The Chinese take on Pinterest

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New Chinese social media sites have long been inspired by popular sites and trends from the West, such as Facebook’s distant cousin Renren and Twitter’s brother Sina Weibo.  It is no surprise then that they have embraced Pinterest with both arms.

Rather than just creating direct clones of the site, they have been inspired by the image-heavy, ‘waterfall-like’ layout (the Chinese describe the dynamic grid as ‘Pubuliu’, meaning ‘waterfall stream’), creating new sites that use this layout but add different features or use it in different ways to Pinterest. We’ve found over 30 Chinese Pinterest variants (and we reckon the number is growing); here are a selection of the most interesting ones.

General interest sites

Huaban (meaning ‘Petal’) and Pinfun (no translation needed; even the logo looks familiar)

These sites closely emulate Pinterest , with users collecting, pinning and sharing images, video clips (Huaban) and gif files (Pinfun) of interest.  However, the content is mainly related to Chinese culture, such as upcoming Chinese festivity, popular Chinese stars, food and scenery in China.  Pinfun also has a link called ‘Pandora’, linking merchandise images to the online shopping website Taobao.

Food-specific sites

Meishixing (meaning ‘Gourmet Journey’) and LSKong (‘Lingshi’ means ‘Snacks’; ‘Kong’ means ‘Control’)

Meishixing allows users to share pictures of restaurant dishes they’ve eaten and liked, and ones that make them drool.  Click on the images and the restaurant name and its Google Map location are displayed.  Foodies can browse images according to cities in China; so far there are 38, and likely to increase.  LSKong focuses on snacks, finger food, tea, wine and Chinese medicinal drinks.  What makes LSKong different is its focus on each user’s profile page.  Like Facebook’s profile timeline feature, user’s ID page displays pictures and comments on their snacks; this invites other nibblers to comment on your discoveries too.

Fashion-based sites

Faxian

Early in March 2012 Alibaba Group launched their social shopping website Faxian (meaning ‘Discovery’) beta version.  Specifically targeted at female users, the site allows fashionistas to share and comment on items on virtual pin boards.  By clicking on images it also allows users to purchase items on Taobao.

Mogujie (meaning ‘Mushroom Street’)

Finally, we should look at the growing success of Mogujie (meaning ‘Mushroom Street’), launched in 2010.  The founder Chen Qi developed the concept of combining online shopping and web forums in 2008 by first experimenting with a cosmetics community website his wife was using.  He discovered that users are often unsure of what to buy and which products are stylish, or suitable to them.   Mogujie was already popular amongst females aged 18 to 25 (hence the site’s cutesy mushroom mascot), but when the site incorporated Pinterest’s visually attractive, image-heavy ‘waterfall’ layout, its number of daily visitors soared.  Since last December there were 400,000 registered fashionistas, and 120,000 daily visitors.

Mogujie has a rigorous user registration process; not only do you have to register your name and date of birth, you can add details of your height, weight, skin condition, shoe size and vital statistics. Like LSKong’s focus on profile pages, popular users become models showing everyone what and how they dress (like the UK site What I Wore Today), and provide fashion guidance to her followers.  There are pages dedicated to fashion brands, such as Topshop, Zara and H&M, and the items all link to the relevant pages on Taobao.

Mogujie is also not only about materialism.  During the Chinese Valentine’s Day (the 7th day in July according to the lunar calendar), the site set up a forum for single ladies spilling out their singleton woes, which became hugely popular and only adds to the site’s financial success.

Chen Qi is quick to point out that apart from the ‘waterfall’ layout, Mogujie is different from Pinterest in content and community management style. It is still early stages to decide which of the few Chinese Pinterest variants are here to stay, but we know that to copy like for like will not be sustainable.

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4 Responses
  • Jessica Xiaoyu
    Apr 17, 2012

    Hi John,

    It is very interesting to read your article and I would like to share a bit of my thoughts about Pinterest in China with you.

    As you said, dozens of websites in China are embracing this new Pinterest style. The few big Chinese Internet companies such as Tencent are trying to adapt this latest development on their existing platforms, new companies like Huaban who received risk investment are “closely emulating” Pinterest and developing rapidly at the same time, there are also several equivalent “Pinterest” websites competing within each industry such as fashion, food or interior design. Among these dozens of competitors, it is very interesting to see who will be the leading ones at last, like what happened when they were trying to imitate Facebook and Twitter.

    Right now, the one with most awareness is Tuitang. It is probably also because Tuitang is the oldest one and started to adapt Pinterest style based on its already existed pictures-focused platform. Problem with many other Pinterest-like websites is that they have content but not enough user base and interaction yet.

    You mentioned in your article that “the content is mainly related to Chinese culture”, but I think international fashion, any kind of creative design, handcraft and world trip pictures are also hugely popular there.

    I personally think Huaban, the one you selected in the article, still need more improvement on content and layout.

    Many of the fashion related websites are more and more leaning towards online shopping and leaving less focus on building the community. I am personally a bit concerned about their future.

    As the few biggest Internet companies in China are still not fully involved in this new Pinterest style (some of them are starting to), I think there are more fierce competitions yet to come :)

    Jessica Xiaoyu Apr 17, 2012
    Reply
  • Jessica Xiaoyu
    Apr 17, 2012

    Oops, spelled your name wrong, Jon, sorry :)

    Jessica Xiaoyu Apr 17, 2012
    Reply
  • Jessica Xiaoyu Young
    Apr 17, 2012

    Jessica Xiaoyu Young
    Community Mananger, eModeration

    Jessica Xiaoyu Young Apr 17, 2012
    Reply
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