Bilibili vs. YouTube

Bilibili vs YouTube: Does Bilibili Still Matter in China?

Last Updated on June 11, 2024

China’s online video market has always been unique from the rest of the world. And with YouTube inaccessible in the local market, the Bilibili platform presents itself as an excellent alternative for Chinese consumers.

For years, it was one of the most popular platforms in the country for watching and uploading videos. However, as the industry evolves, consumer expectations and demand for this app also face inevitable changes.

In this post, we’ll discuss the difference between Bilibili and YouTube and share insights on how foreign brands can use this Chinese video-sharing platform for their marketing campaigns.


Is Bilibili Like YouTube?

As a video-sharing platform, it’s no surprise that Bilibili has many similarities to YouTube. Both streaming channels thrive in user-generated content, with categories from entertainment and education to lifestyle and gaming.

These video-streaming platforms allow creators to monetize their content through ads, sponsorships, and users paying donations. These features often foster highly engaged communities, especially with viewers capable of commenting, liking, sharing, and participating in live streams. However, the resemblance mostly ends there.


Bilibili social media China


Bilibili may be called the Chinese version of YouTube, but most of its video content and features mainly cater to the tastes and preferences of local consumers. So, while it’s also accessible globally, its domestic audience reach requires this video platform to operate according to the digital and advertising laws implemented in China.


Is Bilibili still popular in China?

Technically speaking, yes. The Bilibili platform maintains its popularity among the Chinese internet population. Although its demand was affected by the rise of short-form videos, it’s hard to rule out this app’s influence in the local market.

In 2023, Bilibili generated a revenue of around $795.7 million. Despite the rise of newly registered users on the platform, this data presents an apparent net loss. The underwhelming profits from mobile games are the main reason for this decline.

To cater to its new user base, a.k.a. China’s Millennials and Gen Z, Bilibili launched Light Video. This feature includes the “bullet comments or danmu (弹幕)” feature, allowing Chinese consumers to get their comments flashing on the screen in real time as the videos play.

Damu bullet points during KOL live streaming on Bilibili

“Damu” / Bullet points during a KOL live streaming for our client Mythic and their new game Riftstorm


Eventually, Bilibili gave in to the trend and created a feature similar to Stories. It’s a direct response to the unstoppable adoption of short video content on major platforms like Douyin, Kuiashou, and WeChat.

Nevertheless, the app maintains a solid content culture that fosters an active community and continuous customer acquisition. With its relentless effort to capture the interest of China’s Generation Z and Millennials, it’s apparent that Bilibili intends to maintain its influence in the local market in the years to come.


Bilibili vs YouTube: 7 Major Differences You Should Know

1.   Market Size and User Base

In 2023, Bilibili became one of the Chinese social media apps garnering over 300 million monthly active users. Considering the tough competition in the Chinese digital landscape, reaching this milestone is an incredible feat.

However, this number does not come close to YouTube’s 2.9 billion monthly active users. Given the platform’s global reach, it’s only natural that it is broader in terms of age, interests, and geography.

What makes Bilibili stand out even for its global competitors is China’s Generation Z dominance in its current user base. The latest data shows that over 74% of the platform’s users fall under the average age group under 24.


Bilibili user age distribution in China

Bilibili user age distribution in China (Source: Statista)


Bilibili’s grasp of the Gen Z population meant that its features and offerings still appeal strongly to this target audience. As a foreign brand entering the Chinese market, you can capitalize on this reach, primarily because this age group is highly engaged and known for its fast spending growth.


2.   Local Competition

YouTube faces competition from various global and regional platforms, including Facebook (Meta) Videos, Instagram Reels, and TikTok. However, it still enjoys dominance in the worldwide video market scene.

Meanwhile, Bilibili has many major domestic competitors. Douyin, Kuaishou, Tencent’s QQ Video Platform, and Youku-Tudou are among its most formidable rivals with massive user bases.

These platforms also target the Chinese audience with video content but vary in focus and content strategy. Bilibili’s unique position is partly due to its community-driven approach and specialization in ACG content, differentiating it from its competitors.


3.   Niche Focus

Bilibili started as a video-sharing platform focusing on Anime, Comics, and Games (ACG) content, appealing to a niche audience that has grown into a highly sticky community.

Although its video content categories have expanded over the years, the ACG culture still deeply influences Bilibili’s community and offerings. On the other hand, YouTube has always aimed for a broader audience reach, offering a wide variety of pre-made content without a specific focus.

Over the years, Bilibili has become a go-to source for video and mobile gaming content. Individual users would set up live-streaming accounts to share their real-time gameplay and participate in events hosted by the platform.


Bilibili hot video platform China

Bilibili Homepage featuring ACG categories


4.   Community Building and User Engagement

Bilibili user can only be an official member of the platform through passing the evaluation process. It includes an extensive quiz, from the platform’s origins to anything related to Japanese manga artists.

