What is Baidu Tieba? An Introduction to China’s Largest Online Community
You might not hear about the platform Baidu Tieba as often as Weibo or Zhihu nowadays. However, during the 2000s Baidu Tieba achieved success that no other Chinese online communities could even dream of.
Established in 2003, Baidu Tieba accumulated over 300 million MAU (Monthly Active Users) by 2015 and the number of its total registered users reached 1.5 billion. Despite being overshadowed by various new online communities, it still claims to be the largest Chinese online community thus far.
Table of Contents
- What is Baidu Tieba? Read Now
- The special Baidu Tieba features that make it unique Read Now
- What does Baidu Tieba look like and how to sign up for my Baidu Tieba account? Read Now
- A glimpse of popular Baidu Tieba categories and their different function Read Now
- The past glory of Baidu Tieba and its recent downfall Read Now
- How to create self-made free ads on Baidu Tieba Read Now
What is Baidu Tieba?
Now that you know a bit about impressive track record of Baidu Tieba, let’s go into detail on Baidu Tieba actually is how it works.
First of all, let’s start with the meaning of Baidu Tieba, The word Tieba is simply the pronunciation of the Chinese word “贴吧”, which is a made-up word that literally translates into “Let’s Post”. Tieba, or its English acronym “bar”, is also used as the suffix of each individual discussion forum under the website. And thus the word “Tieba” has its meaning extended to the word “forum” or “group” as well.
As its name suggests, Baidu Tieba is a platform created by the search engine company Baidu. The platform links people to individual Tiebas according to their interests. Sounds like what a normal forum would also do?
Not exactly. There are two things that fundamentally set Baidu Tieba apart from its competitors –
1) Backed by Baidu, the platform ranks incredibly well on search helping it capture huge amounts of web traffic.
2) It utilizes search keywords to segment user’s interests accurately.
Try to search any keyword that you are interested in Baidu, with the word “吧” (“bar”) following it, and chances are you will immediately see an existing Tieba named with the exact keyword at the top of your search results. And if not, you can simply create a Tieba within a few clicks and become the founder of your own keyword discussion group.
This keyword categorization feature has made Baidu Tieba so easily accessible yet so tailor-made for anyone online – The total number of Tiebas already exceeds 22.6 million and is still growing. Yet, the categories in Baidu Tieba are so niche that there are actually Tiebas named after random Chinese names for people with the same name to chat and socialize!
The special Baidu Tieba features that make it unique
1) Content-oriented and highly interactive
The types of posts shared on Baidu Tieba vary a lot, and there is no certain fixed format that you need to follow. Your posts can be used for discussing a topic of interest or hosting a Q&A session, or maybe even publishing your own diary or short stories… the list goes on. But the key feature embedded in all hot posts is its interactiveness – everything is “live“! And because of this, a successful post on Baidu Tieba can never be created once simply left alone. You need to interact with readers to keep your posts hot and on top!
Another good thing about Baidu Tieba is that it is content-oriented rather than user-oriented. This means that you don’t need to be a KOL to be influential on Baidu Tieba, what matters is if your post is interesting enough to trigger discussion.
2) The vertical structure within Baidu Tieba
As I mentioned previously, Baidu Tieba is a platform consists of countless specific Tiebas as individual communities. Although they are all under Baidu Tieba and have a largely identical web page layout, each Tieba is rather self-governed, with their own Tieba Host as the main coordinator.
Therefore, you could say that each Tieba, having little to no interaction with one another, is actually a highly independent website on its own.
3) 6 Baidu Tieba Jargons you should know
Given that Baidu Tieba is a highly localized Chinese community with tons of special features, it is completely natural for Baidu Tieba beginners to get confused at first. To get a head start, it would help if you can get familiar with some of the most common Baidu Tieba jargon first –
Experience Point (经验):
The experience point system is a measurement to determine your seniority in a certain Tieba. Ways for you to boost your experience points include:
1) Logging in to the Tieba for consecutive days
2) Initiating a post
3) Replying to a post
4) Organizing a poll
5) Participating in a poll
6) Receiving replies from others.
Just like your knowledge and experience gained in one area of expertise cannot be transferred to another one, your time and effort spent on one Tieba, measured as experience point, is not shared with any other Tiebas.
