For Soul Zhang Lu, 2023 was a notable year that brought recognition and accolades for the app. At the Global Unicorn CEO Conference 2023 and Unicorn Awards Dinner, it was announced that Soul App had earned a place in the prestigious Hurun Research Institute’s Global Unicorn Index 2023. This esteemed recognition placed Soul App alongside industry giants such as ByteDance and Ant Group, showcasing the platform’s exceptional growth and innovation within the global landscape.
Moreover, Soul Zhang Lu was included in the first-ever Top 100 Women-Powered, High-Growth Businesses in Asia Pacific list of J.P Morgan. The app and its founder were listed as the first runner-up in the list. Together, the dual recognition underscores the platform’s outstanding achievements under the visionary leadership of its founder, Ms. Zhang Lu.
The app’s inclusion in the Global Unicorn Index points to its burgeoning popularity and growing clout in China’s social network industry. The term “unicorn” is used for private startups with a valuation surpassing US$1 billion. These unicorns are seen as reflections of the growth prospects for emerging businesses and the innovation capacity of industries. They also serve as indicators of new economic development.
Impressively, Soul Zhang Lu managed to steer the platform into the $1 billion league within 7 years since its inception in 2016. The platform is a result of a deep, intuitive, and nuanced understanding of Gen Z’s requirement for digital socialization and their expectations from such interactions. At this time, Soul App is one of the most popular and widely used social platforms in China.
In particular, China’s Zoomers have displayed an affinity for the unique concept of Soul which is markedly different from that of legacy platforms. Soul Zhang Lu put her vision in words the best when she said, “Soul has committed itself to helping people connect with like-minded peers and secure a sense of belonging, something which everyone sometimes struggles to find offline.”
Legacy social platforms are designed to build online connections within the existing social circle of users. So, they act as an online extension of connections that begin and exist in the offline world. Although this worked for millennials and even for Gen Y to some extent, Zoomers, as true digital natives, emphasize the significance of sharing life’s highs and lows with fellow users who share similar values, even if they start as strangers.
In other words, Gen Z is comfortable forging ties that are exclusively online and built solely on mutual interest with no ties to their offline lives. Drawing inspiration from this perspective, Soul Zhang Lu quickly identified a gap in the market—no existing product allowed users to openly express their thoughts, share distinctive life stories, or convey the current moment without pressure and the added anxiety of receiving instant meaningful feedback.
This realization is what ultimately led to the creation of the wholly unique concept that is Soul. The platform was built on and continues to be operated on two primary objectives: 1. Promoting “pressure-free communication”, and 2. Fostering “emotional resonance”.
To facilitate unrestricted and anxiety-free self-expression, the app has implemented a comprehensive strategy that enhances engagement and encourages deeper connections while alleviating the stress associated with specific aspects of social interaction.
For instance, the use of actual photos is not endorsed on Soul. Instead, users are urged to employ avatars that are meticulously crafted by the platform or created by their peers. These avatars are not only fun but also remarkably effective in reducing concerns about appearance.
But while the platform takes away one reality-rooted aspect of digital socializing, it leverages interest graphs and sophisticated algorithms to swiftly connect potential friends who share common values and hobbies. This allows users to develop wholesome and meaningful connections with minimal time and effort. Because these connections are not based on appearances, socio-economic status, or other factors that commonly influence interactions on legacy platforms, Soul helps users forge deeper connections at a level that matters to Zoomers.
In addition to this, the platform also adds gamification to the mix. The team of Soul Zhang Lu has enhanced the socializing experience by introducing features like “Bombing Cats,” an animated card game that brings together strategy. Plus the platform also offers real-time group chat, making interactions more enjoyable and interactive.
These avant-garde initiatives have undoubtedly yielded positive results. As far as users are concerned, they get to enjoy a more immersive digital socialization experience. And when it comes to the platform, the heightened engagement boosts user stickiness for the app. These results are evident in the 2022 platform usage figures, which clearly show the traction that Soul enjoys among its users and Gen Z in general.
- For starters, over 78% of Soul users were Zoomers, which is a clear indication of the extraordinary penetration that the app enjoys in this cohort.
- Furthermore, steady user stickiness is apparent from the fact that on average daily active users spent 46.4 minutes on the platform, with each user sending around 67 point-to-point messages per day.
- Monthly user activity was just as robust with over 31% of users posting their personal status every month and almost 64% monthly active users socializing for 15 days or more on the platform every month.
These figures along with the recognition received by Soul are an obvious indication of not just the platform’s stellar growth but also the confidence that the capital market has in the ability of Soul Zhang Lu to lead the app to further growth and success.