LinkedIn was the last major U.S. social network still operating in China, with some of the strictest censorship rules. Twitter and Facebook have been blocked for more than a decade, while Google decided to sunset operations in 2010.

But not for much longer. Microsoft has announced that due to a “significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China”, Linkedin will be shutting down. In its place, Microsoft will launch a job search site in China that doesn’t have LinkedIn’s social media features.

The situation is still unfolding, and there are many questions still unanswered. But what we do know right now, student marketers need to be aware of how to navigate this farewell, without saying goodbye to Chinese recruitment altogether.

What does this news impact in the education marketing sector:

  1. Advertising strategies: Masters and MBA campaigns will be affected. Other B2B campaigns also need to rethink the strategy.
  2. Ad placements: Feed ads (single image, carousel and video) will become history, but we don't know if there will still be InMail.
  3. Targeting: Chinese companies could still target overseas users, but overseas companies won't be able to target mainland China users anymore. More on this is to be released soon.
  4. Networking: Students in China use LinkedIn to find tutors for Ph.D. studies, but it's no longer an option.
  5. Communication: Considering neither Whatsapp nor Messenger is available in China, LinkedIn was the only platform that could be used between two people on either side of the Chinese wall, for those who don’t use WeChat. This connection break will affect academics and students looking to communicate with one another.

The not-so-bad news is, LinkedIn didn’t have a huge market share in China. It was only used for B2B campaigns and a few Master degree campaigns targeting those with working experience for most of the sector.

What’s more, generally speaking, Chinese students will study for their Masters directly after finishing their Bachelor. Meaning they’re already in the country, with access to western-typical platforms, and therefore, the impact of Linkedin China shutting down will be minimal.

The message this latest development sends out is significant: censorship is getting stronger. We need to be on the local channels which provide stability and peace of mind. This only increases the importance of having local teams on the ground in China who understands the native platforms and current climate to direct the kind of content Institutions are sharing.

So what are the next steps for our in-house specialists and local teams to ensure our clients are ready for this change, and what can you expect to see? 

  1. The situation and dialogue are being closely monitored as there have been contradictory statements from LinkedIn Global and LinkedIn China.
  2. There are question marks around how seamlessly "InJob" will appear in the market, but when it does, we will measure Chinese students' attitudes to ensure it’s a worthwhile investment.
  3. We’re expecting a shift in the general Chinese digital ecosystem. There are a few similar products in China, but no dominator. With LinkedIn quitting the game, we expect to see the growth of these other platforms; one of the leaders is MaiMai 脉脉. We’re watching this space closely. 
  4. Continue building upon our already existing long term strategy with our partners. The same principles apply as they always have done. Your goal should always be to create a presence and establish and maintain a reliable communication channel on local social media platforms.
  5. Keep exploring new opportunities and finessing impactful activity. For example, Weibo’s Overseas Education Fair, gives institutions promotional opportunities in front of an engaged Chinese audience. There are even opportunities for live streaming (should you have the right local teams in place). If you would like to find out more about this, get in touch today. 

In other words. What are the takeaways from Linkedin China shutting down? 

Although censorship is getting stronger, the government still encourages students to study abroad and will make an effort to offer free promotion opportunities. We are definitely in the right industry, and you just need to know how to find them.

There’s no disputing that the China market can be difficult to penetrate, but there are always resources out there. However, you need a local team that knows what's happening and where the opportunities are. 

Want to find out more? Get in touch with our China specialists today, who will happily tell you more about the available opportunities to your institutions and how you can maximize your reach in this region.