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  • Daiane Chen

Regaining Consumers’ Trust on RED, Instagram-like Chinese Social Media

During the holiday season each year, many Chinese locals and foreign tourists are looking for new places to explore and visit. 小红书 xiao hong shu (literally “red book” but known as RED in English) is an e-commerce and social media platform where users share photos and videos about fashion, makeup, food, travel, and much more in their life. It is the perfect place for users to read about others’ reviews on their visits to other restaurants, hotels, and cities. From others’ reviews and recommendations, these same users make decisions about their next traveling destinations and trip. Recently, however, RED has come under fire and scrutiny for allowing brands and users to post heavily edited photos as a false advertising tactic to promote places to visit for the holidays.

How exactly do these places go viral?

A user posts a picture of their visit to the pink beach, unclear if it is edited or not. Courtesy of @夏小姐多彩世界 from RED (19/05/2021)

抚仙湖 (Fuxian Lake, also known as the Pink Beach is one of the most recent places to fall victim. Located in Yunnan, China, the Pink beach is portrayed to have beautiful pink soft sand and clean water to users on RED. Once tourists traveled out there, they were shocked and angered to find out that the destination site was a barren, deserted beach that did not look like the pictures promoted online.1 These tourists aren’t the only ones disappointed as the Fuxian Lake is one of the many places, alongside 三亚周边陵水|蓝房子 (Sanya’s Blue House) and 武汉文艺甜品书店 (Wuhan Literature Dessert Bookshop), that are often heavily edited and portrayed as social media-worthy and aesthetic to a viewers’ eyes, prompting them to want to travel to such a beautiful place. By allowing such edited, exaggerated and false advertising to influence consumers, RED has gone against its values as a trusted platform for recommendations and reviews.

Why does this become an issue for users of RED?

RED was thought to be a trustworthy honest site where viewers can see other people’s experiences and form their own opinions. Lately, however, it has been flooded with false marketing advertisements from brands, tourists, and paid influencers to promote their products and services. It is no wonder why many brands and companies go through such lengths to reach out to consumers as RED contains a huge target demographic of millennial women and Gen Z’s.

When does false advertising become too much?

People come to RED to find their next destination for sightseeing, restaurant visits, and other retailers for products. When such an e-commerce social media platform becomes too commercialized, users will begin to draw away from the platform. To combat this foreseeable issue, RED has taken a few initiatives to regain consumers’ trust. New policies include constantly regulating and reviewing content. Recently, the platform has blacklisted 29 popular brands such as Dover, Neutrogena, Wonderlab, and others suspected of using false advertising to attract consumers.2 Although their accounts are still up, the brands’ heavily edited posts cannot be viewed by users anymore. Moving forward, if consumers want to keep using 小红书 (xiaohongshu) or RED, the platform will need to consistently maintain consumers’ trust and take down posts that do not follow their guidelines.


References / To go further

  1. Feng Jiayun, “Social Shopping App Xiaohongshu Apologizes after Users Complain about Tourist Attractions Faked for Social Media,” SupChina, October 19, 2021,

  2. Julienna Law, “Xiaohongshu Deletes Posts by 29 Brands in 'False Marketing' Crackdown,” Jing Daily, December 17, 2021, ban-29-brands-false-advertising-neutrogena/#:~:text=That's%20because%2C%20on%20December%2016,on%20suspicion%20of%20false%20marketing.&text=Several%20brands%20had%20already%20been%20flagged%20for%20misleading%20consumers.


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