These strict membership rules are mainly why the app’s community is full of passionate and knowledgeable members. It basically gives Bilibili a chance to capture the loyalty of high-end users.

When watching videos, Bilibili users love to utlize bullet comments. These time-synced comments provide an interactive streaming experience even if the content is pre-made. They appear floating on the screen, making the user interactions visually stimulating.

On YouTube, real-time comments are only activated through live streams and premiere content. Most of the time, the platform relies on traditional-looking comment sections.


5.   Content Quality

Bilibili distinguishes itself as a versatile platform, catering to a broad audience with its eclectic mix of popular and non-mainstream anime, original documentaries, and other niche genres. This diverse content selection sets Bilibili apart from its competitors, making it a unique hub for sharing creative videos.

Interestingly, unlike platforms such as Youku and Tencent, this app does not solely focus on producing original anime content. Instead, user-generated videos (UGV) form the backbone of Bilibili’s content, representing 89% of its total broadcast volume.


User-Generated Content on Bilibili

User-Generated Content on Bilibili


The emphasis on UGV enables the platform to offer a broader spectrum of anime titles, much to the delight of China’s Gen Z and Millennials, who are avid consumers of this variety. Rich content quality is central to Bilibili’s appeal, empowering the loyalty of its community and encouraging a shift towards premium subscriptions.

Meanwhile, YouTube is renowned for its wide array of both amateur and professional content, appealing to a global audience with its extensive history in the video-sharing domain.


6.   Search and Discovery Algorithms

Both platforms leverage advanced algorithms to curate and recommend content that aligns with user interests.

Backed by Google’s extensive data analytics, YouTube is renowned for its precise recommendation engine. It analyzes a user’s watch history, search habits, and demographic information to offer video suggestions that closely match individual preferences.

On the other hand, Bilibili’s recommendation system, though efficient, may not match YouTube’s global reach. Nevertheless, it shines in guiding users to content within its specialized niche areas.


7.    Live Streaming Experience

The way users find live-streaming content on both platforms is very different. For YouTube, it can appear based on your algorithm or the accounts you follow. Meanwhile, Bilibili has a dedicated section for real-time content.


Bilibili Live-stream Section

Bilibili Live-stream Section


Here, you can discover new content creators in different niches. The categories for live streams range from console gaming and entertainment to radio and beauty channels. Thanks to this feature, the discoverability of real-time videos is not solely dependent on the homepage’s algorithm.

The platform’s focus on niche content and interactive features makes it an ideal space for brand accounts to build dedicated communities around specific interests.


How To Create an Effective Bilibili Marketing Strategy

●     Key Opinion Leaders and Live-Streaming Campaigns

There are reportedly 1.7 million key opinion leaders and influencers in Bilibili. On this platform, they are more than just famous figures. These people are often seen as trusted voices within their specific niches, such as gaming, fashion, beauty, technology, and more.

These influencers have the power to sway their followers’ purchasing decisions, making them an invaluable part of your marketing campaigns in Bilibili.


KOL live streaming on Bilibili


You should look for Key Opinion Leaders whose content and audience align with your brand’s values and target demographic. Before proceeding, remember that engagement rate, content quality, and follower demographics are critical metrics to consider for the success of your campaign.

Working with KOLs should start with creating content that feels authentic to their usual style and can result in higher engagement. It could be product reviews, unboxing videos, or creative content that organically incorporates the brand into KOL’s narrative.


Perfect Diary’s Collaboration for Makeup Tutorials on Bilibili

Perfect Diary’s Collaboration for Makeup Tutorials


One of the many brands that successfully leveraged KOLs in Bilibili is Perfect Diary (完美日记). The company has built a strong presence on the platform by collaborating with beauty influencers for product tutorials and reviews. It also appeals directly to the beauty-conscious Gen Z.

Launching live streams is also a powerful strategy to appeal to Bilibili’s target audience. This feature will allow foreign brands to offer exclusive deals or early product access, incentivizing viewers to join in and participate.

Marketers can also host live Q&A sessions, product demonstrations, and games or giveaways, encouraging viewer participation through real-time content.


Honor of Kings Live-stream E-sports Competition on Bilibili

Honor of Kings Live-stream E-sports Competition


Many companies in China’s gaming market are known to utilize Bilibili’s live-streaming content to host competitions. Through these real-time events, they encourage existing players to actively spend time and resources in the app without being direct about it. It also generates enough buzz within the platform to attract new audiences.


●     Launch Targeted Advertising Campaigns

Bilibili, like many monetized platforms, provides various advertising options for brands and companies interested in tapping into its vast user base. Here’s a simplified guide to understanding its advertising landscape and how it works for paid product placement:


Types of Bilibili Ads You Can Launch

  • News Feed Ads: These ads appear on the video feed page in three formats: a single small image, a large picture, or a combination of three pictures. Each format includes a brief title (5-18 characters) and a description (2-10 words), capturing viewer attention as they browse.


