Why LinkedIn does not work in China? This is one of the hottest questions being discussed recently in China because Linkedin went to IPO and apparently the massive Chinese market has no real professional social networks yet. A hedge fund manager recently gave me a very interesting point of view, which I also agreed.

He said the reason why LinkedIn becomes successful in the U.S. is that: there are many professionals (accountants, consultants, lawyers, engineers, etc.) with 10+ years, 20+ years or 30+ years of experience looking for jobs in the U.S.  They post their resume on LinkedIn, so that recruiters can find them.

Many of the LinkedIn users are doing that – posting their resume on their LinkedIn account. In fact, recruitment accounts for 65% of LinkedIn’s revenue.

The situation is different in China.  Deng Xiao Ping’s economic reform did not happen until 1980s.  There are no business professional with over 30 years experience.  In fact, those with 15+ or 10+ years experience are already rare commodity in the market and they are bombarded by phone calls of headhunters almost everyday.  There is no need to post their resume online for job purpose.

“Maybe in 10 years, Chinese LinkedIn will work, when there are more business professional with 10 or 20 years of experience looking for jobs,” said the hedge fund manager.

This reminds me of the interview with the CEO of Wealink, one of the earliest Linkein in China. Its CEO said,

Professional social network needs white-collar users which are mainly based in several tier-one cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, so there actually is not much room for a Chinese Linkedin to grow quickly.

We may have a big Chinese Linkedin unless it can find something else that is valuable to the business professionals.  Right now the players are trying:

  • Tianji told me they have a lot of discussion forum, groups and activities, to help   the business professionals to socialize with each other.  And hopefully, friendship built this way can extend to business.
  • Hengzhi said they have 8 business applications for the users to manage their daily agenda, such as  contact management, Q&A, and Power Point document sharing.

But so far, they haven’t found the “killer app” yet.  All the Chinese LinkedIn clones are still struggling. Whoever found what the Chinese professional need the most will be the winner.  Or just as the hedge fund manager suggested we just have to wait another 5-10 years.

Sherman So

Author of Red Wired: China's Internet Revolution, the first book to completely survey the nature of China's internet. (http://redwiredrevolution.com/) She previously was the lead China technology reporter... More by Sherman So

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7 Comments

  1. Hi Sherman,

    We are launching a messaging application targeted at business professionals that will be available in Chinese and English. http://foxfly.pro http://foxflypro.com. 

    It will allow users to easily swap digital business cards. See who’s nearby at events. Manage contacts by location/meeting place, and chat for free.

    We are launching soon and would love to sit down with you to give you a demo as we are based in Beijing!

    Let me know.

    Robert
    robert@foxfly.com

  2. Also, Vietnam. Someone with even 10 years of corporate office experience is extremely rare in a country in which the average age is 27. With the average age so low, the lack of a real dedication towards a career path (it’s common for someone to have multiple sources of income as well as be highly valued if even if he changes jobs once per year), a LinkedIn type of site provides very little actual benefit.

  3. I totally disagree with this post, LinkedIn has more than a million users in China and is growing very fast. It has become the main platform for white collars working with MNCs and foreign-invested companies and the younger executives are well trained to use the platform for what it can represent and do for their career (finding jobs, moving up, being promoted, be seen by headhunters)…

    As a matter of fact, LinkedIn features are so ahead compared to the Chinese competitors but I think it’s a matter of time before they come here and “crush” (or buy) these local players. Have you looked at the functionalities of Wealink, Tianji and the others? they look dreadful compared to LinkedIn…

  4. I totally disagree with this post, LinkedIn has more than a million users in China and is growing very fast. It has become the main platform for white collars working with MNCs and foreign-invested companies and the younger executives are well trained to use the platform for what it can represent and do for their career (finding jobs, moving up, being promoted, be seen by headhunters)…

    As a matter of fact, LinkedIn features are so ahead compared to the Chinese competitors but I think it’s a matter of time before they come here and “crush” (or buy) these local players. Have you looked at the functionalities of Wealink, Tianji and the others? they look dreadful compared to LinkedIn…

    1. It’s not about functionality, it’s about real-world usefulness to its users. It’s a professional network, which means it has to equate to getting a better job or some other professional advantage. For China, there has to be a cultural relevance in terms of how people actually do business. Any service in China can get a million users, depending on how the acquisition was handled. Are those users active and using the site the way it was intended, that is the key.

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