Captivating the Chinese education market: A step-by-step lead generation strategy on Douyin


Emerging Communications


Jul 11, 2023

Douyin, known to some as the “Chinese TikTok”, has emerged as the most significant channel for lead generation among Chinese Gen Z students.

But despite its dominance, many Western brands still aren’t using Douyin to full effect. Brands often struggle to produce cost-effective results and create Chinese marketing campaigns that really make a difference. 

We spoke with dozens of education clients working in the China market to uncover the most common strategic gaps in lead-gen campaigns. Armed with these insights, here’s our guide to a full-funnel lead-generating China strategy. 

What’s the difference between Douyin and TikTok? 

One of the main differences between Douyin and TikTok is the user base.  

Whereas TikTok is predominantly used by Gen Z and younger audiences, Douyin appeals to a wide demographic. It’s used by working professionals and parents as well as Chinese Gen Z, including plenty of high school and university students. 

A closer look at who uses Douyin, data on users by age from Douyin user data, analysys, May 2022.

With Tik Tok almost 40% of its users are under 24 years old. And on the flip side 20% of Douyin’s users are aged under 24 and a massive 70% fall into the 24-40 year old category, while a further 10% are aged 41 and above. There’s also a roughly even gender split on Douyin (44% female and 55% male).  

Of course, while Douyin is only available in the China APP store, TikTok isn’t accessible in the China market. Over half of Douyin users (56%) live in Tier 1-2 cities, which are the most affluent regions in China.

In terms of content, whereas TikTok features mostly fun trending videos – Douyin is used for a much wider range of purposes. As well as entertainment, Chinese social media users head to Douyin for bite-sized news, entertaining videos, inspiring educational content and motivational resources. Learning is a key feature on Douyin, with many educational and information-driven accounts providing short instructive videos, tips and tutorials. 

Top searched keywords onDouyin in 2022 by users aged 18-23

Douyin also plays an important role in users’ future planning. It’s a platform for inspiration and aspiration, to discover success stories, career advice and motivational content. By following accounts related to personal development, entrepreneurship and higher education, Chinese students (and their families) gain valuable insights for planning future endeavours. 

What are the China marketing opportunities for education brands on Douyin? 

Douyin offers several advertising opportunities including brand takeovers, in-feed native adverts, search ads and branded effects. 

  • Brand takeovers: brands can display full-screen ads appearing when users open the app. These ads are highly visible, providing excellent brand exposure – and often include images, GIFs or short videos. 
  • In-feed adverts: these ads appear in the user’s main video feed as they scroll through the app. They can be either images or videos and blend well with organic content. However, these ads will have a “sponsored” label, to distinguish them from regular user-generated content. 
  • Search adverts: the top position on the search results page prominently showcases brand information with features like brand topics, links, brand accounts and product showcases. 
  • Branded effects: brands can create their own specially designed effects, letting Chinese consumers apply these effects and filters to their own videos. This fun feature promotes brand awareness as well as active user-led interaction. 
Douyin Advertisement Formats - 4 different types

So, now we know what you can do on Douyin – what’s the best way to leverage the platform for your Chinese marketing strategy? 

1. Set your objectives 

When it comes to setting objectives for Douyin, you’ll want to consider every step along the way. From raising awareness in the China market, to the consideration stage among Chinese consumers and lead generation, to moving customers down the sales funnel. 

Think about: 


For a full-funnel lead-gen strategy, it’s important to set objectives right at the top of the sales funnel. Douyin is an incredibly powerful tool for generating brand awareness in China. With engaging creative content, you can introduce your brand to a wide audience of Chinese consumers – and truly capture their attention. What’s more, collaborations with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) can help expand your reach and brand visibility. 


Further down the funnel, think about the Chinese consumers’ consideration stage. For education brands, this is when prospective students evaluate their options and compare different universities and courses.  

Douyin can be leveraged to establish a reputation for your brand and communicate information about student experiences. With real-life case studies and testimonials from current students and alumni, you’ll build trust. These opportunities to engage with Chinese social media users also let you answer potential student questions and concerns while highlighting your brand’s unique value proposition. 

