LinkedIn should be a business’s first point of call when researching the Chinese market, says a business-to-business (B2B) specialist.
Tom Skotidas, chief executive officer, Skotidas Consulting Group, says educating marketers about the strengths of using LinkedIn as a business development channel to reach the Chinese market, is key.
From his experience, many foreign businesses still believe WeChat, RenRen and Weibo are the main channels for reaching the Chinese market, yet all require Chinese language to connect with users on these sites, while LinkedIn does not.
Here are three reasons why LinkedIn should be considered for a B2B marketing strategy for China.
1. LinkedIn as a social media bridge into China
Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram are all blocked in China and inaccessible without a VPN. That hasn’t stopped many of these global players opening offices in China and Hong Kong to assist Chinese businesses with their outbound marketing strategies. However it does limit foreign brands and businesses from promoting or connecting with people in China through these channels.
The other option for foreign brands is to join popular Chinese social platforms Weibo and WeChat. And many of them do already. However, to be successful on these platforms – especially for Weibo – requires Chinese language as a minimum.
As for WeChat, it is currently very difficult to search for people or brands in the search window. Most users connect with other users and brands after discovering the WeChat ID or QR code from a third source (such as a business card, a physical display banner in a shop, finding the code on other digital platforms or scanning the QR code from each other’s phones at a face-to-face meeting – yes, this is a thing in China.)
And that’s where LinkedIn comes in. In September 2014, LinkedIn announced a partnership with WeChat allowing global users to link accounts between the two platforms. There are three ways this partnership works:
Linking WeChat and LinkedIn accounts allows users to see which of their LinkedIn contacts are also using WeChat. For more information on how to do this, click here.
Finally, users can scan a QR code from a person’s LinkedIn profile to connect with them on WeChat. This allows users to search for contacts on LinkedIn but connect and chat with them on WeChat.
China is one of LinkedIn’s fastest growing markets. It is also LinkedIn’s third biggest market (with 20 million users) after the U.S. (128 million users) and India (35 million users).
Skotidas says LinkedIn gives foreign businesses access to a very high calibre of business people in China.
“If any company is looking at China, start with LinkedIn – as a group, these China-based users are educated, affluent, social media and digitally savvy, have experience with the West, and are friendly-facing and professional,” he says.
He believes there is a big misconception about the opportunities to connect professionally with Chinese business people through LinkedIn.
“Many executives don’t understand how you could develop a business relationship without having met,” he says.
To be on the platform in the first place, suggests these Chinese users have already had exposure to foreign businesses or studied or worked abroad. Many will have a good level of English proficiency also.
In addition to having access to high quality Chinese professionals, there are many expatriates living in China also using LinkedIn.
For businesses researching the Chinese market, this expatriate group can provide background and information on the realities of doing business in China and can be a new audience to test ideas.
3. China is just like many other LinkedIn markets
China is as strong at business development as any other Western or Asian market, says Skotidas.
Its business and networking culture should not be confused with that of say Japan, where language barriers, a culture of loss of face to appear to be looking for a job, and the act of directly reaching out to an executive, is taboo.
“China has none of these issues, and has an aggressive networking culture,” he says.
Skotidas advises any organization using LinkedIn to connect with professionals in China, to remain true to themselves. This means:
- Not investing money and resources into translating your business’s LinkedIn page into Chinese or having a Chinese name. “Stick to English if that is your native language and start with those people who speak English.” If you have the resources to translate your page into Chinese then do it, but it is not critical.
- Play to your strengths by building networks with people most aligned with you.
“In reality, 95% of business travellers to China don’t translate their cards into Chinese and the reception is very friendly – so why would you do this for LinkedIn?”
Skotidas says LinkedIn is a self-sufficient and self-contained platform to access the Chinese market.
“There is zero excuse for not using LinkedIn to target China if North Asia is key market for you,” he says.
Statistics from Sales Navigator show 80,700 users in China have posted on LinkedIn over the past 30 days.
“Here are 80,000 people you can engage with immediately and the calibre of these people is just astounding, they are premium business professionals,” Skotidas says.
Do you have more to add? Feel free to leave your comments below.
*All images courtesy LinkedIn / WeChat
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