It all started in February 2016 when I was trying to market my online crafting business. We were having trouble reaching customers and my business partner at the time suggested trying live video. Back at that time the only live video sites I had heard of seemed a little sketchy and I was very skeptical that we could reach our target market through these platforms. Furthermore, these were online live streaming sites, not apps, and with online live video the host had to use a webcam and a microphone so there was an investment to get started.
Having a background in PR I had heard of the mobile live streaming app Periscope and asked my partner if China had anything similar. That was right when live streaming was starting to take off in China and she did some research and found an app called Xiandanjia. Great! I thought, maybe this will be better than those online sites. I tried it for a bit but quickly discovered that this app was popular among gay men who were definitely not our target audience.
So I kept searching for apps and discovered that Meipai, a video sharing app popular among young people, had also added live streaming capabilities. I jumped on there and started doing live video a couple times a week. This turned out to be much better than the previous platforms; I was steadily growing a following and, most importantly at that time, it was also directing some sales to my crafting business!
Unlike Xiandanjia and some of the online platforms, Meipai has a young, fairly well-educated user base and a more equal ratio of males and females. Furthermore, there are quite a few foreigners using the app as well as Chinese people living abroad, so the audience is very open and interested in learning about life abroad, foreigners, and English, which made it easier to connect with them.
After live streaming on Meipai for a month or so someone reached out to me through the app and asked if I would like to try a different app where I could earn money from live streaming. In China, many apps allow live streaming hosts to earn money from virtual gifts sent by their audience and at the time Meipai did not offer this feature.
(Side note: Since then Meipai has added the gifting feature, but it has not caught on. The majority of hosts on Meipai instead monetize their live streaming by directing viewers to their own online store or through getting paid sponsorships.)
The app he was promoting is called Momo, I had heard of it before, its a popular social networking app that’s kind of like a mix between Tinder and Facebook. When it first launched couple years ago the app was meant to be a platform for making new local friends and joining social groups in your area, but it quickly got a reputation for being the hook-up app of China, however since then the company has rebranded and is working hard to reverse this image by adding new features such as live video.
I had heard live video hosts could earn a lot of money, and the crafting business wasn’t really taking off, so I thought I might as well give it a try. The man who reached out to me was an agent who helps scout out hosts on other platforms and bring them to Momo. If I joined the platform through him (versus on my own) I would get benefits such as lower taxes on my earnings, notifications about competitions, and be promoted more easily on the front page. With the success I’d had so far on Meipai, I saw the potential of live video, and on Momo there were no other foreign hosts, so I thought I would have an advantage.
When I first joined it was pretty slow going. For the first month I was only earning a tiny bit of money and usually had no more than 100-200 viewers at any given time. In May I traveled home to the U.S. and during that time only broadcasted a couple times due to slow Wi-Fi connection and lack of cell data. When I got back to China I was really busy and throughout June I was also very sporadic with my broadcasts.
But the agent wouldn’t give up on me. He kept reminding me that the key to growth on this platform is consistency and longer broadcasts. In July I decided to rededicate myself and began to host broadcasts regularly, aiming for about an hour a day. My follower numbers and viewers started growing steadily and near the end of July I had about 13,000 followers.
One day I got lucky and during my broadcast the app promoted me on the front page. This one opportunity was a blessing that has completely changed the projection of my growth. Once promoted to the front page I had a huge influx of viewers, and at one point more than 2000 people were watching my broadcast simultaneously!
Since that day I have been growing rapidly at a rate of about 1000+ new followers per day and a month later I have 52,290 followers. I am often featured on the front page and most of my broadcasts have an average of 500-800 people watching at any given point and a total of around 20,000 viewers per broadcast. I admit I have become a bit obsessed. We these kinds of numbers it’s hard not to! It’s become a game to see how many viewers and new followers I can attract each time, and what’s more, how much money I can earn!
Contrary to how many Westerners might feel, Chinese people do not prefer short, action packed broadcasts. Instead, viewers will talk to me every day for hours on end and not get bored. Many of the top earning hosts broadcast for 3-6 hours a day. I realized that if I was going to sustain this momentum and truly earn an income from live video I was going to need to increase my hours. Within only the past week or two I have been increasing my video time to 2x a day for about 1-2 hours each time. Some might say I am lucky to have a flexible job where I work from home a lot and I’m able to do this, but I also think it is my persistence and dedication. No matter how tired I am and how much I don’t feel like answering mundane questions from thousands of strangers I have been getting on at 11 am and 8 pm every day if possible. I know that seems like a lot of time, but trust me it is effective.
Live streaming is exploding in China right now and It is incredible to think that within a couple months from now it might be possible for me to make a comfortable full-time living (I’m talking US standards!) merely from live broadcasting a couple hours a day. Unlike many vloggers and other internet celebrities abroad, who take years of consistent content to get to this point, live streaming is growing at such a rate in China that this is happening for me at a very accelerated pace. Obviously it’s hard to predict the future, and these are just projections, but it is very exciting to think about. And for me, it’s not merely about the income, as someone with a background in PR and TV hosting I find the live streaming industry to be absolutely fascinating. I’m treating this as one huge experiment!
I hope that you will follow along with me on my live streaming journey and I look forward to sharing with you the exciting things happening in this industry.