Judgement Day: Who Will be the LinkedIn of China?


Source: www.fastcompany.com

The system goes on-line August 4th… Human decisions are removed from strategic defense.

Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th.

In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

— The Terminator

Judgement Day: Who will be The LinkedIn of China?

Baidu is known as the Google of China; Taobao – the eBay of China; Alipay – the Paypal of China; Weixin – the Twitter of China; and the list goes on…

LinkedIn’s recent focus on the Chinese market has brought up the inevitable question, who will be the LinkedIn of China? or more precisely — will LinkedIn be the LinkedIn of China?

Among China’s LinkedIn clones, three main competitors for the role are leading the charge: Ushi, pronounced Youshi, LinkedIn pronounced LinkedIn, and Tianjiwang, or Tianji, which literally reads as Skynet.

I am a regular user of LinkedIn, and have been for many years, there were years that I was a paying user, and the website has contributed thousands (if not ten thousands) of dollars to my company’s bottom line. I have also been a Ushi user since they launched but have never really used it. I found, that for me, it was not worth the hassle of maintaining my profile on an additional site. Most of the contacts I had on Ushi were contacts I already knew on LinkedIn and I found no compelling reason to maintain both networks. I have never been a Skynet Tianji user (and honestly did not know they existed until I had to join and look into the site a few weeks ago for a project).

That being said, I am not a typical Chinese user; in fact I am not a Chinese user at all, typical or otherwise. So lets take a look at the numbers instead when searching for China’s next LinkedIn.

“Three billion human lives ended on August 29th… The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines. The computer which controlled the machines, Skynet, sent two Terminators back through time. Their mission: to destroy the leader of the human resistance, John Connor, my son.”

When looking at the number of registered users of China’s leading business social networks, Tianji is clearly the market leader with roughly 3 times the users of LinkedIn, and with Ushi trailing far behind. One must remember, however, that LinkedIn has over 300 million users outside of China and many of China’s business community work in companies that would like to maintain constant business relationships with the outside world. Something they cannot do with Ushi or Tianji.

But what do these numbers really mean? Has Tianji cornered the market? Does LinkedIn still have a chancein China? and what is up with Ushi?

If we delve a little deeper we see that most of China’s internet users are not on Ushi, LinkedIn, or the formidable Skynet Tianji. A comparison to US numbers put things in a little more perspective.

But, as some may point out, not all internet users are the target market of business social networks. However, when looking at number of professional workers a similar picture emerges. The Chinese are simply not using dedicated business social networks in significant numbers.

John: That’s Skynet?
The Terminator: Yep.
John: Can I ask why we’re heading toward it?
The Terminator: You don’t want to know.

Active users vs registered accounts

The picture is even more dire when looking at active members and not just registered accounts. While most global LinkedIn users are very active Tianji and Ushi members are not. And from the graph below it seems that Ushi has managed to get much more active pool of members than that of Tianji.

In short, none of the numbers I managed to dig up seem to contradict my personal experience with these networks but rather enforce them. All of LinkedIn’s clones in China, although being around for years, can be generally considered as failures mainly due to an inability to create a significant and monetized user-base. Business and professional networking in China is still primarily done face-to-face and not online.

I am not saying that the Chinese will never get accustomed to professional social networking, I am simply stating that if they do, I don’t see any of the existing incumbents playing a major role in bringing that about. A ssimilar case was Taobao and Alipay revolutionizing China’s e-commerce sphere rather than the myriad of Paypal and eBay clones that existed prior to their arrival.

So who will be the LinkedIn of China? will there even be a LinkedIn of China?

Unless a new player arrives on the scene with a new understanding of the market, I will call this race for LinkedIn.

That is, of course, unless on August 29th Skynet becomes self aware.

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