Lead generation 

Finally, objectives should also cover the lead generation stage. With the right targeting strategy, compelling ad creative and carefully constructed in-app landing pages, Douyin holds massive potential. Douyin adverts can effectively capture the attention of your target audience, collect valuable lead information and move Chinese consumers even further down the sales funnel. 

So, how can you create an effective lead generation campaign on Douyin? Let’s craft a plan for your Chinese strategy… 

2. Establish a clear plan 

Once you’ve identified your objectives and decided to run a Douyin Chinese marketing campaign, the next steps are carefully considering your target audience and creating a comprehensive campaign strategy. 

While there are many aspects to consider, three essential elements for a successful Douyin plan are: 

  • Identifying your target audience: clearly defining your audience is crucial for a successful Chinese marketing campaign. Consider factors such as demographics, interests, behaviours and preferences of your ideal audience on Douyin. This will help tailor your content to engage and resonate with the group you need to reach. 
  • Creating your campaign “hooks”: adapt your campaign hooks and strategies to align with the unique strengths and selling points of your brand. Incorporate creativity, visual appeal and trending elements to increase visibility and engagement among Douyin’s users. Some top-performing content hooks for educators include “Virtual Campus Tours and Student Experience”, “A Day in a Student’s Life”, “Alumni Success Stories”, “Scholarships” or “Sign Up for Livestream Sessions”. 
  • Designing a campaign user journey: identify the sequence of steps or interactions that your target audience will go through during your campaign. This includes initial exposure and engagement with your content, all the way through to desired actions such as contacting recruitment officers or booking a visit for campus open days. 
  • Defining your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): consider which KPIs are useful for measuring the success of your campaign. This could include metrics such as likes, comments, shares, click-through rates, conversion rates or brand sentiment. Set realistic goals and track campaign performance to make data-driven decisions on optimising your China strategy. 

3. Creative considerations for Douyin content 

4 factors to get the best content for Douyin ads.

When it comes to producing creative content for Douyin ads, brands often wonder if they need to produce bespoke videos. The answer is not necessarily.  

You might find that repurposing pre-existing videos can help control your budget and align with other China marketing efforts. Still, there are some factors to think about:  

  • It’s important to ensure your video is paced correctly. Keep things short and engaging, with a time limit of 30 seconds. If the video isn’t already in Chinese, add Chinese voiceovers or subtitles to cater to Douyin’s predominantly Chinese-speaking audience. 
  • Just like landing pages and creative copy, make sure you have a clear call to action. You can enhance this by adding a backdrop highlighting your brand and the CTA. This should be concise and snappy, something like: January 2024 admissions now open. Apply now > 
  • From our extensive experience creating content marketing for the China market, we’ve found videos featuring Chinese students (for instance, a “day in the life”) perform better. Strike a balance between a China focus and showcasing an aspirational international environment. 
  • For all Douyin ads and videos (and all Chinese social media campaigns for that matter), conducting A/B testing will help you optimise your creative content. Test variations of your Douyin ads with different copy, visuals and CTA buttons. And you’ll identify which elements drive higher lead generation for your education brand. 

4. Don’t forget the user journey: best practice for a Douyin lead-gen campaign 

Given its broad user base and range of advertising options, Douyin is one of the most exciting marketing opportunities in China. So it pays to follow best practise and create a smooth user journey for Chinese consumers. 

Compelling creative messaging and clear CTAs 

First and foremost, create engaging and visually appealing ad creatives for Douyin that will capture the attention of your target audience. Focus on crafting compelling messaging that highlights your education brand’s unique selling points. Don’t forget a crystal clear call-to-action (CTA) to encourage users to take the next step in the customer journey. 

Leveraging in-app landing pages 

University of Kent Douyin ads and campaign landing page.

Instead of directing users to external websites or links which are generally not allowed on the platform, use the Douyin in-app landing page feature.  

As part of this, design a landing page within the app showcasing your brand’s unique selling propositions (USPs) as well as all the info Chinese consumers might need. Keep your language concise, engaging and focused on capturing the interest of prospective Chinese students. 

