Xiaohongshu Vs Instagram 🥊 What is RED and How Can It Compete with Instagram?

Xiaohongshu (小红书) VS Instagram – How do they Differ?
How are they Alike? (2023)

I know what you are thinking:

“Why should the Mao Zedong quotations book Little Red Book have something to do with the Facebook-owned social media platform Instagram?”.

Well actually, they have nothing in common.

We are not actually referring to the traditional “Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong” (Máo Zhǔxí Yǔlù 毛主席语录), known as Little Red Book, but to a Chinese social e-commerce application ‘Little Red Book’ or RED (小红书 Xiǎohóngshū).

Here’s the deal…

Xiaohongshu is defined as the Chinese version of Instagram.

That then begs the question.

Is Xiaohongshu similar to Instagram? Do they have some differences? Let’s find out!

Xiaohongshu VS Instagram // Comparisons Table (Quick stats)

Xiaohongshu VS Instagram // What is Xiaohongshu?

Xiaohongshu VS Instagram // What is Instagram?

Xiaohongshu VS Instagram // Users

Xiaohongshu VS Instagram // The Main Feed

Xiaohongshu VS Instagram // Official Accounts

Xiaohongshu VS Instagram // Shopping Experience

Xiaohongshu VS Instagram // Adverts

Xiaohongshu VS Instagram // Overall Comparison

Xiaohongshu VS Instagram // FAQs

Comparisons Table (Quick Facts)

Xiao HongshuInstagram
NameXiao Hongshu / 小红书/ Little Red Bood / REDInstagram / IG / Insta
Active Users85 million monthly2.35 billion monthly
Xiao Hongshu vs. Instagram

What is Xiaohongshu?

Xiaohongshu (小红书) - Tech in Asia

Xiaohongshu (小红书), Little Red Book or simply RED is one of the most interesting and dynamic social e-commerce applications in China today.

DID YOU KNOW – The Chinese e-commerce market is the largest and richest in the world?

In fact, you can even discover the richest people in China thanks to our very own article about China’s biggest billionaires right now!

Xiaohongshu was founded in 2013 by Charlwin Mao Wenchao and Mirand Qu Fang as an online tour guide for Chinese shoppers.

Mirand Qu Fang and Charlwin Mao Wenchao

Goals And Targets

At first, Xiaohongshu was created as a user-generated content social sharing platform.

At that time, Weibo (微博 Wēibó) and WeChat (微信 Wēixìn) had already covered Chinese consumer’s digital social life very well, so the task was not easy.

However, Xiaohongshu had a plan.

Xiaohongshu 小红书 entered with a different position: targeting Chinese young, urban women characterized by a strong desire of discovering and sharing shopping experiences while travelling outside China.

Weibo is effectively China’s Twitter. Wechat’s Moments feature is essentially a “Facebook feed“. Xiaohongshu sensed the chance to exploit a new area.

Quickly, Xiaohongshu formed a large group of females who enjoy fashion, shopping and sharing their own experiences.

Sound similar to Instagram?!

Welcome to Xiaohongshu

This helped Xiaohongshu scale as a social sharing platform for global shopping experiences.

By the end of 2014, Xiaohongshu launched its cross-border e-commerce business.

Users discover and buy products online, but also share recommendations and advice to others.

What Is Instagram?

File:Instagram logo 2016.svg - Wikipedia

Instagram, abbreviated to IG or Insta by many, is an American social network which I am sure many of you are very familiar with these days!

It was founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.

Instagram was launched in 2010 on iOS and two years later for Android users.

Instagram is all about sharing photos of anything and everything with your friends.

Goals And Targets

Instagram is a content and social community-centred app.

It is intended for young people who want to keep in touch with their friends, see their latest posts, videos, memes, and follow celebrities and official pages

From 2018, Instagram launched its own e-commerce system allowing brands to start selling through social media.

People can also use Instagram to buy products.

Xiaohongshu And Instagram // Users

The Numbers

Xiaohongshu has a total of approximately 300 million registered users in 2019, with 93 million of those active monthly users in June 2019.

Instagram has over 1 billion active monthly users, meaning it absolutely towers over Xiaohongshu in terms of user numbers today.

As of April 2019, it was found that USA, Brazil and India had the largest Instagram audiences.

Gender And Age

Xiaohongshu is mostly intended for young urban women aged between 25 and 40 years old.

Indeed, 86.9% of users are women while only 13.1% are male users. A huge difference to Instagram.

Instagram is also intended for young people aged between 18 and 35 years old, but not only limited to women.

There is almost complete split amongst Instagram users: 51% female and 49% male.

As the graph below shows, the percentage of users aged between 25 and 34 is higher on Xiaohongshu than on Instagram.

On the contrary, the percentage of over 45-year-olds is higher on Instagram than Xiaohongshu.

Instagram’s and Xiaohongshu’s users

Xiaohongshu And Instagram // The Main Feeds

The content on the homepage page of Xiaohongshu and Instagram varies according to an algorithm that determines which posts are more interesting based on usersactivity history.

Instagram feed and Xiaohongshu feed

Xiaohongshu users can choose:

Xiaohongshu homepage
  • To see posts from the accounts they follow (this section is called 关注 guānzhù, literally “to follow”)
  • To discover random products (发现 fāxiàn literally “to discover”)
  • To search for nearby products (附近 fùjìn literally “close”)

All the remaining posts which appears on the feed are recommendations from the app based on the personal interests set by the users.

