The Chinese social discovery app, Soul, lets users create avatars to represent them on the service where they can find friends, join chat rooms, and socialise with millions of other users. China, like many other cultures around the world, has a problem with loneliness, and the app is one way people in Gen Z can combat the problem.
Amanda Fan, Head of Marketing at Soul, said that loneliness was a particular problem in China because:
“We think it is due to the increased geographical mobility and the fast pace of life. But socialising is a must-have for everyone, so we can see that younger generations are now trying to explore new ways to connect.”
A survey by Soul found that on average, people from Gen Z in China usually only have around 2.5 close friends. Lot of them are only children still living at home, with a focus on work. In such circumstances, social discovery apps can be hugely helpful and that seems to be the case. At the end of last year, the app had over 30 million monthly users.
Like some other social discovery apps, Soul goes for an approach that utilises anonymity. By using avatars and concealing information, users can inversely actually express themselves better. They can represent themselves exactly how they would like to and focus less on superficial stuff. Fan said:
“Freed from the pressure that comes with appearance, age, job, and income, we found our users feel more at ease talking with others under avatars and focus more on looking for spiritual connections that are near and dear to their hearts.”
Soul is a big hit with consumers, but perhaps its biggest success is how it is successfully embracing brands in an authentic manner that doesn’t put off users, but brings in strong revenue for the app. Its brand partnerships focus on creating bespoke campaigns that engage users in authentic ways and become part of the experience. For example, one pet company, JD.com, launched a questionnaire of 100 questions for users on the site. These kinds of activations as opposed to simple banner ads are working for both brand and consumer in what is essentially a metaverse.