Tencent-backed Zhihu, a Quora-like service, joins Chinese tech companies’ year-end “red packet” giveaway extravaganza for the first time, as the question-and-answer site is under pressure to capture all-tier users and to monetize after raising a chunk of money from investors including Kuaishou, Baidu and Tencent in August.
The Q&A site, known for its intellectual and elite users and trustworthy content, has kicked off a one-week “Red Packet Party” campaign since Monday. Users of Zhihu (meaning “Do you know?” in Chinese) can get money by following influential content creators, or completing some “missions,” such as scrolling through certain pages, sharing links to WeChat and giving answers a “like.”
Besides, Zhihu, which claimed 220 million users as of November 2018, has rewarded loyal content creators with red packets ranging from dozens of yuan to hundreds of yuan. While most of the money is only allowed to be given away to their followers, the rest goes to creators’ wallet directly. Zhihu users can also send out their own red packets, which would be shown on one’s profile, to attract more followers.
The “Red Packet Party” comes as an unusual move for Zhihu, which gathered a group of knowledgeable and elite users in its very early stage and has always been cautious about its commercialization. And giving away small-amount cash in forms of the red packet—a traditional monetary gift in China representing auspiciousness—is an increasingly popular promotion method for platforms to grow their user bases. The strategy, as well as its variations, have brought a batch of apps including bargain goods seller Pinduoduo and news aggregator Qutoutiao huge traffic. Both of them had a focus in China’s lower-tier cities and rural areas.
These years have seen the seven-year-old Zhihu get more mainstream with a broader user base and speed up its monetization. It dived into the “pay-for-knowledge” business by providing paid courses and e-books; started to test a live-streaming feature; and inserted ads in-between answers. Also, entertaining and casual questions are rampant on the once-intellectual platform.
Since it secured USD 434 million—the largest it had raised to-date—in its latest financing round led by short video app Kuaishou, Zhihu has been facing mounting pressure to prove its ability to be profitable.
How to balance between user experience and a lucrative business is a question Zhihu itself has to answer.