When your experience points in one Tieba accumulate you will eventually be able to “level up” to the next level of seniority. As illustrated in the graph below, each level-up is accompanied by a special privilege reward, such as exemption from entering verification codes, authorization to insert multimedia and voice memos in your post, etc.
Another cute feature I like about this level system is a “status badge” with your level and title shown on it. Each Tieba member has their own title corresponding to their seniority, all of which are named by the Tieba Host and unique to each Tieba.
Tieba Host (吧主):
Nominated by Baidu Tieba webmasters based entirely on a candidates’ contribution and commitment, the Tieba host has the highest level of authority over the Tieba he is in charge of. You can understand this role as the owner and head administrator of a Tieba.
The Tieba host’s responsibility spans from coordinating and regulating activities and posts, to attracting new members and establishing relationships with other Tiebas if needed.
Add to digest(加精):
To encourage high-quality content posting, posts that are particularly informative and influential will be added to digest. The impact of these acknowledged posts can last for years without being submerged by flooding new posts given that users can choose to only view posts under the digest.
As we now understand, each Tieba is similar to a small kingdom overseen by the Tieba host, who keeps all posts within a Tieba under his/her surveillance. Therefore, Tieba host needs to establish and announce rules and standards for all community members to obey, and these are called Tieba rules (吧规).
Tieba rules establish criteria for banning posts, blocking accounts, and featuring posts on the Tieba digest. Remember to read them through before you start posting in the Tieba to avoid getting into trouble.
Friend list (友情贴吧):
Although each Tieba operates as an independent community, they can add other Tiebas they have established “diplomatic relationships” with to their friend list. Members from these “friended Tiebas” are welcomed to post in your territory and interact with your group of people.
For instance, Peking University’s Tieba is actually on the friend list of Tsinghua University’s Tieba. (As you might know these schools have a strong “frenemy” relationship as they compete for the title of the best college in China.)
What does Baidu Tieba look like and how to sign up for my Baidu Tieba account?
With hot Tieba recommendations, selected topics, real-time top stories, the homepage of Baidu Tieba does not look radically different from other forums. But interestingly, the top search bar of Baidu Tieba for users to type in their interested topics looks a lot like a mini-version of the search engine Baidu itself.
Now let’s type something in that search bar and hit enter to see what the interfaces inside look like. Here, we can try Taylor Swift and Luhan.
Now, if you want to do things beyond simply browsing and jumping around from one Tieba to another, you will need to create your own Baidu account. The good news is that you can use the same Baidu account to access all Baidu producst, including Baidu Zhidao (Baidu’s Quora), Baidu Wenku (a document sharing site), and Baidu Cloud (similar to Google Drive), etc.
Currently, only mainland China phone numbers are accepted for registration, which is probably due to a ever more stringent internet regulations.
A glimpse of popular Baidu Tieba categories and their different functions
Being an independent community means that every Tieba has its own content focus and function to serve Tiebas serve can vary quite a lot, even in the same category.
To better illustrate, let me show you some Tieba categories that I am personally familiar with –
Celebrity Tiebas – Fan Clubs & Gossip
Tiebas about celebrities can be categorized into two types in general – the die-hard fan clubs and the loud group full of gossip.
In the early 2000s, there was no better place on the Internet than Baidu Tieba for fans to find people of similar mindsets and set up camp. Back then, popular stars would even come to Baidu Tieba to interact with their fans.
Naturally, celebrity Tiebas became a breeding ground for official fan clubs. These types of Tiebas are almost exclusively filled with positive information about the celebrity concerned. Talking trash about them will get often get you banned pretty quickly.
Next, welcome to the gossiping world – different from fan Tiebas that only focus on the positive aspects of celebrities, another type of celebrity Tieba is for people interested more in mud-slinging, drama, or trending news.
My favorite Tieba of this type is the Billboard Tieba. As you can see from its name, the topics inside mainly concern western music stars.
Unlike the fan club Tiebas, the topics and sentiments in these vary greatly. As long as you aren’t overtly hostile attack, people in these Tiebas can accept sarcasm or criticism. And that is what makes the discussion here much more lively and fun to read.
TV Programs and Films – A resource-sharing hub
Since the mid-2000, the Chinese talent show boom helped contribute to the success of Baidu Tieba, owing to the large user base it reaches and the real-time interaction it facilitates.
In August 2005, the heated discussion on the famous talent show Super Girl made Baidu Tieba the No.1 ranked Chinese website by page view, surpassing the record set by Sina. (The that company created Weibo!)
