Zhibo is a weekly column in which Beijing-based American Taylor Hartwell documents his journey down the rabbit hole of Chinese livestreaming app YingKe. If you know nothing about the livestreaming (直播; “zhibo”) phenomenon in China, start here.

When I first started down the zhibo (livestreaming) rabbit hole, I mentioned that popularity on Yingke seems to revolve around a sort of *holy trinity* of appealing characteristics: talent, attractiveness, and humor.

Six months and millions of clicks later, I can’t honestly claim to have much more of an in-depth understanding of what drives livestreaming success. One of my frustrations with Yingke has been the lack of data — you can’t sort through your fans in any way other than scrolling down the list, there’s no available demographics or analytics that I’m aware of, and feedback is essentially limited to what you can read in your streaming room. Imagine if all a YouTuber had to go on was the comments section…

Not advised

But there is one direct way to see what people think of you – Yingke’s yinxiang (印象, “impressions”) system.

When you’re watching a streamer, there’s a wide variety of attributes you can “tag” them with. These range from describing external appearance to sound quality and even personality/character. Use Yingke for long enough, and you’ll end up collecting quite a few of them — the more of an impression you make, the more impressions you get.

Despite Yingke’s unwillingness to give hosts the kind of analytical data that would come standard with most Western platforms, yinxiang tags offer at least some kind of relevant info in terms of how your audience views you. To that end, I figured I’d sift through my 1,000-odd yinxiang and see what kind of impression (bahdoom psh) I’m making on the Chinese livestreaming audience.

Not a great one, apparently

幽默风趣 — Funny and Interesting (331)

Initially, I thought attractiveness (primarily of the female variety) would be far and away the most important thing on Yingke, but I think I underestimated the degree to which viewers open the app to simply be entertained. People flip through the streaming rooms like TV channels (remember those?) and although a pretty face will certainly get their attention, it seems that having some personality goes a long way towards keeping that attention for longer than a few seconds. The fact that (almost) every popular streamer seems to have the same external sound card with which they continuously play the same laugh track shows that fast-paced humor is in high demand on Yingke.

Youmou fengqu (幽默风趣, “funny and interesting”) is my most-tagged yinxiang, so I suppose I must be doing something right. To some degree, people are always going to mark me as “interesting” by pure virtue of novelty and “funny” because watching someone struggle to speak a language is pretty funny, in a “look, he thinks he’s people!” kind of way. But my goal on zhibo is to come across goofy, so I guess my shtick is working. 

It’s kind of like this

型男 — Fashionable/Good Looking (262)

This one confused me at first because xing (型) simply means “type,” and nan (男) means male — so it seemed more like a straightforward category than a tag or impression. But it turns out that xingnan (型男) is commonly used as slang for a well-dressed/handsome guy (they said it, not me).

 

小鲜肉 — “Small Fresh Meat” (62)

Much has already been written about the term xiao xian rou (小鲜肉) which literally translated means “small fresh meat.” Less literally, it refers to young guys who are handsome in a somewhat “feminine” way — well groomed, sharp features, nice hair, that sort of thing.

Given the average height and average propensity for facial hair around here, it makes sense that male beauty ideals would go more in the slim fashion model direction and less in the burly lumberjack direction, but my understanding of xiao xian rou is that there are also connotations of youth and cuteness, and even innocence — look up TF Boys for the dictionary definition.

I attribute my lack of small fresh meat tags to my towering 5’8” height and occasional manly stubble.

I’m basically a lumberjack

儒雅绅士 — “Scholarly and Refined Gentleman” (190)

*pause for delirious laughter*

Ok, look, here’s how this one happens. People ask why I’m on Yingke, I say it’s to practice Chinese, they say that’s very studious of me, I say oh shucks. Straightforward enough.

I actually did a search for this yinxiang just to see what sorts of streamers are *primarily* thought of as scholars/gentleman, and it turns out that there’s a whole bunch of calligraphy channels dedicated purely to blowing your mind with their character-writing skills:

Respect, Yingke. You’re deeper than I thought. 

Come back next week for Part 2: Sunshine boys, sarcasm, and gender-specific sanguinity.