Bilibili newsfeed ad format


  • Native Banner Ads: These ads vary in size and are often seen on the homepage and video game pages. Homepage banners can be one of four sizes, while play page banners have two size options, placed either above or below the video player for optimal visibility.


Bilibili native banner ad type


  • Occupationally Generated Video Ads: This premium option involves sponsoring Bilibili’s original content. It’s a significant investment but offers high exposure by associating your brand with popular platform-generated content. Due to its cost, it’s a selective option only available to some companies.


While paid advertising on Bilibili is generally more budget-friendly compared to other Chinese social media platforms, it’s worth noting that the targeting capabilities may be less extensive.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that its unique audience and content preferences could yield substantial benefits for brands looking to connect with China’s younger demographics.


●     Leverage Bilibili’s E-Commerce Mini-Programs

Seeing the domestic success of many social commerce apps in China, Bilibili announced the launch of its e-commerce function in 2019. This move is particularly strategic, given the evolving shopping preferences of Generation Z—a demographic that heavily populates the platform.

These mini-programs enable users to purchase goods without leaving the app, enhancing user engagement and convenience. While Bilibili does not have a designated area for these features, users can access them via links in posts by popular creators, encouraging sales through trusted recommendations.


Bilibili’s E-Commerce Mini-Programs


Bilibili’s venture into e-commerce continues beyond its mini-programs. The platform has sought partnerships with leading e-commerce giants, including Taobao, to enhance this new feature.

By aligning with Taobao, the platform can foster an efficient digital ecosystem where users can engage with content and make purchases within the same environment.


Types of Accounts You Can Open on Bilibili

Bilibili offers three main types of accounts, each catering to different users and objectives. Understanding the differences and requirements of each account type is crucial for users looking to navigate the platform more effectively.


1.    Official Account for Chinese Influencers

This account type is tailored for influencers based in China, aiming to expand their follower base and engage in brand collaborations. Influencers need a minimum of 100,000 followers to qualify for this account type. These accounts are a gateway to increased visibility on the platform and offer numerous monetization opportunities.


Example of Influencer Account on Bilibili

Example of Influencer Account on Bilibili


2.    Official Account for Businesses

This account type is designed specifically for companies looking to promote their products and services. It’s focused on commercial objectives. It’s the go-to choice for businesses wanting to share content related to their brand, with the company or organization acting as the account holder.

Beyond offering heightened visibility, business accounts gain access to specialized features like Zhuanche (a dedicated advertising service on Bilibili) and opportunities for enhanced brand collaborations.


Bilibili Dior official account

Example of Brand Account on Bilibili


3.    Individual Account

Like personal accounts on other social networks, this account on Bilibili is meant for users seeking entertainment and personal expression. Users typically share and consume content related to anime, manga, and video games. Unlike the official accounts, regular profiles are not intended for commercial use and, therefore, cannot be monetized.


Consumer Profile of Bilibili Users

Most of Bilibili’s user base is young, with over 80% of its users being between 18 and 35.  Although its user base is spread across China, there’s a notable concentration in urban areas like first and second-tier cities.

The consumers within the platform show a willingness to spend on merchandise, games, and virtual gifts for their favorite creators. They are also highly receptive to brand collaborations and influencer endorsements, provided these partnerships resonate with their interests and values.


Consumer profile of Bilibili users


Quick Q&A

What is Bilibili used for in China?

In China, Bilibili is primarily used as a video-sharing platform that caters to a young audience with a strong focus on ACG (Anime, Comics, and Games) content. It’s renowned for its interactive community features, such as bullet comments (danmu), live streaming, and content creator support.

Can I use Bilibili outside China?

Yes, you can use Bilibili outside China, as the platform is accessible worldwide. However, some content might be region-restricted due to licensing agreements, meaning specific videos may not be available to international users.


Your Trusted Bilibili Marketing Partner in China!

There are many short video platforms to take advantage of when marketing to China. Although Bilibili showed some decline in the past year, the app remains full of growth and potential. Foreign brands need personable campaign strategies to appeal to the platform’s young consumer base.

At Sekkei Digital Group, we understand the subtleties inherent to China’s Gen Z and Millennials – including consumer behaviors and the ever-evolving trends that shape their preferences. With our extensive expertise in this niche, we offer you the avenue to unlock your brand’s potential and secure a formidable position as a leading entity in the industry.


Sekkei Digital Group Services


We provide comprehensive services to empower your marketing strategies in China. From crafting compelling ad campaigns to harnessing the power of search engine platforms and social media channels, we provide the digital solutions you need to thrive. Contact us today to learn more!


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