On October 14, 2021, Mohak Shroff, senior vice president of engineering at LinkedIn, published a blog post: China: Sunset of Localized Version of LinkedIn and Launch of New InJobs App Later This Year. It triggered multiple follow-up reports from major media outlets, with titles containing words like:
- LinkedIn to Shut Down Service in China
- Microsoft shutting down LinkedIn in China
- Microsoft to shut down LinkedIn in China
- Microsoft to pull LinkedIn from Chinese market
Soon after, LinkedIn China @LinkedIn领英 announced a statement on its Weibo account: “Rumor refutation from LinkedIn Official: ‘Microsoft to shut down LinkedIn service in China’ is inaccurate news.” According to their local team statement, the LinkedIn business will continue operating in China. The key change is the decommissioning of user-generated content and interactive functions — in other words, eliminating the platform’s social features. LinkedIn will reposition its strategic focus to provide connection for job offerings and career services.
Terms like “shutting down LinkedIn in China” or “pulling out of China” are not exactly accurate. The local team statement pointed out this inaccuracy and focused on the fact that LinkedIn as a company will continue to operate its business and provide services in China. Nonetheless, it is clear that LinkedIn China — or Ling Ying, as the social media platform is known there — will no longer exist in China and will be replaced with a new platform, InJobs, that focuses on job hunting rather than social networking.
LinkedIn has faced many localization and operational challenges in China, as is evident from comments from previous local employees shared on Zhihu. However, there are a few things LinkedIn has done well while operating a business there:
- It launched a localized product with a local name, 领英 (Ling Ying).
- It adapted its platform to the local digital ecosystem and consumer behaviors. For instance, very early on, LinkedIn established a partnership with WeChat and allowed users to connect WeChat to LinkedIn.
- It invested in a local team and localized marketing events. Ling Ying has been active in hosting events to recruit both new users and employees.
Operating a multinational business isn’t easy. A big challenge is that such companies have to consider each individual market’s own intricacies on a global scale. Companies have to make difficult business decisions when their familiar ways of operating conflict with local regulatory requirements. LinkedIn and Microsoft understand this challenge very well and are trying their best to reconcile both. The plan to launch a new app, InJobs, is a good example. Both the HQ and local team statements show that they haven’t given up on the Chinese market just yet.