-based measurement indicators for planting grass.

I guess in order to make the closed loop of planting grass more obvious and direct, Xiaohongshu has some openings in the red line of prohibiting commercialization in the past. Since the end of last year, Xiaohongshu began to open the external link function during the e-commerce promotion period, and rarely opened the traffic gate, allowing brands to jump directly to The e-commerce platform achieves transaction conversion.

Xiaohongshu’s dedication to the community is of course meaningful, which has helped them accumulate a large amount of life experience of ordinary people, and is also used as a life search engine. Now, Xiaohongshu needs to unify the two obsessions from the perspective of customers. It can not only ensure real sharing, but also help users match more effective and useful content, and at the same time provide customers with more certainty in product launch and marketing.

It is remarkable that a company can achieve “persistence”. The commercialization of Xiaohongshu should also find something worthy of persistence, or in other words, a problem worth solving that I am excited about.

An obvious problem in the marketing field today is that brand advertising (Branding), which focuses on large exposure and influence, and e-commerce advertising (EC), which mainly pursues transformation effects, these two simple marketing budget systems can no longer meet the needs of today’s brands. The need for more efficient marketing.

From beauty makeup to mother and baby, to food and beverage, to 3C, the brand advertising budget of various brands is gradually decreasing. This slowdown in the advertising market is essentially a matter of a stronger desire for efficiency. All platforms need to have a way to improve the efficiency and conversion of customers in terms of results. If the efficiency of the brand cannot be improved, the platform will not be able to get more investment from the brand. This is especially true for potential platforms like Xiaohongshu that are struggling to cut out marketing budgets. At the moment when the advertising budget is shrinking, whether “planting grass” can really create a more efficient delivery system for customers outside the two quadrants of brand and e-commerce advertising, and bring about successful results for customers, this even determines It is clear whether Xiaohongshu is cutting stock or creating increment.

Some native features of Xiaohongshu should have advantages in this task. The larger the overall supply scale of the consumer industry and the more subdivided it is, the more advantages Xiaohongshu can actually play. Xiaohongshu “True Sharing”UGC The value brought by traits is often not the content accumulation of some popular products, but a longer tail and richer product experience and experience.

I remember Xiaohongshu CMO Zhiheng once said a number that surprised me as a male user: 4200+ brands of facial essences and 3700+ brands of masks are included in Xiaohongshu alone. These are not all simple brand differences, but have their own matching user groups based on functions and specific differences. Even simple personal care products like shampoo have become very complicated. How to understand the scalp, hair quality, whether it has anti-hair loss function, etc., the demand has been greatly differentiated.


Image source: Geek Park

Under the trend of this category becoming more and more subdivided, brand owners cannot simply adopt the strategy of making great efforts to create miracles, because it is bound to fail. “Growing grass” can be understood as a process between brand advertising and EC, building, storing water, and even targeting users for deterministic effects. The result that investment in planting grass should pursue is to let the brand have assets and have Decision-making confidence, so that delivery and conversion can be done more efficiently.

Not long ago, I talked with Babycare, a mother and baby brand, about the role of Xiaohongshu in them. When they were preparing to launch a diaper, they obtained data insights on similar products on the platform through Lingxi. The data found that the frequency of users searching for “newborn diapers” is high, but the “content supply” is very small, which means that the market’s mind is blank. After finding this selling point, Xiaohongshu suggested that Babycare should focus on pregnant mothers as the core sales group, and gave the selling points that pregnant mothers pay attention to such as “effectively relieve the baby’s red buttocks”, “prevent side leakage, and not tighten the belly”. Babycare is very useful for this kind of “consumer insight”, especially in the search advertising system. For such products with market gaps, the price of search advertising keywords will also be cheaper.


Get insights from the Lingxi system in the early stage, find selling points, and target people; then find suitable experts through Dandelion and publish business notes, and judge the feasibility of the strategy through “planting grass value”, zoom in if it is feasible, and find out if it is not feasible; wait until After the content is verified, it will be maximized through the platform’s advertising delivery system. Through this set of logic, this “bud pants” co-created by Xiaohongshu and Babycare won the TOP1 results of high-end diapers on major e-commerce platforms in 618 last year.

This is a case worthy of “copying homework”, because it does not beat the head at every step, and can improve the delivery efficiency more scientifically. Whether such excellent work can become part of the new methodology of more brands also requires more efforts from Xiaohongshu.

In the past, the team’s understanding and dedication to the community was the most important thing. The temperament and ability of the entire team were highly unified, and they were also moved and proud of the community atmosphere. But now it is also an important mission to provide efficient product service capabilities and data analysis and judgment capabilities for the commercialization system. Can the team be able to continue to deliver such results? Can you be excited about it?

Or it can be said that if Xiaohongshu wants to truly gain enough value in the marketing budget part of the commercialization system, it needs to establish another kind of persistence, for example, it should be less like a water selling model and more like an oasis model. Because the latter is a system that is more suitable for Xiaohongshu’s temperament and has more vitality.

The core logic behind the oasis model is – “provide a sufficiently effective environment and infrastructure so that everything can really grow, instead of letting everything gamble. Anyway, I sold the water.” And this is really true. It’s not just a matter of will, it’s primarily a matter of ability.

You give the best answers to the questions given by the times, and you will be rewarded by the times. The value of Little Red Book ultimately needs to be liberated in the process of finding “rational persistence”.

Ewen Eagle

I am the founder of Urbantechstory, a Technology based blog. where you find all kinds of trending technology, gaming news, and much more.

View all posts by Ewen Eagle →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.