Dou Yin vs. Tik Tok – Verve Arts Festival 2020


A long-awaited topic of discussion, a battle of interest and preferences. One common platform, two separate apps of its own. Chinese-based content vs international content. This can leave several people scratching their heads, wondering, “Isn’t it the same thing, just different servers?”.

Fair point but let us scroll back a little.


In September 2016, ByteDance, a Chinese app developing company, released DouYin (loosely translated to ‘shaking sound’/’vibrato’, which can be seen its watermark) to the Chinese market, anticipating to be the next leading video-sharing social networking service in the country. The service aimed to create a service where people can make their own music videos or other various video content for 3-15 seconds or 3-60 seconds. This is similar to previously-popular platforms such as Dubsmash,, and Vine. 

Due to the increasing popularity in China, DouYin reached out to international shores the following year, branding it as “TikTok” to international audiences. Success soon followed and excellent business was flowing in for ByteDance. In 2018, TikTok was ranked No. 1 among free downloads on app stores in various countries, made available in over 150 markets, and in 75 languages. Its popularity in the United States skyrocketed after merging with in August, reaching 2 billion downloads worldwide. Tiktok was cited as one of the most downloaded mobile apps in the decade of 2010 to 2019, surpassing Facebook, Youtube and Instagram in 2018 and 2019.  In 2020, TikTok has partnered with Sony Music and Oracle, and is known to be an ‘essential platform’ for social media marketing. 


This can be seen by famous artists promoting their works such as Justin Beiber, BTS, Charlie Puth, Will Smith, The Rock and many more. 

Check it out

Speaking about DouYin, how has it been doing?

DouYin’s popularity in China is still on the top, audiences ranging from children to middle-aged adults, which is a slightly older audience than its international-version counterpart. According to the Miaozhen Douyin Report 2018, Douyin garnered “320 million daily active users within just 2 years, with its average users spending 72 minutes on the app per day”. For the Chinese market, DouYin has achieved a feat as it has developed a unique ‘hip urban market’ for China. Similarly, Chinese celebrities and businesses brought their marketing campaigns to DouYin, creating a following and fanbase on the app. It is currently ranked #2 of the Apple Chinese App store, and first in the video/photo category. According to Sampi.Co (2019), DouYin has been claimed as an ‘impressive product’  as it was “developed in 200 days, garnered  100 million users in a year, with more than 1 billion videos viewed every day”.

ByteDance’s main reasons for the platform’s success were tapping into the right demographics to the higher tiers of Chinese audiences and the spread of bite-sized 15 seconds content that is easily digestible for all and serving content straight from the comforts of lingering on the app. Despite both apps being the same user interface, they do not have access to each other’s content, due to their different availability in different markets.

However, in Singapore, both DouYin and TikTok are available for download (for DouYin, users have to go on its website to download the app). All of the respondents who have both DouYin and TikTok are Chinese (or of Chinese ancestry). So why not let us dive into the real tea of things.

VerveInk hits the streets

We have interviewed users of both platforms, Douyin and TikTok, about their preferences and experiences using both platforms.

Q: Which platform do you prefer? Why?

To our surprise, all of the respondents replied with DouYin.

Respondent A: “Honestly I personally find DouYin content is more interesting and creative compared to TikTok because they keep trying to find innovative ways to present their works and I seldom find repeated content as I scroll through the app.”

Respondent B: “It is really more Eastern Asian culture, rather than it being “westernised”, which I prefer as I can easily appreciate… And they are proud to be Chinese, rather than the overly saturated international one, hence it is easier to relate… That’s why I find it’s content more engaging than TikTok”.

Respondent C: “DouYin is better because it is less toxic in terms of its culture. In TikTok, you see many cyberbullying and ‘shade’ thrown around and it is a very unfriendly environment. This can be seen by the recent Ryan incident on TikTok, where creators collectively mocked a 14-year-old boy and his girlfriend, affecting his mental health. DouYin, however, does not have that, despite touching on controversial topics like racism. Other than that, DouYin has more well-produced content than TikTok.”

Respondent D: “They do a lot of weird content on the app and it is really entertaining!”

