Streaming video operator Bilibili has become a new battleground for tech companies in their ongoing efforts to win the hearts and minds of Chinese youth, with the latest skirmish involving a series of viral videos and memes from tech giants Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings.
It started with a damage control video from DingTalk, the Chinese equivalent of Slack owned by Alibaba. After being pranked with a slew of one-star reviews from Chinese students who resented taking classes online due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, DingTalk posted a video on Bilibili on February 16 asking for “forgiveness” and better reviews from students.
“Guys, I sincerely beg you to spare my life. You guys are all my papa,” the lyrics of DingTalk’s music video say. “It’s clear to me that you guys do not want to have such a fulfilling holiday, I’m so sorry for troubling you.”
The apology video went viral, with more than 20 million views on Bilibili alone and massive buzz across the Chinese internet. DingTalk is now a celebrity corporate account on Bilibili with well over 650,000 followers.
While DingTalk was able to increase its social capital among young people, Tencent Holdings reached out to Bilibili users with a video published in late February that appealed for the same kind of attention.
It followed that with a number of similar videos—including one for its own WeChat Work app—aimed at getting attention from young people with equally humorous and self-effacing antics. In a self-deprecating video released early March, Tencent poked fun at itself for the fact that it is not as popular on Bilibili as other tech companies.
Tencent now has 130,000 followers on the platform.
Founded in 2009, Shanghai-based Bilibili is the biggest video, animation, and gaming entertainment platform for China’s fast-growing Generation Z market segment, which comprises people born between 1990 and 2009.
Initially focused on building a community of anime video-sharing users, Bilibili has expanded that community to cover a wide array of genres and media formats, including live broadcasting, mobile games, and so-called professional user-generated content.
Besides Alibaba and Tencent, many other Chinese tech companies have tapped into Bilibili to reach young people, including Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com, smartphone maker Vivo, and Twitch-like game-streaming site Huya.
Last month, Tesla created an official account on Bilibili following its announcement last year that it would feature the platform as part of its in-car infotainment system.
Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is the most popular tech company on Bilibili, with about 850,000 followers on the platform. Bilibili live-streamed Xiaomi’s Mi 10 product launch in February amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“Are you OK,” a remixed tune based on sound bites from a product launch in India given by Xiaomi founder and chairman Lei Jun, is one of Bilibili’s most popular videos of all time, attracting nearly 26 million views.
Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.
This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post.