Looking for new users, LinkedIn sends a contact request to... the whole of China

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on February 24, 2014

From The News Desk

LinkedIn just announced major news: it’s headed to China.

In fact, it was already in China, in a sense, with four million Chinese users. But today the company has launched a beta version of LinkedIn in Simplified Chinese -- a written form of the language (as opposed to verbal dialects like Mandarin or Cantonese). This marks LinkedIn’s 22nd supported language, joining the likes of Tagalog, Turkish, Indonesian, and many others.

It’s also beefing up its “localized service” and introducing new features for Chinese residents. As an example, the President of LinkedIn China, Derek Shen, cited integration for Chinese products like Sina and Tencent, allowing users to import contact lists.

With this move, LinkedIn is the first of the major U.S. social media networks to roll out a dedicated Chinese version. After all, Facebook and Twitter are completely banned from the country. Even if they were allowed, they'd likely face revenue problems given that their methods of making money -- advertising and gaming -- are strictly regulated by the Chinese government.

In contrast, LinkedIn makes more money off its tools for recruiters than it does off advertising. It's uniquely suited to succeed in the Chinese market where other U.S. social networking companies might fail.

China already has its own handful of professional social networking sites -- Tianji, Wealink, UShi, Hengzhi, and Jingwei -- but none of these have taken off according to reports.

As CEO Jeff Weiner explained in a post announcing the news, this allows LinkedIn to tap China’s 140 million professionals.

Our presence in China also helps LinkedIn achieve its vision of extending the company’s professional network into the world’s first economic graph. We want to digitally map the global economy, identifying the connections between people, companies, jobs, skills, and professional knowledge, thus allowing all forms of capital – intellectual, working, and human – to flow to where it can best be leveraged. This economic graph will enable millions of individuals all over the world to realize opportunities in unprecedented ways, and, in doing so, create the next generation of entrepreneurs and professionals.
The announcement comes less than three weeks after LinkedIn’s somewhat disappointing 4th quarter earnings call, which caused the stock to dip in after hours trading. Although LinkedIn had beat the quarter’s revenue expectations, its forecast for 2014 revenues failed to meet analyst expectations.

As we discussed at the time, LinkedIn appears to be hitting a scaling equilibrium. Specifically, we asked: “[H]ow does it keep getting bigger, tackling new markets, and gathering more customers?”

With today’s announcement it’s clear one of LinkedIn’s answers is simply “China.”

[Image adapted by Brad Jonas, from firepile on flickr]