How To Connect With Chinese Professionals Online


This January China’s total Internet users reached 457 million, that is + 19.1% compared to 2009. The booming Chinese internet market of course lures many English-speaking online entrepreneurs. But how can one reach and connect with Chinese professionals online? What options do you have?

The most obvious way is to go via Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. However these usual suspects are not as big in China as they are elsewhere. Their Chinese clones are. Not just because the latter have more registered users but also because they are an enormous money-making machines, literally earning billions of dollars a year.

Social Networking Sites in China

The general  expectation is that the Chinese will continue beating their Western competitors, with newcomers such as Ushi eventually surpassing LinkedIn. Why is this?

First of all, as Facebook and Google in their initial phases knew where to go in the USA, the Chinese clones have the necessary networks in China. This give them an important headstart. A similar thing can be said about market intelligence. The Chinese get Chinese user behavior and industry practices. After all, the cultural dimension doesn’t stop when you do business online. Furthermore, the clones have another huge advantage that reminds of the rule of ‘leaping progress’. The testing has done for them – the lessons learnt (best interface, how to monetize, etc.) are helping the clones.

Much begins and ends with language. For instance in comparison LinkedIn’s presence in China is relatively weak. For sure this has to do with the simple fact that there is no apparent Chinese language version of the site. Neither is it helpful that sites are sometimes blocked.

So, leaving the help of the Western networks aside where to go when you want to reach Chinese Professionals? Which Chinese social platforms are accessible to English-speaking users?

Localized Professional Networking Sites

There are many Chinese professional networking sites but most are entirely in Chinese e.g Hengzi and Wealink. But things are changing:

Tianji (“worldly connections”) is China’s leading social networking service dedicated to business networking for professionals. Apparently Tianji has decided to try to reach English-speaking users as well. After joining you read: “Dear members, we are testing our Beta version of Tianji English Platform now. In this period, only part of our features have been translated. More professional and community tools will come in the near future. Please kindly send your feedback here with any suggestions or mistakes you find.” Indeed, a quick tour de horizon points out only a few users from abroad can be found in Tianji. In 2009 Tianji merged with Viadeo, a social network for professionals in France.

Ushi (优 pronounced: you-shi meaning “outstanding professional”) is trying position itself as the Chinese LinkedIn but they are not quite there yet in terms of registered users. Ushi wishes to connect China’s white collar professionals and entrepreneurs but – yeah! – also people outside China with professional interest in China may join. The site is in English & Chinese and easy to use (quite similar to LinkedIn). As such Ushi provides great online marketing opportunities. It is gives English-speaking foreigners a unique (direct) way to reach professionals in China, and vice versa of course. The easiest way to join is by invitation but you can also join on your own initiative.

Possibly Findkoo.com will also become an interesting network. It is an ‘exclusive online business network for professionals doing business related to China’. But it is too soon to tell whether or not it is interesting since it will go online in early April. Or as the site announces: Currently Findkoo is only accepting invited members.

Last but not least, you may give Xing a try. Though this is an European social networking website (mostly German) it is also frequently visited by Chinese users. Interestingly, among the founding partners of Ushi is Bill LIAO who is co-founder Xing.com.

Some other types of localized China B2B platforms:

  • DHgate.com for factory-direct China wholesale deals
  • Alibaba offers gigantic trade platforms. Now under fire because of fraud charges.
  • ORIENTED claims to be the largest network in the world of international professionals interested in Asian business and partnerships. They offer among others offline networking events worldwide.
  • 51 job is an interesting job board (also in English)

Sources:

Alexa, LinkedIn Q&A and Google Trends
SocialBeat: ‘Professional social network Ushi is China’s answer to LinkedIn’
Techcrunch: ‘Chinese Social Networks ‘Virtually’ Out-Earn Facebook And MySpace: A Market Analysis
Forbes: ‘China’s Social Network: Zuckerberg And Sina Chat Over The Great Firewall’
China Internet Watch: China Internet Users by Numbers February 2011.

Internet statistics found in report of China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the state network information center of China. The CNNIC report offers a wealth of information.