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A good trick is easy to find: Little Red Book as a knowledge base of domestic know-how

Little Red Book1, or Xiaohongshu, is a social media platform in China that leverages user generated content to boost electronic retailing. Among other content, there is one special kind of knowledge shared and circulated in Little Red Book which is not usually seen on similar platforms—domestic know-how. With tips on improving daily chores being shared by its users, Little Red Book stands as a unique knowledge base of life hacks.

There are many advantages in the shared tips and tricks that mark Little Red Book out as a prominent domestic handbook. Life hack sharers on Little Red Book have performed well in every step of knowledge management processes.

Source: Logan Nolin on Unsplash.

First, these clever shortcuts are identified and acquired by tapping into either the users’ personal experiences or some vicarious skills learned from informal sources. Some tricks are posted as a smart invention of the sharer that has actually solved a problem, while others are solutions that the sharers have seen their friends, family, neighbours, or handymen use and found helpful. Life hacks identified and acquired in this way have unique merits, including high relevance and operability, quick increase, and a considerable size.

According to Thompson2, the majority of Little Red Book users are women under the age of 35. Therefore, life hacks sharing on the platform is basically a peer-to-peer exchange, with problems spotted and solutions offered by female Gen-zers and millennials for each other. This homogeneous sharer base means the tips and tricks could solve the very problems that are bothering the users. And more importantly, they do so with tools or techniques accessible to the users and in an acceptable way.

Besides being close to daily needs, life hacks identified by Little Red Book users increase swiftly. Posts that search for tips to tackle new problems are being published to the platform almost on a daily basis. Accordingly, solutions to these new issues reach the platform at a similar speed. On top of relevance and timeliness is the large number of the identified tips. With more than 260 million users active monthly and more than 10 years of operation, Little Red Book has accumulated sizable posts of life tricks on its platform which range from cooking tips to old clothes disposal.

Source: Alisa Anton on Unsplash.

Second, trick sharers are leveraging several key platform features to codify, store, and disseminate the knowledge. As an equivalent of Instagram in China, Little Red Book has similar features to boost content creation and social participation. Users can include texts as well as one or several photos in one post to enrich content. They can also put hashtags in the caption to classify the content and reach targeted audiences. By capitalising on these platform features, the tip sharers have achieved effective codification, storage, and dissemination of domestic knowledge.

Life hacks on the platform are usually shared in the form of mini tutorials. Sharers would put the guidance down step by step in texts, photos, or a mixture of both. They often use photos to better explain a complex structure that is to be hand made in finishing the trick. Sometimes hand-drawn diagrams would also be included in the comment should any audience fail to understand the guidance. Besides struggling to get the tricks across, sharers also store and spread their knowledge by capitalising on the hashtag feature of the platform.

On Little Red Book, posts could be tagged before publishing and they would be automatically categorised under the chosen tags. Users could click on the separate tag to view all the content with that very tag. With an instinct of classifying knowledge, sharers of life hacks are unanimously marking their posts with “life hacks”, “frugal hacks”, and many other similar hashtags. In this way, domestic knowledge is kept in these sections as in a knowledge archive. Tricks stored by hashtags are also convenient to disseminate. Little Red Book offers quick link generation for content with certain hashtags. With a simple click, users can share the link with both friends on Little Red Book and those from other popular social media platforms (such as WeChat, Weibo and QQ), offering them easy access to a package of tricks.

Source: Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Third, audiences continuously refine and re-create the knowledge by putting the tricks into application. A good part of Little Red Book users are enthusiastic about hands-on practice and more than willing to verify any review or tutorial. And this strong tendency to do-it-yourself does not leave the life hacks category untouched. Users interested in tips from a particular post would add their responses in the comment section.

There are comments acknowledging the effectiveness of a trick, attached with a photo of that trick working in real life. When a trick didn’t work well in practice, audiences would share how it failed so that they could find out together what it is in a certain setting that reduced its effectiveness. On that basis, others could add on with an improvement measure or a substitute. The collective discussion is a refining process which tries to ensure a trick works under specific circumstances and is useful for different people.

In addition to optimising an existing life hack, audiences would also bring some innovation into the picture by using the trick in a different setting or combining the trick with other tools to achieve a new effect. Innovative re-creation of life hacks on Little Red Book expand the application of old knowledge to generate new knowledge. Besides, in the comment section, there would be brief mentions of other tricks used in the same environment which naturally build a trick collection for a certain setting. Since users who are looking for a trick to remove fishy odour may also need other kitchen improvement measures, a complementary trick collection in the comment enhances knowledge circulation and connection like a recommendation system.

Source: Austin Chan on Unsplash.

In conclusion, it never fails to echo with the Internet spirit of free information exchange to see people voluntarily share on Little Red Book informal knowledge such as life hacks, voluntarily, altruistically, and for free. What lies behind Little Red Book’s high popularity among young Chinese as a domestic handbook may just be the timeliness, relevance, and wide coverage of knowledge from an enthusiastic and selfless community of practice.

Article source: Adapted from A Good Trick Is Easy to Find: Little Red Book as a Knowledge Base of Domestic Know-How prepared as part of the requirements for completion of course KM6304 Knowledge Management Strategies and Policies in the Nanyang Technological University Singapore Master of Science in Knowledge Management (KM).

Nanyang Technological University Singapore Master of Science in Knowledge Management (KM).

Header image source: Ella Jardim on Unsplash.

References:

  1. Wan, A. (2022, May 16). What Is RED (Xiaohongshu) And How Can It Unlock A New Revenue Stream? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2022/05/16/what-is-red-xiaohongshu-and-how-can-it-unlock-a-new-revenue-stream/.
  2. Thompson, G. (2023, October 20). What is Xiaohongshu, “Little Red Book”? (China’s Instagram). LinkedIn Pulse. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-xiaohongshu-little-red-book-chinas-instagram-guy-thompson/.
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Xingyu Yu

I was an SCU undergraduate majoring in English before I went on to earn a Master’s degree in KM from Nanyang Technological University Singapore. A dedicated video gamer, comics lover and language learning enthusiast, I am currently pursuing a career in video game and comics localization (EN/zh-Hans). Marrying the three interests of mine leads me on a path of knowing something about everything while sharing the beauty of new media and translation with like-minded people.

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