Today is my 13th day as a Xiaohongshu blogger. So far, I have a total of three fans, one of whom is a fake account.
During this process, I have had many interesting observations and insights, so I wanted to open an account to record them.
Why Become a Blogger
I can't seem to remember any particular reason, maybe it's because I saw others on Xiaohongshu posting Vlogs and felt their passion for life, so I wanted to seriously document my own life ("mark my life," as Xiaohongshu's slogan brainwashes). I'm impulsive by nature (after all, I'm a Sagittarius), so I just went for it.
Side note: I originally wanted to become a Bilibili up host, so I registered a new account, but it prompted me to verify my account due to security risks. The verification can only be done on a mobile phone, but my mobile app shows "SDK error," suspecting that it's because I downloaded the app from the US store, and it must be from the Chinese store... Anyway, I gave up on Bilibili, maybe I'll try it again if I feel like it later.
Psychological Activities as a Blogger
As mentioned earlier, I didn't have many expectations other than documenting my life, but once I started doing it, I realized it wasn't that simple. I kept wanting to see how many people viewed my notes, if anyone liked them, and worse, I always saw either struggling bloggers expressing their anxiety or "successful" people "showing off" how long they've been a blogger and how much they earn each month ("I've secured my meal ticket in the media industry").
And if I click on a struggling blogger's profile, I find that they have more fans than me (I only have 3 fans, which is almost a given), and it makes me even more frustrated.
At this point, I have to honestly face my desires: I also want traffic (in Xiaohongshu's words, I also want that overwhelming wealth), I also want to receive advertisements.
And an interesting discovery here is that, in the process of constantly checking the data, I am actually very aware that I desire likes from others more than material incentives like advertisements. This also confirms a recent conclusion made by a friend: everyone has a need to be seen, and this need is more important than incentives.
This situation is quite strange. On one hand, I don't expect to make a living from self-media, so I shouldn't have this kind of pressure. On the other hand, three to five years ago, I also made several episodes of Bilibili videos, accumulating a total of only 99 fans, but I never had the urge to gain more fans or the anxiety of wanting to be liked. It's true that human nature naturally desires to be seen and acknowledged, but based on my self-understanding and past experience as an amateur Bilibili up host, I am not a very "typical" person in this regard.
I have to reflect on what happened. It's quite interesting—I know my mentality is unhealthy, yet I mindlessly check the data, occasionally stepping back and observing as a third party. I started to understand myself, understand the world, and understand the relationship between myself and the world.
From my own analysis, in recent years, there have been fewer moments of internal spiritual satisfaction, so I have sought more externally, and objectively, the need for money has also increased. But I still believe that the main and most direct reason is that I always see people on Xiaohongshu saying how much money they earn as a self-media creator in a month, so I have been influenced by FOMO and anxiety. I will talk more about this in the next section.
Another interesting self-observation is that I am a "perfectionist." The most common methodology I have heard is: find a track, then imitate the top bloggers, and then talk about innovation. I have indeed observed many bloggers, but the conclusion is that I really can't imitate them. Some of it is due to my abilities—I can't achieve the same level of recording and editing effects; some of it is due to face—I can't say some emotionally charged and provocative words. In the end, I can only accept my "perfectionism" and return to the original intention of documenting life. But the result of doing it casually is that I only have three fans, and one of them is fake—so I am tormented by my own elusive desires. After going through this circle and understanding this truth, I feel a bit powerless. From a certain perspective, this has nothing to do with the outside world; it is entirely my own issue, and it is a lifelong issue: respecting my desires, respecting my abilities, and respecting my ego.
Going back to my own data anxiety, when I feel frustrated and wonder why no one likes my posts, I also happen to see many notes about "starting a new account" on the homepage, teaching techniques, criticizing Web2, seeking comfort, and so on. I must say that this also adds to my anxiety. However, what's interesting is that when I read these notes, some unfamiliar yet familiar terms frequently appear: self-media, traffic, personal IP, weight, information distribution, decentralized information distribution... Wait, information distribution, and decentralized information distribution? I'm familiar with this, I'm doing decentralized information distribution. Although RSS3's definition has changed to "The Open Information Layer" after rebranding, for a long time, its definition was a protocol for decentralized information dissemination. I suddenly became excited.
