Article written by Digital Content Writer: Serene Yap

Social media usage among Malaysians continues to achieve record figures, with the active user count peaking at over 30 million1 in 2022. Despite Facebook and Instagram’s dominance, platforms including Xiaohongshu, BeReal, and Bondee have been shaking up the social media scene.

However, not all have proven to be more than a passing fad. Here’s the lowdown on these apps and how brand marketers may leverage the potential opportunities they present.

Xiaohongshu: Online Shopping REDefined

Boasting a monthly active user base of 200 million2 people, Xiaohongshu, or RED, is one of China’s fastest-growing social media platforms. Unlike other apps angled at networking or staying in touch, Xiaohongshu sets its focus on lifestyle-sharing, particularly fashion and beauty.

Addressing a community comprising mainly young, affluent Chinese women, the content on Xiaohongshu is anchored on sparking conversations around trends and products instead of direct promotions. Credible user-generated content3 is the driving force behind Xiaohongshu’s success, and this comes from the sizeable community of key opinion leaders (KOLs) and key opinion consumers (KOCs). Compared to mainstream advertisements, users deem their content to be more “trustworthy”, which in turn translates to higher conversion rates.

Nonetheless, due to the distribution algorithm, high follower counts do not guarantee reach on Xiaohongshu. In its 2019 perfume launch4, C-beauty pioneer Perfect Diary bypassed this barrier by engaging over 150 KOLs with follower counts ranging from three to six figures. Five days after the launch, more than 24,000 bottles of perfume were sold, generating Perfect Diary millions of yuan in revenue.

Not just another figure4: A “small” KOL’s post attracted more engagement than a KOL with over 10,000 followers.

Quick Takeaway

As a product-centred platform, Xiaohongshu may be ideal for generating awareness through word-of-mouth, especially for smaller or newer brands. Given credibility is key, it is important to partner with the right KOL or KOC5. Remember to consider whether their content and audience align with that of your brand. Moreover, endorsements that are too “commercial” do not do well on Xiaohongshu, so aim for authenticity rather than perfection.

Nevertheless, the platform may be unsuitable for a Malaysian audience as Mandarin is almost exclusively used on the app. An alternative to this setback may be the up-and-coming app6, Lemon8. While similar to Xiaohongshu, Lemon8 appeals to the Malaysian masses with highly-localised content in both English and Bahasa Malaysia. Although monetised content features have yet to be introduced, Lemon8 certainly holds promise for brands looking to boost their visibility on local ground.

BeReal: A Snap to Fame

In early 2022, this French social media app exploded in popularity worldwide. Its emphasis on being authentic and effortless7 appealed to a younger audience, particularly Gen Z. Once daily, the app would notify users to snap a photo. Users are given a two-minute window to post, with no options to add filters or edit. The idea was to get users to post about what they were “really” doing at the time—a clear distinction from the perfectly-curated content seen on other platforms.

Although BeReal does not offer ad space or business pages, it provided brands with a novel way of connecting with consumers. Two major brands that effectively and quickly built a presence on BeReal at the start of its rise are fast food giant, Chipotle, and renowned cosmetics maker, e.l.f. Beauty.

Both brands understood the draw of the platform well, who their target audience was, and the type of content that worked. Breaking away from the usual polished photos, Chipotle8 simply posted BeReals of promo codes handwritten on paper bags, asking followers to redeem the codes at its restaurants. Through e.l.f. Beauty’s account9, followers were given an “unfiltered” look into the company along with discounts and freebies. In addition to the attention garnered on BeReal, both brands enjoyed extensive media coverage abroad for being among the first brands on a considerably new platform.

Everybody loves a treat8: Chipotle shared a BeReal with a promo code to reward fans.

Quick Takeaway

While it may have been advantageous to be on BeReal at the peak of its popularity, in recent times, the app seems to have lost its lustre among users and brands10 alike. Little activity is seen among brands that were early adopters of the platform, and as of 2023, only 9% of BeReal’s user base is reported to be active7.

Bondee: Bonus or Bust?

Dubbed the “next-gen social app”, Singapore-based Bondee took Asia by storm when it racked up millions of downloads just one week into its launch. The app intrigued a young audience with features for customising avatars and interacting with friends in a metaverse environment. Millennials found themselves nostalgic, comparing Bondee to the likes of Habbo Hotel and Club Penguin as they decked their “rooms” to their hearts’ content.

Like BeReal, Bondee currently does not offer direct advertising avenues for brands. Nevertheless, the app does offer a great channel to interact with consumers. Mydin tweeted11 a snapshot of its Bondee room, to the amusement of local netizens. The supermarket chain then shared a QR code inviting followers to “befriend” Mydin on Bondee. As Bondee has a limit of only 50 friends per account, spots were quickly filled up.

New neighbours11: Dozens of fans “befriended” Mydin on Bondee.

Across the causeway, beer brand 1664 Blanc nudged fans to add them with the promise12 of the chance to win a four-pack of its beer. Creating a Bondee account to leverage the hype surrounding the app was effective at getting consumers to sample 1664 Blanc’s products.

Quick Takeaway

With the limited exposure given to an account on the app, the potential of advertising on Bondee remains curtailed. Additionally, given its user data troubles13 and lack of feature updates12, only time will tell whether Bondee will continue its rise or wane into obscurity.


Evidently, leveraging emerging social media apps at opportune moments can drive greater authentic awareness and engagement for your brand. However, navigating past the restrictions and sustaining traction on the platforms may be challenging. Before making a leap onto the next trending platform, ask these questions first:

  1. What are your objectives?
  2. Can the platform help meet your objectives?
  3. Is your target audience on the platform?
  4. Are your resources best spent here?

Lastly, creating content and developing visual directions specific to the platform, no matter which, is fundamental towards achieving your goals.

Get in touch with us for more insight before testing the waters of social media apps new to your brand.

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