Instagram’s users can see:

  • Posts from the people they are following which appear on the homepage;
  • Sponsored adverts
  • Posts based on users’ personal interests from accounts that users don’t follow which appear in the discover section

Both apps have the possibility to post “stories” and have a “search bar“.

The search bar on Xiaohongshu is located on the homepage and enables users to search for products, posts related to the word searched, and/or the product page.

Instagram homepage

On Instagram, it is located on the discovery section and it enables the search of accounts, tags or locations.

WHAT’S NEW – On Xiaohongshu, users can also search for information, reviews and recommendations before they make purchasing decisions.

Xiaohongshu calls this content “notes” (笔记 Bǐjì).

Xiaohongshu And Instagram // Official Pages & Accounts

Users of Xiaohongshu and Instagram can follow officially certified pages from brands and see their posts.

Instagram official page VS Xiaohongshu official page

On Xiaohongshuthe brand official pages can be customized and are different to the ones of real users.

Alternatively, on Instagram, brand official pages are the same as for standard users.

There is no difference in the look of it except that it has to be certified and allowed to sell.

ANYTHING IN COMMON? – Both on Xiaohongshu and Instagram official pages can publish stories and posts to engage their followers.

Xiaohongshu and Instagram // The Shopping Experience

Xiaohongshu allows users to buy products directly on its platform.

They are not required to exit the app and hence are able to shop quickly with saved mobile payment information

Users can:

  • Buy directly from links integrated within posts they will find on the homepage
  • Search the product page in the store section
  • Go to the official page of the brand to select the product

Before buying, users can see the description of the product, different pictures and reviews of the product.

They can also see other similar recommended products.

To pay, they can use WeChat Pay or Alipay (支付宝 Zhīfùbǎo).

Do you want to know more about Wechat Pay and Alipay?

Read our blog post about the two most common payment apps in China, or if you prefer watching, check out the video below.

Instagram users can find the Shopping feature in the discover section.

To buy a product, users are redirected to the official website of the brand and there they can finalize the transaction.

Xiaohongshu and Instagram // Adverts

Brands on Xiaohongshu have the possibility to either pay for adverts that pop up upon opening the app, or ads integrated within the explore page feed.

Since the official page is customizable, brands can also create original content to advertise on their page or pay for trending searches to increase their visibility in the shop section.

One way to efficiently advertise to Chinese customers is the collaboration with Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs (关键意见领袖 Guānjiàn yìjiàn lǐngxiù)

Not sure what a KOL is? It’s basically a fancy term for an Influencer, a word many of us have become familiar with over the last few years!

Brands search for KOLs they would like to work with and contact them through the app in order to promote their products.

Instagram’s advertising strategy involves paying to post sponsored content on the platform to reach a larger audience.

There are five different types of Instagram ads which are Photo Ads, Video Ads, Carousel Ads, Slideshow Ads and Stories Ads.

For Instagram, hashtags are an important feature because they allow brands to target your business to individuals who are interested in your product or service.

Brands on Instagram can also realize marketing activities through influencers and celebrities.

Unlike Xiaohongshu, influencers are typically gained through agencies or directly to feature their products on their feed and post stories to increase brand popularity.

Xiaohongshu vs Instagram // Overall Comparison

Strong focus on e-commerceSharing personal experiences with friends
Most users based in ChinaMuch bigger user base
Founded in 2013Founded in 2010
300 million usersOver a billion users
Different accounts for brands and personal usersSame account style for brands and users
More flexible advertising optionsCurrently much more limited ways to promote a brand

Xiaohongshu vs Instagram // FAQs

What is Xiaohongshu 小红书?

Xiaohongshu 小红书 is a Chinese e-commerce platform, commonly known as the “Chinese Instagram”.

Is 小红书 basically the Chinese Instagram?

In essence they are very similar but their focus differs.

小红书 focuses largely on e-commerce, allowing people to easily purchase products whereas, up until 2020 at least, Instagram has been a platform for users worldwide to share their personal experiences of travel, food and life in general.

Can I download 小红书 on my iPhone outside of China?

Yes you can download 小红书 easily.

You can simply start typing the Pinyin of Xiaohongshu and it’ll appear in your app store.

Who are Xiaohongshu and Instagram users?

Instagram and Xiaohongshu users are typically of a younger demographic, but Xiaohongshu users are in the main, female, with around just 10% of users who are male.

Are the 小红书 and Instagram feeds the same?

On Xiaohongshu users can also search for information, reviews and recommendations before they make purchasing decisions.

Typically 小红书 is more of an e-commerce platform with a heavy emphasis on purchasing.

How users can buy products on Xiaohongshu and Instagram?

Users can buy products directly on Xiaohongshu app, while Instagram users are redirected to the official website of the brand in most instances.

This may well change in the future as Instagram places a further emphasis on e-commerce.

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  1. Andreas

    That's incredibly interesting. I had never heard of that App, yet they have 300 million users. Will share

    1. Max Hobbs

      Super interesting isn't it. Much more commercial than Instagram and amazing the difference in demographics between Instagram and Xiaohongshu users.

  2. Really good comparison. Had no idea about it before

    1. LTL Team HQ

      Glad you found it useful Nel!

  3. Susan

    Great breakdown, I'd not heard of the red book before, how stupid. It's huge!!

    1. Max Hobbs

      It is indeed huge, but don't worry, it's easy for a social media to pass us by!

  4. What happened to these brands ! – Hannah's Blog

    […] in 2013 and has 300 million registered users and a $20 billion valuation in less than a decade. Some say it is the Chinese version of Instagram, but there are many differences between the two bus… It is quietly leading the consumption habits of young Chinese […]