Though the TV show craze has gradually faded away, a few featured Tiebas still have more than 1 million subscribers sustaining ongoing daily discussion.
Another type of Tieba under this category serves a more important (and probably unique to Chinese netizens) feature other than simply serving as a place for discussion.
Right now, with the popularity of western culture, it is very common to find popular foreign TV series loved by millions of Chinese citizens. However, due to strict content regulation and copyright issues, foreign shows are seldom allowed to broadcast on official video-streaming platforms.
And that is how Baidu Tieba, with user accounts connected to Baidu Cloud (Baidu’s Google Drive), came in to provide a free space for netizens to share videos of these TV series via Baidu Cloud with other fans.
Interest Groups – For gaming pros and book lovers
Like the official description of Baidu Tieba says, “Baidu Tieba is an interactive platform where like-minded people gather under their topics of interests.”, another category on Baidu Tieba that cannot be neglected is the interest groups.
If you ask me what is the most popular interest group among all those ranging from sports to anime, my answer would be the gaming Tieba.
With over 10 million e-sport enthusiasts gathering in one Tieba, gaming Tiebas like WOW (World of Warcraft) are created for users to share their strategies, discuss funny gaming experiences, or even “live-stream” matches and events.
To further incentivize and involve users in the discussion, their Tieba administrators would organize themed discussion and even give rewards like game cards or souvenirs to the best replies.
The other Tieba interest group worth mentioning is for the short story lovers.
Yes. Even now, Tiebas for bookworms are still incredibly popular. They are not all about discussing famous online novels. On the contrary, the most popular Tieba posts you will see here are all completely original, self-written short stories by ordinary netizens.
Interestingly, these short stories, even the long pieces, are all published as impromptu short series for the authors to interact with readers under each post. In this way, the writers can better gauge their readers’ interest and receive feedback to better improve their writing.
As mentioned previously, it is the interesting content in the Baidu Tieba posts, not the fame of the author, that sells – believe it or not, one of the national level science fiction prize winners in 2015 was actually an online short story first published in Baidu Tieba!
Socializing on Baidu Tieba – School Tieba and Beauty Tieba
One type of Tieba was created not for a shared interest, but for more of a social purpose.
For instance, Tiebas named after schools, in Tieba’s best years, were created for social purposes. These Tiebas helped to connect alumni and students, provide a place for discussing recent events happening in school, or even asking for someone’s contact! All of this made school Tieba’s an important resource for students.
But now, with the emergence of other social media, we can reach basically anyone we want to know with ease. Hence, these Tiebas, are now filled with test-taking techniques and every-day life sharing at schools instead. They’ve evolved into a platform that is more suited for marketing, as students will often check a school’s Tieba to determine if it’s a good fit for them.
But there are other Tiebas that are also still used for social purposes as well. The Beauty Tieba, calling itself “the prettiest Tieba in China”, is overrun with young girls posting their carefully-beautified selfies.
One of their signature activities, “The Star of the Week” is a weekly selfie beauty pageant. To be in the competition, contestants are required to attach their selfies with basic self-introductions. Though not as active as it used to be, with 14 million members and over 180 million posts, The Beauty Tieba was indeed and incredibly popular social channel.
The past glory of Baidu Tieba and its recent downfall
For those who were not active in Chinese online communities before 2016, it might be hard to imagine the glorious history Baidu Tieba had created – but the data can help you draw a clearer picture:
In mid-2015, Baidu Tieba had already reached 1 billion registered users. And the number of MAU (Monthly Active User) hit 300 million, surpassing Sina Weibo with its 212 million MAU. With strong social features, people were expecting it to develop into a blend of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.
Yet, More sophisticated communities like Douban and Zhihu began to thrive. And, unfortunately, these competitors of Baidu Tieba were more successful in delivering high-quality content and facilitating discussion. The users that created the legend of Baidu Tieba began to move to other platforms.
Meanwhile, Baidu Tieba has become more commercialized with some Tiebas being sold and spam advertisements appearing all over the place. The result for Baidu Tieba, as people generally commented, is a loss of active users. Its current user base is mainly comprised of netizens of a very young age or a relatively low education level, which are called “小学生” (little students)
And as competitors steal away their active users and top contributors, the content on Baidu Tieba has begun to deteriorate as well.