At first glance, my perception of decentralized distribution seems to be very different from what they mean, but upon further thought, I realized that there are actually many similarities. I suddenly realized that although I can use my keen sense to identify various problems with Web2, I have never truly understood what drives the data-driven platform. I became completely excited, even though I only have three fans now, I want to continue being a self-media creator, to record my observations and thoughts, and of course, more importantly, to find better solutions.
Some Observations and Thoughts on Xiaohongshu
This is what I want to talk about the most, and it is also related to the previous point about seeing so many notes on Xiaohongshu about making money as a self-media creator. Why do I see so many of these notes? Is it the result of the algorithm's selection, or is it the vibe of Xiaohongshu itself? Or maybe they are the same thing.
First of all, yes, Xiaohongshu's algorithm does emphasize this point. Xiaohongshu may be under its own pressure to explore some form of commercialization, but this series (#Xiaohongshu Blogger Observation Diary) is not intended to start from Xiaohongshu, but rather to focus on the people gathered on Xiaohongshu. And these people really want to make a living from self-media.
Three years ago, I never saw anyone sharing videos about monetizing their Bilibili account in the recommended section on the homepage ("three years ago" because I haven't been browsing Bilibili for almost three years, so I'm not sure what the current recommended section looks like, maybe I'll observe it again if I'm interested later), but I don't tend to think that this is the difference between Bilibili and Xiaohongshu. Perhaps Bilibili's vibe was initially more "powered by love," but Web2 did not provide the fertile ground for this kind of vibe to flourish. I am more inclined to think that this is the difference between three years ago and now. I have seen many comments about "the dividends of self-media have faded" that have strengthened my view.
Compared to society three years ago, there are now too many people who want to make money through self-media. This is not only what I see on Xiaohongshu, but also what I hear in real life. Here are the exact words from my younger sister (born in 2005): "Nowadays, my friends always start a live stream on Douyin before going out, I don't know what's wrong with them... Why don't they chat on WeChat? They only do live streams to make money... Last year, xxx had only 20-something viewers on the live stream, and this year, I saw that they already have 911 viewers."
Why? Everyone knows that overnight wealth is unrealistic, and fantasizing about overnight wealth is just a gambling mentality. But it seems like the whole society is indulging in this trend. The underlying reason behind this might be that when the overall social and economic situation worsens and opportunities become scarce, the gambling mentality of the entire population increases. In the end, what's the difference between doing self-media, studying for civil service exams, and buying meme tokens? Aren't they all forms of gambling? But if we put ourselves in their shoes, if the students in this class really can't see any hope, face the data of graduating and becoming unemployed, and the socio-economic situation is poor and they can't see any other opportunities, while on the other hand, there are people constantly telling them that ordinary people can also become overnight millionaires through live streaming/self-media, can they resist the temptation?
(To illustrate how bad the economy is, here's a search result on Xiaohongshu when I searched for "economy"...⬆️)
I don't know what to feel about this, and I don't know how to imagine a better creative environment. I just feel helpless.
In Web2, it seems that traffic is the most commonly mentioned term by self-media bloggers, and everyone is clamoring for traffic. It seems like there's nothing wrong with that, as consumers' daily browsing time multiplied by their browsing speed equals the total traffic, and they divide all the upstream content. Assuming that the user's browsing volume remains stable, this is a zero-sum game. The mechanism here is that each note has to compete for users' attention with all other content, and if your note doesn't have enough interaction with users, it will immediately be pushed to the back of the traffic pool. I think this is a battleground.
The result is that Xiaohongshu's unique explosive titles + exquisite covers + topics that please the platform (here, the platform refers not only to Xiaohongshu itself and its algorithm, but also to Xiaohongshu's users, with the algorithm being the most important factor) are the strategies to win traffic. After all... everyone's goal is not to create, but to gain traffic. Hey, this is SocialFi. Post to earn, this has already been played to the fullest in Web2, and even every step of value monetization has SOP: find a track, create content, constantly review and optimize data, gain traffic, monetize through advertisements, continue creating content...
(For example, ⬆️ is a typical note teaching how to choose explosive titles for self-media)
This approach certainly has its problems. Social interaction is a natural human need that cannot be replaced by anything else, and now real bloggers have been alienated into feeding machines for algorithms, resulting in the need for social interaction becoming more difficult to fulfill.
