LinkedIn continues its aggressive expansion in Asia with the launch of an office in Japan recently. The B2B social network set up a regional sales hub in Singapore in May and has expressed interest to enter Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand in the coming months.
To localise for the market, LinkedIn has launched in Japanese, making it the first Asian language available on the site, targeting professionals in Japan.
Arvind Rajan, MD and VP for LinkedIn Asia Pacific and Japan shared in his blog post that the company is building a local team based in Tokyo across product, engineering, marketing, and operations.
LinkedIn currently has 20 million users in Asia Pacific including Japan; its immediate goal for the market is to grow membership and explore partnership opportunities, according to Julie Inouye, corporate communications, senior manager at LinkedIn.
In recent years, social networks from the U.S. such as Twitter and Facebook has entered Japan and formed partnerships with local agencies for ad opportunities. For instance, Facebook appointed Dentsu as its official sales agency in March.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that LinkedIn has partnered with Digital Garage to provide marketing, PR, market research, and product marketing support in Japan. Because the same agency helped Twitter launch its local version in 2008 and handles ad sales for the microblog, which includes big brand advertisers like Nissan, Panasonic, and Sharp for the market.
Unlike other social networks, LinkedIn doesn’t need to rely solely on advertising for revenue. It also makes money through subscriptions and offers hiring solutions in the recruiting and enterprise space.
For Japan, LinkedIn’s proposition is to focus on local professionals and students keen to build their true identities and personal branding for their careers as well as the ability to connect with a global network.
However, in a country that is so entrenched in its culture to remain anonymous online, it is Facebook that ‘cracked the code’ in Japan by getting members to use their real identities, said Jeff Lippold, digital strategy director at Euro RSCG Tokyo.
In a separate interview, he said LinkedIn could find its biggest niche in providing a platform for C-suite professionals to connect and interact in B2B sectors.
According to a report by Impress R&D, the SNS market in Japan had hit a plateau last year with popular SNS sites posting slower growth. But that changed after the earthquake and tsunami disaster in March.
Local SNS Mixi continues to dominate the market but international social networks Twitter and Facebook surprised many by posting healthy growth in the country too.