Shameless is by far the largest WeChat account with English language content. Many articles gain 100,000+ views. Their content resonates strongly with sections of Chinese youth and China’s foreign community.
Life is too short. Let’s be shameless.
Today we bring you an exclusive interview with Shameless that gives us a glimpse into: how the account became so successful, how they create their content and what lies in the future for Shameless.
ChCh: Why and how did you start Shameless back in March 2015?
Shameless: I started Shameless when I was in PR doing content marketing for tech companies. I felt what I wrote at that time was mostly corporate BS, and it frustrated me that nobody read it. Shameless at first was a getaway from my day job, a place where I can say whatever I want without “damaging the public image” of any mega corps.
ChCh: You run the largest WeChat account for English content. Were there any keys points where you ‘went viral’ or things that happened along the way which you feel really had a big impact on the success of Shameless?
Shameless: I definitely agree “going viral” has something to do with luck, but at the same time a good topic is of great help – a topic which stands out, a topic which is relevant for your target audience, and a topic which addresses user’s need at the best timing. For Shameless, the growth at the early stage was 100% organic. A key element of the “success”, I think, is that nobody had ever touched cross cultural topics in such a shameless way. If I have to say one thing that may have a big impact, it might be that The Beijinger picked up my first article “8 Types of Foreigners in Beijing” (excerpt below) on their front page. Also my own friend group helped a lot by reposting it to their moments and group chats.
Article gained 60,000+ views
ChCh: Which Shameless articles are you most proud of and why?
Shameless: This is like asking a mom to pick a favorite child. If I have a gun pointing at my head, I will pick “How to Make Friends with Foreigners”. It addresses the most frustrating, embarrassing, and hilarious pain points of the expat life. It is funny for both expats and locals. Most importantly, I finished it within an hour when I was waiting for my flight at the airport.
Above: How to Make Friends with Foreigners – 100,000 + views.
ChCh: How do you come up with topics and ideas to write about?
Shameless: In the beginning, when Shameless was just my getaway from PR writing, I got all my inspirations from people I encountered from work and my personal life. I wrote about people around me, things that amused me and irritated me. Later on I started to read more online about pop culture, watch Youtube (way too much), and spend more time having meaningful conversations with my audience/friends.
Above: Hundreds of Shameless’ fans voluntarily tip small amounts of money in appreciation of the content
ChCh: What are the strangest / funniest messages from followers that you’ve received through the Shameless account?
Shameless: I am now used to comments in which Chinese readers call me “A racist, sexist, stupid white dude who doesn’t get laid enough”. My favorite reader feedback now is actually about the article I wrote about US election. At first, I got this comment:
Later I received another comment that made me laugh for 5 mins:
ChCh: Shameless started on WeChat. Do you use or plan to make use of any other platforms?
Shameless: Yes. I’ve been trying to move onto short videos for a while. The hardest part is to find a way to keep the anonymousness of Shameless and also make it funny and useful for the audience. So stay tuned!
ChCh: Recently you’ve started doing your own Shameless events ‘Forbidden City’. What made you choose this route and how has it been received?
Shameless: Hiding behind the screen all the time isn’t fun. The primary goal of the Shameless event is to see who are these readers, what they like, and how they live their lives, so that I could produce better content for them. I take the event as more of an experiment than a way to “monetize”. The first event in Beijing was pretty cool. About 150 people showed up and it was a good vibe.
ChCh: The writing voice of Shameless is relentlessly cynical and rude. Is this simply a reflection of your own personality or are you writing as a character?
Shameless: The voice of Shameless indeed is very unique and memorable. I wish I was purely writing as a character, because that would make me an amazing writer. I narrate along as I write, so it’s definitely part of my voice but not 100% my voice – in that case I won’t be able to make any friends in real life.
ChCh: The amazing success of Papi Jiang has led to an unprecedented explosion of hype around WeMedia in China. Many are getting investment money thrown at them. What’s your take on this phenomenon?
Above: Papi Jiang typical video content.Shanghainese mixed with English
Shameless: I’d say it is a great thing for individual content producers. People today start to value content and creativity, and there’s definitely the trend that people are willing to pay for a funny article they read on WeChat. This would already help a lot for us who want to make a living on it. A lot of friends in the industry have received investments, and Shameless has got a lot of positive opportunities as well. Personally speaking I really enjoy being the man behind the screen writing for my readers, and I know I would keep doing that regardless of other factors.
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