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Mogujie: China's Biggest Pinterest Clone is a Social Commerce Money Machine

Steven Millward

The founder of China’s most popular Pinterest-like startup, Mogujie, has penned a blog post explaining his perceived formula for social media success on the web. Before hearing his idea, it’s worth noting that it sure is working out for Chen Qi (pictured below) himself, whose Mogujie site was revealed to be earning over 100,000 RMB ($15,900) per day in ad referral clicks to Taobao, China’s largest e-commerce site.

Mogujie.com, according to its own stats, has quickly grown to have 9.5 million registered users by the end of last month, of whom 2.2 million are active daily visitors who browse about 750,000 items on Taobao every day, and end up buying 60,000 of those. Yes, 60,000 actual online orders each day from its users. That’s some serious social commerce right there.

The social pinboard site focuses on female users, with frontpage categories for women’s clothing, shoes, handbags, home furnishings, and the like. A great deal of all the pinned items head to Alibaba’s C2C e-commerce portal.

So what is Chen Qi’s formula for success at this point in time, in the age of Pinterest and Instagram? In his post on Zhihu, which is like a Chinese iteration of Quora, Mr. Chen explains that since mid-2011 he has concocted “a very simple model of judgment” to determine the potential success of a new web product. “This model,” he says, “is composed of three characteristics” and are encapsulated in the abbreviation FOR, which means: F ragments, O rganize, R e-organize. He explains:

The main content is the product, and it’s inevitably fragmented, and the debris is isomorphic. Like Twitter, where the whole thing is composed of 140 characters, or Sina Weibo where it’s 140 characters plus a photo, or Pinterest’s fragments of ‘beautiful artifacts’ photos plus a short description plus a URL. And on Mogujie it’s a case of ‘items for a beautiful woman’ plus a photo and a description plus an e-commerce destination.

And that’s just the first of three parts. Thereafter, Chen Qi expounds how the organisation of all those fragments needs a kind of organisation that allows trends to emerge and for it all to be easily browsed. Then comes the more interactive element of reorganization whereby users can play with all those neatly bundled elements in the form of retweeting, repinning, ‘liking’ and all the rest. That all comes together to make ‘FOR’ in his view. Of course, it’s just an evolution of what was happening earlier on the web - like with BBS, which are still quite popular in China. But those boards lack that final aspect of the formula: “BBSes don’t allow users to organize information (posts)” and so are inherently limited.

The Mogujie founder then ends his post by rating Twitter, Sina Weibo, Pinterest, and his own creation by his own FOR formula. He rates Twitter as F: 4.5, O: 4, R: 3, indicating it lacks a good mode of reorganization. Sina Weibo fares slightly better with F: 5, O: 4, R: 3.5. We’d certainly agree that Weibo makes reorganization of content by users much easier, having a better implementation of retweeting as well as the option of using comments. Chen modestly gives his own site lower scores than he assigns to Pinterest, admitting that his startup has issues that he’s “making efforts to resolve.”

Mogujie, despite working with Alibaba on its eTao Discover site, is already facing stronger competition, even from its own partner. Just last week, Taobao launched its own Pinterest clone, which will help keep a whole bunch of ad referral clicks in-house. Also, other Chinese web companies are weighing in with their own social commerce-minded ventures, such as Renren’s (NYSE:RENN - News) Plaza pinboard site.

[Sources: Chen Qi’s post on Zhihu; and Donews - both articles in Chinese]