Some also blame Baidu Tieba’s downfall to its inability to transfer users to its mobile platform. Among 300 million of its claimed MAU, their mobile users account for only 50 million (16.7%), in sharp contrast to Weibo’s where 97% of its users access the platform through mobile.
How to create Organic Content on Baidu Tieba
If you are thinking about promoting your business online in China in a way that minimizes your costs and creates a long-lasting impact, DIY organic content on Baidu Tieba might be a good option.
Why Free advertisements?
I know you might be skeptical about the idea of organic posting and are still inclined to use paid ads, but it’s worth a shot considering it’s free. It is true that Baidu Tieba does also provide advertising space for the cost of 2 RMB/per click and can help disguise them making them look like organic posts, but it might be worth trying free avenues first.
The fact is, users are less likely to click into paid advertisements. With no interesting content on most ads facilitating discussions most ads fail to generate any significant buzz on Tieba.
The posts you create on your own are not only free-of-charge but might also have the potential to stay on top of the list for a very long time if you can make it compelling enough for continuous discussion. After all, one of Tieba’s unique features, the accurate user segmentation of Baidu Tieba, enables your post to reach the exact type of viewers you target.
What is more, don’t forget as one of Baidu’s major products, Baidu Tieba has an irreplaceable winning edge on SEO. Its superior ranking on Baidu can already take you one step ahead of your competitors.
For more detailed top tips on Baidu SEO, check out our recent post here.
Lead with a hook – Choose the right format for your post
What are the types of posts that are more likely to create lasting impacts on Baidu Tieba? Personally, I would suggest using these two – the Q&A post and the “live-streaming” serial stories.
Compared to Quora or Zhihu, the Q&A post I refer to kind of works the other way around – instead of throwing a question and waiting for other people’s reply, you create your post, claim yourself to be the expert of a field, and be there to help people with their questions.
In this way, as the one who truly leads the conversation, your account will be more easily noticed. It will also allow you to build credibility and attract followers inside your target community. However, be sure that you contribute valuable insights in your post rather than simply hard-selling. Otherwise, it is easy to be classified as trash/promotional content and get deleted by the Tieba hosts.
Also, keep in mind that maintaining a high frequency of interaction with other users is also crucial as the post ranking is sorted by the latest reply.
As discussed earlier, the serial posts are delightful to be read on Baidu Tieba as well, as it incorporates the two important elements for a successful Tieba post – being both intriguing and interactive.
In this type of post, you may tell fictional stories, or post your real-life anecdotes, or whatever you can make into a series. The key to this type of post is to create suspense at the end of every post and do it periodically.
Compared to other post types, the best part of publishing serial stories is your full control over when to post and what to post according to the readers’ responses. Many popular blog posters accredit their success to adjusting their publish frequency constantly to catch readers’ curiosity and attract active followers.
Baidu Tieba posting tactics – What to do and what to avoid
But even with the right format, can my content really win the attention from smart, impatient netizens? It is not easy for sure, but can be achieved if you do it in a smart way. Here is a list of some top tips from Chinese Tieba KOLs –
1. Grow your account before you post
Make sure to have your biography filled first, and then participate in other people’s discussions before you post your own! It is important to make yourself familiar to those you are targeting.
Also, active participation will help you earn the experience points to equip yourself with a decent Tieba level – remember, that represents your credibility and seniority in this Tieba, which will directly impact the effectiveness of your posts.
2. Choose a catchy title, and make your post informative
To create an impact, you need an eye-catching title and content that aligns with the theme of the Tieba you choose. Make your contents short and sweet, but definitely no hard-selling or it will make it “sound cheap”. Useful information and a sense of humor will be appreciated, as it can eventually make people more tolerant towards the advertisements you insert.
3. Quality matters more than quantity
This is particularly true with Baidu Tieba, especially now that spam advertisements are floating around all over the place making people hyper-sensitive towards trash/promotional posts. Frequent posting can also make your account seem suspicious in the eyes of Tieba hosts.
4. Create multiple accounts to lead the discussion
You can start the discussion under your posts by using your other accounts to reply. But again, the quality outweighs quantity and you will probably want to avoid using the same I.P. address for these accounts.
With no doubt, Baidu Tieba is a completely localized community that takes time to understand and requires a lot of experiments before your contents can become viral on it. But once successful, the upsides of marketing on Baidu Tieba and other Chinese online communities alike can be immeasurable for your business.
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