This is where Xiaohongshu/Web2's solution comes in: now users are picky, and traffic bloggers are no longer popular. You have to build a personal IP, be a real person to be liked by users.
This is actually a return to simplicity, but it conflicts with the existing algorithm system.
The contradiction here is still a problem of centralization: there is only one way of information distribution, and users and bloggers have no other choice. Why is it "me" who is limited in traffic? Why can't "I" do anything about it? Clearly, the data is contributed by all users together, so why can the platform decide what data can be seen and what can't? For bloggers, this is not fair competition, and for users, it is deception and exploitation.
I think we can have a more open imagination of information distribution: since the data is contributed by us to the public, it should also be accessible to the public, and thus, various information distribution "providers" based on different algorithms can emerge. Users can choose information sources according to their needs, and of course, one of the essential ones is a distribution method that satisfies basic human social needs.
About Decentralized Information Distribution
Previously, when I saw someone mention "decentralized distribution," to be honest, my first reaction was a bit sarcastic, "Does Xiaohongshu even have the right to talk about decentralization?" But with an attitude of being humble and willing to listen to what the people want, I think I should think more carefully about this evaluation.
"The most suitable for starting an account as an amateur," "ordinary people are more likely to be seen," and so on, these sound like good qualities. Although I'm not sure if it's true, since many people say it, I think it might be true.
Based on my observations, there might be several reasons for this:
- The algorithm's distribution accuracy is high. On Xiaohongshu, even if it's niche content, it can be accurately distributed to the corresponding group based on tag and content analysis, so that they can see each other, interact with each other, and have enough engagement. "Niche" is seen, which is what they call "starting an account as an amateur." But the prerequisite is that this "niche" still needs to have a certain user base.
- The algorithm does not heavily favor KOLs in terms of traffic.
- For "amateur" accounts, there is early traffic support.
Overall, these are good qualities, but what is not mentioned here is that there are still many people whose accounts have low traffic because their content is not vertical enough, and they complain that their accounts are useless.
Looking at it this way, it seems that this "support for amateurs" is more like further domesticating the idea of "being a blogger means being vertical."
I think in an ideal state, we should just be ourselves, and whether the content is vertical or not should be the responsibility of the information distributor. But the problem now is that the granularity of content distribution is based on an entire account. So this is actually a technical problem. One solution could be that before each piece of content is distributed, an AI assistant categorizes our content into one of several sub-accounts, each with its own positioning. Of course, this still has its problems: the publishing frequency of each "sub-account" will decrease.
But after saying so much, the underlying issue is still a power issue. The existing algorithm is a black box, why? How can it be modified? And why? You haven't contributed to the content, why can you decide on this algorithm and I can't?
About Posting Time
In the notes about Xiaohongshu's traffic secrets, I often see a viewpoint that posting time is very important. Some even say that posting at different times can make a difference of hundreds or thousands of views (I can't argue whether this is true or not). I am very confused about this, what is the significance of doing this? Why is there such a big difference, is it because the algorithm gives high priority to the latest time in the recommended flow on Xiaohongshu's homepage?
This doesn't make sense, relevance is definitely more important than time priority.
Or maybe it's because users want to see updates from bloggers as soon as possible/receive likes from bloggers as soon as possible, so the platform, in order to cater to this user mentality, tilts more traffic to the type of notes that users who log in at specific times like?
If that's the case, it seems more reasonable. The purpose of doing this is to ensure that users spend more time in the app.
"No growth, no survival," this is the lesson that every company aspiring to be a Web2 giant must learn.
This is still the problem of centralized platform information distribution that I mentioned earlier: we have no choice. Users have no choice, and companies have no choice.
Originally, I wanted to write something short, make it a series of diary entries, but I ended up writing a lot... Let's consider it as catching up on the diary entries from the past few days. I plan to continue updating this series, and each post will be tagged with #Xiaohongshu Blogger Observation Diary.
To reiterate, the theme of this series is: sharing my thoughts and insights during my journey as a Xiaohongshu blogger, about understanding myself, about the society I am in, about information distribution and social interaction, and about the future of the internet and the world.