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Chinese video platform TikTok spreads positive trends in Vietnam

Dao Duy Nam, a junior student at Hanoi University of Science and Technology, told Xinhua recently that he filmed the old woman to share her story on TikTok.

A teenager on Hang Dau street in downtown Hanoi took out his phone and starting shooting a video of an old homeless woman who was sitting tiredly under the eaves of a store with her small fortune of rugged blankets and bags.

Dao Duy Nam, a junior student at Hanoi University of Science and Technology, told Xinhua recently that he filmed the old woman to share her story on TikTok.

"I hope that people will come and give her some donations," Nam said, adding that many disadvantaged people have been helped after similar videos have gone viral on the platform.

TikTok, known as Douyin in China and developed by Beijing-based startup Bytedance, is an app for making and sharing short videos, generally from 15 to 60 seconds long. The videos are usually set to music, often featuring someone cooking, dancing, doing a trick, or lip-syncing.

Globally, TikTok was the third most downloaded app in the first quarter of this year, according to the United States-based market research firm Sensor Tower.

Vietnam is currently one of the Southeast Asian countries with the highest growths in TikTok users. The platform had registered 12 million regular users in Vietnam as of the end of March. It has more than 1,000 official content creators, according to Nguyen Lam Thanh, policy director of TikTok Vietnam.

Thanh said his company wants to triple the number of official content creators to 3,000 by the end of this year.

As of late 2018, each Vietnamese user spent 28 minutes per day on TikTok, with the 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. timeframe on Friday and Saturday evenings luring the most visits, according to the company.

"Watching TikTok videos is my daily hobby. It's much more fun on TikTok," Trinh Thi Khanh Ngoc, a college student in Hanoi told Xinhua, adding that she has been cutting down time spent on Facebook and YouTube and switching to TikTok, just like many of her friends.

Just after downloading and opening TikTok on a phone, a video will start playing automatically. TikTok chooses to highlight some videos under the "for you" label.

"You don't need to follow anyone at first, TikTok can still fill your feed before you've friended a single person. Meanwhile, on Facebook, you may feel very 'poor' if you don't have a few hundred friends," Ngoc said.

Later, if users would like to watch videos from people they follow on TikTok, they can switch to "following," or can also check out videos from popular users or any TikToker who amuses them.

According to Ngoc, videos on TikTok are more lively and diverse, and more entertaining for young people compared to those on other social media platforms.

"It's also very easy to navigate through videos, just by scrolling up and down, not by tapping or swiping side to side," she said, while surfing through ones she loves about schools, make-up tips and fashion, among others.

"You can also update trends from other countries, including China and South Korea. It brings you the feeling of international integration," Ngoc stated.

She cited an example of the song "Why bless me, but not her," which was released in China and quickly became phenomenally popular in Vietnam.

"I heard it for the first time when I was watching a video on TikTok, and the song's chorus was there as background music. Its rhythm was so catchy," Ngoc recalled, adding that now it has been added in thousands of videos of all topics.

Several famous Vietnamese singers and influencers have covered the song, which has topped local music rankings in recent weeks and continues to attract millions of listeners.

Thanks to its popularity, TikTok can easily spread, or even create positive trends in Vietnam, with its hashtags playing a surprisingly large role. On TikTok, hashtags actually exist as a real, functional organizing principle.

They are not used for news, or for anything trending anywhere other than on TikTok, but for various "challenges," or jokes, or repeating formats.

For instance, the hashtag #HelloVietnam is helping promote tourism, in particular famous tourist spots and special tours, in the Southeast Asian country. This is part of a marketing program in partnership with the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, to produce and screen around 30,000 short videos on the TikTok platform with a target of 100 million views.

On June 15, TikTok released the first video of the series under the hashtag #HelloDanang, introducing tourist attractions in Vietnam's central Da Nang City. After just over six months, hundreds of videos have been uploaded attracting 72.5 million views.

Another trending hashtag on Vietnam's TikTok currently is #Ketromnhua, meaning "plastic thief" in English. The trend calls for users to make and share videos on how they reduce, reuse, recycle and replace plastic items, or take part in campaigns to clean garbage piles in the community. It has generated more than 9.2 millions views for hundreds of such videos.

"It (the trend) is totally different from formal and rigid slogans. The videos show us the real efforts of each individual towards a greener lifestyle," Ngoc said, noting that she feels inspired, and somewhat involved in the positive trends. 

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