Can LinkedIn’s double brand strategy in China contend with local startups?

It has been a year and half since LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, entered China. Unfortunately, the U.S. company has not really stirred up China’s recruitment market as it did in the U.S. and in Europe. Now, LinkedIn China is betting on “Chitu”, or red rabbit, a more localized app to help it stand out.

“There are more than 150 million professionals in China’s job market seeking career advancement [who may not care so much about connecting with the world or moving overseas]…LinkedIn won’t succeed in China without this group of people, ” said Shen Boyang, the president of LinkedIn China.

Shen pointed out the need for LinkedIn to run an independent product that caters to Chinese users. At the end of June, LinkedIn China launched Chitu, a professional social networking app targeting young professional talent in China.

Chitu has embedded many features similar to Wechat and Weibo such as groups, instant messaging and a function to follow industry elites in order to meet Chinese users’ preferences and to create a more “fun, refreshing and interesting” atmosphere.

chitu linkedin
Screenshot from Chitu.

The app requires real-name authentication and puts more emphasis on O2O social networking by holding various business-oriented events.

According to LinkedIn’s 2015 Global Recruiting Trends Report, social professional networks are the fastest growing source of quality hires globally, with a 73% increase over the past four years.

As a latecomer to the crowded Chinese online recruitment industry, Chitu bears no first-mover advantages. Many Chinese startups including Dajie, Maimai, Renmaitong, and HuiHui have already started to build professional social networking platforms as early as 2009. With more than 32 million users, Dajie secured RMB 200 million (USD 31.5 million) in Series D funding last month and it is ambitiously marching into third and fourth tier cities.

The competition can become much more heated if all recruitment resources are considered. According to LinkedIn’s 2015 China Recruiting Trends, China’s recruiters are still heavily reliant on internet job boards for quantity hiring.

The market of internet job boards is drastically evolving as well. Though traditional poorly-designed career websites and still hold the largest market share, great competition is coming from startups like Lagou. is a career website that mainly serves professionals in the internet industry. The job-matching platform is dedicated to connecting tech talent and companies to facilitate the recruitment process. With a focus on job seekers’ needs, Lagou makes sure that every application sent out receives feedback from recruiters and its website presents detailed company information such as financing situations, media reports and interview reviews for job seekers.

The company quickly raised USD 25 million in Series B funding led by Qiming Ventures this August, merely a year after its establishment. According to Lagou’s data, more than 95000 tech and startup companies including BAT have posted around 1.2 million positions on its website so far.

As the competition grows ever more heated, LinkedIn is aiming to localize their brand and has become the first international internet company to adopt a double brand strategy to conquer a specific market.

“More promotion resources will be given to Chitu, as we believe it can yield higher growth,” said Reid Hoffman, the founder and CEO of LinkedIn.

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