Including an enquiry form 

To create a seamless user journey, include an enquiry form on your in-app landing page. Allow users to express interest in specific courses and provide their contact information. Like the in-app landing page, keep things simple and concise – and only request essential details for following-up. 

It’s best if forms feature prominently on your landing page. By reducing any potential barriers or friction in the submission process, you’ll increase the likelihood of Chinese consumers engaging with your education brand. This creates more opportunities for lead nurturing and ultimately conversion. 

Creating a seamless user experience 

With these best practices in mind, you’ll create a compelling user journey on Douyin that effectively showcases your brand, captures interest and encourages enquiries. As external links aren’t allowed, it’s really important to create a seamless user experience within the app. 

But it doesn’t end there! Remember to regularly monitor and optimise your campaigns, to ensure the user journey aligns with your China marketing objectives. This will ensure a positive experience for prospective students and improve perceptions of your brand. 

5. Explore your targeting options 

There’s good news for education brands – there are lots of in-depth options for reaching your target audience on Douyin. So having the right set-up and continually testing your campaign’s effectiveness with different audiences is crucial. 

  • Demographic targeting: target your ads based on specific demographic criteria such as age, gender, location, language and interests. This lets you narrow down your audience to those most interested in your offering. 
  • Location targeting: target users based on their geographic location, focusing ads on specific provinces or cities. 
  • Interest-based targeting: target users based on their interests and preferences, selecting relevant interest categories or specific topics aligning with your China strategy. This could include kindergarten, higher education, overseas study, MBA programmes in Europe or parenting. 
  • Behavioural targeting: target users based on their behaviour on Douyin, including engagement with specific content types, and interactions with ads or video views. For instance, if you’re promoting study at a UK or European university, you could tailor your ads to prospective students exploring studying overseas or preparing for IELTS/GMAT exams. By leveraging this feature, you’ll effectively engage with exactly the right audience at the right time. 
  • Custom audiences: create custom audiences based on your existing consumer data or website visitors. You can upload customer lists, use pixel data or create lookalike audiences to reach Chinese consumers similar to your existing customer base. 
  • Advanced targeting with DMP: use a Data Management Platform (DMP) to target specific audiences on Douyin. Leverage data from third-party providers to build custom audiences based on factors such as interests, behaviours and demographics to create an effective Chinese social media campaign. 

6. Benchmarking campaigns 

Looking at some success factors for a Douyin lead-gen campaign

So, you’ve thought about your objectives, established a plan and considered the user journey. The next step is benchmarking your campaign. 

To do this, ask yourself what does success in the China market look like for your brand? And how does your campaign compare with previous ads you’ve run or those from similar companies? 

Some important metrics to measure include: 

  • Audience reach: by tracking audience reach, you can gauge your campaign’s ability to generate awareness and reach a broad audience. Consider who the ideal target audience is for your education brand. Are your ads reaching these people on Douyin? 
  • Click-through rate (CTR): measure your CTR by dividing the number of clicks on your Douyin adverts by the number of impressions. A higher CTR shows your ads are engaging Chinese consumers and successfully attracting attention. If you’re able to compare your CTR with industry benchmarks or previous campaigns, you’ll gain valuable insights into your China strategy. 
  • Cost per lead (CPL): discover your average cost per lead by dividing the total cost of your Douyin ad campaign by the number of leads generated. The CPL helps you assess the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your lead-generation efforts on Douyin. 
  • Lead quality: capturing leads is a key goal for any Chinese marketing campaign, but not an end in itself. So gather feedback from your student recruitment team and assess the quality of leads from Douyin by analysing metrics such as the “lead-to-customer conversion rate”. Continuously monitor lead quality throughout the campaign, rather than waiting until it finishes. This will enable ongoing optimisation to improve your campaign’s overall performance and ROI. For example, could something simple like adding tuition fee information on your landing page improve lead quality? 

Ready to get started with Douyin? Discover a full-funnel lead-gen strategy for the Chinese education market with our in-depth webinar. Supercharge your brand’s China digital strategy and take your Chinese social media marketing to the next level.