Respondent E: “TikTok is quite basic and uninteresting as it will always be a trending song and creators will make a dance trend out of it and everyone follows. However, for DouYin, there are a variety of different and interesting content, rather than creators following a stagnant trend all the time.”

Q: How are the features of the two apps different?

Respondent A: “Creators on TikTok uses hashtag but creators in DouYin does not. Hence, instead of finding trending / popular videos through the different hashtag displayed in the TikTok discovery section, DouYin have different charts and topics e.g. popularity chart, superstar charts, music charts. On TikTok, you can share a video onto your normal social media / chatting platforms like Instagram and Whatsapp, but DouYin only allows you to share it through China Mainland social media/chatting platforms, like WeChat.”

Respondent B: “DouYin has its own store, where users can tag and advertise their products, and some of them can ask different influencers for brand deals.”

Respondent C: “They have this geographical target audience feature that allows them to target a specific audience based on their location. This may be due to the Tier 1-4 of audiences outreach in China.”

Respondent D: “Recently, DouYin has videos that are more than 60 seconds long, as compared to TikTok which maximum is 6o seconds. Hence, this allows creators on the app to publish longer videos such as skits and short films, and considering how big the platform is in China, this is an effective marketing strategy.”

Q: Describe the difference between TikTok and DouYin’s trends.

Respondent A: “On TikTok, dance videos are more popular while on DouYin, short films are more popular.”

Respondent B: “TikTok mostly use trending songs/sounds to create videos, like acting POV or dance videos. DouYin is more high-production and professionally acted out, like “skits” or “dramas”. While TikTok has different parts to a certain prompt that they are actin gout, which does not last long, DouYin has a series of skits and dramas.”

Respondent C: “DouYin trends consists of mini trailers, documentaries, short film, which are high production filmed content with a long video duration. Meanwhile, TikTok trends consists of dance videos, acting POVs (videos that have a point-of-view acting prompt), artists showcasing, which are low production and have a short video duration, targeting the general youth target audience more as compared to DouYin.”

Respondent D: “You can get famous for your looks on DouYin as compared to TikTok. Hence, TikTok is more of the ‘funny and creative’ content, while DouYin has alot of trendy music and good looking people. However, DouYin is mainly targetted to Chinese people, while TikTok is for international audiences, hence TikTok has more general content.”

Respondent E: “TikTok has more dance trends while DouYin has more transition trends and short dramas.”

Respondent F: “There is alot of food videos on DouYin!”

Respondent G: “The main difference between them is that TikTok has a greater variety and diversity based on fan interest, culture and more; while DouYin is more Chinese and Asian focused.”

Respondent H: “There are less ‘cringey content’ on DouYin as compared to TikTok, like the XMM (Xiao Mei Mei, which means ‘Little Girl’ in Chinese) and YP (Young Punk) culture.”

Author’s comments: In my opinion, TikTok seems more casual and laid back for people to interact and bond over. For example, I can use a TikTok dance trend and dance along with it with my friends or create new friends through TikTok references. Finding someone who is able to relate to the common content we view on TikTok really excites me! Other than that, I see TikTok more of an Instagram/Social Media Platform kind of app, while DouYin is more of a video-sharing platform like YouTube. Both apps are good at targeting their right target audience as they have content for everyone. For example, due to my interest in BTS and my favouritism in TikTok content about the group, TikTok’s algorithm allows me to view more BTS videos. Audiences on TikTok view this as ‘a separate virtual universe’, labelling it based on their interest like, ‘Harry Potter TikTok’ and ‘Alt (short form for Alternate) TikTok’.


According to Tan (2020), “every new TikTok stands as an art piece in itself, whether it’s a feat of videography, music, dance or comedy. TikTok, since its launch, has become one of the boldest and most influential representations of Gen Z’s artistic voice.” Therefore, we can embrace the similarities between both apps of being a platform to share artistic talent and spread happiness during tough times. 

In addition, this can showcase how art can be displayed and marketed on social media. Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, big-scale festivals, such as Esplanade’s annual BayBeats, was brought on the live-stream feature of the TikTok app. Will this subside when the pandemic is over? Or will more similar apps like TikTok rise, allowing artists to continue resorting to virtual platforms to engage audiences?

Scroll to Top