As analyzed above, the most important stakeholders for Chitu are those consumers, who comprise the largest population of users, and as well, because of their huge numbers, they are a significant source of revenue and profit, without which Chitu, or any other business can survive. Noticeably, Chitu’s public relations personnel cooperate actively and closely with its marketing and operation teams in spreading and promoting Chitu’s values. From the early state of Chitu’s planning, public relations staff members have been frequently discussing an overall development with the other two teams, and offered them help concerning media resources. For example, in the operation of online activities, public relations personnel frequently facilitate the marketing team in inviting media guests to share hot topics. According to one of the executives interviewed, “We only differ in our work range; otherwise we, as a whole, all strive to promote our company and products by making ourselves heard most” (Interviewee 4, personal communication, March 25, 2016).
By delivering actual value that fits Chinese culture, Chinese users’ habits, and unique Chinese operations in the internet environment, Chitu employs precise relationship cultivation strategies expertly in communicating and providing its values with users (Interviewee 3, personal communication, March 25, 2016; interviewee 5, personal communication, March 25, 2016).
Chitu is positioned to be the social app most dedicated to and comprehensive of professional life in China. It furnishes the user with three core values: to discover, to communicate, and to connect (“Chitu, An All-In,” 2015). To discover is to help users explore the network sources and surf the network within the professional context. To communicate is to find a much more effective way to communicate with other professionals by Instant Messenger, for example. To connect is to combine the online and offline (O2O) professional life together through online application and offline activities, and to develop and expand users’ network sources (Interviewee 3, personal communication, March 25, 2016; interviewee 4, personal communication, March 25, 2016; interviewee 6, personal communication, March 26, 2016).
Chitu’s public relation team not only communicates its vision through media relations strategies, but collaborates closely with the operation team to design attractive features to win more users. Take the profile page of the Chitu app as an example, it is not only practical, but is also replete with Chinese characteristics; then consider the personalized business card as another example, a Chitu feature that displays a user’s work and educational background, which has been custom-designed for Chinese professionals. These cards include the added features of one’s astrological sign, and Sesame Credit Rating identification. A user’s astrological information creates an air of “levity,” and may even give viewers a sense of who the user is, thus, creating a sense of familiarity in the cyber-world of relative anonymity. On another note, the credit rating information may create a sense of a member-user’s reliability in business dealings. These and other features lend credibility and trust to the online user, and further helps users feel safe and “interesting,” while communicating and connecting with others.
Moreover, if users have already registered as a member of LinkedIn, they can login to Chitu directly with LinkedIn’s account, and then link their LinkedIn’s account information with Chitu and make the synchronization of their friends, network sources, and educational and working information, helping users build a sense of community quickly, and at the same time, give a boost of user growth for both platforms (Interviewee 1, personal communication, February 24, 2016; interviewee 2, personal communication, March 24, 2016).
Chitu constantly delivers its value and shares with the public that its essential purpose is to meet users’ needs, which include visiting friends, participating in activities, facilitating job search, as well as enhancing knowledge and skill acquirement, all of which are closely bound up with professional life, allowing Chitu to easily draw the attention of professional users (Interviewee 1, personal communication, February 24, 2016; interviewee 3, personal communication, March 25, 2016; interviewee 4, personal communication, March 25, 2016). However, users’ frequent presence on Chitu cannot be achieved without support from its operation team (Interviewee 1, personal communication, February 24, 2016; interviewee 3, personal communication, March 25, 2016). Their sophisticated design and arrangement in the company’s operation can be the most crucial strategies in maintaining relationships with users, which mainly lies in the following aspects:
Trigger and Guide Users’ Active Self-expression.
Daily update interaction topics. Daily interaction topics can be found at the topside of Chitu’s homepage every time users login to Chitu. To guarantee the diversity of daily interaction topics, Chitu’s operations team devotes itself to examining life and creating a daily question, which is suitable to almost everyone, and doesn’t only relate to serious professionals. Questions like “what’s the core ability for salesmen/saleswomen” are ok but there are other specific requirements of the daily topics, such as being lively, relaxing, and fun demonstrated in these question: “whether to work at home or not after normal working hours,” “what’s your new plan for the coming year,” or “how much weight have you gained during the Spring Festival.” Or being thoughtful and reflective in these questions: “what’s the experience of being less self-controlled and how to overcome it?” Topics on Chitu are also closely connected with hot spots of Chinese society (i.e., food safety) and the topics that are going viral on the internet. Examining topics on Chitu is like watching interesting plays. Such topics, which appeal to young Chinese professionals in a humorous, joking, and relaxing way, are quite different from that of the more stern ones on LinkedIn. Chitu has a good understanding of the pressures exerted on current professionals in China, and is consistent on its positioning to establish an interesting and lively social platform for professionals.
Original posts and articles. There are three categories of articles on Chitu：experiences at work, industry trends and insights, and news. More specifically, there are LinkedIn China’s articles with a focus towards career development on its social media platforms; quality posts about entrepreneurships and investment trends shared from other channels; and career biggies’ personal comments on life and work. Professional biggies are invited to write and share articles to make themselves more known and influential to the users; meanwhile, the users’ enthusiasm and stickiness towards Chitu can be fully mobilized. Having the biggies invited on Chitu also appeals to the taste of Chinese users since they want to be influenced by celebrities (Interview 1, personal communication, February 24, 2016; interviewee 3, personal communication, March 25, 2016). This convention demonstrates that Chitu follows social trends and makes an effort in adapting the Chinese culture.
Provide Professional Groups with Various Online and Offline Activities. The way that professionals deal with their work is, in essence, a kind of lifestyle. Chitu has attracted quite a few young professionals who desire to balance their work and daily life with the desire for excitement. They, with an open mind, carefully acquire professional experience and explore working opportunities on Chitu to enrich themselves. Young professionals often feel highly pressured and isolated, and that’s why they are eager to have a social network for connection and communication with others (Interviewee 6, personal communication, March 26, 2016). They can gain comfort and courage from such network, and win others’ recognitions as well. Company heads design the features of online groups in accordance to this, attracting users to stay.
Online groups are initially established by Chitu’s operation team only, but later users are able to establish their own online groups (Interviewee 1, personal communication, February 24, 2016; interviewee 5, personal communication, March 25, 2016). The purpose for the establishment of online groups is obvious: Chitu is aimed to enhance users’ learning, make users search for friends with common interests, and enlarge their network (Interviewee 4, personal communication, March 25, 2016). In order to stimulate the atmosphere within the groups, Chitu invites professional biggies one by one and arranges online lectures for them to share within the groups. For those who are invited, they share their articles or experiences on Chitu to become more popular or just to help others. With the advantage of social media, a large number of users who are fans of the biggies can gather in quite a short time. The way they participate can be via voices, words, and pictures. The topic of a specific group can be as practical as “how to find investors for entrepreneurs,” “how to become sales elite,” or “how to improve the oral speaking ability of English,” or be relevant to lifestyles. Some of the online groups have even been developed to offline ones. The main purpose for establishing groups on Chitu is to effectively attract users’ frequent presence, improve their matching rate, and accurately manage and use the statistics.
Chitu’s offline activities are very characteristic. Their most important value lies in the maintenance of sound relationship with online users (Interview 3, personal communication, March 25, 2016; interviewee 4, personal communication, March 25, 2016; interviewee 6, personal communication, March 26, 2016). Offline activities can be divided into two categories: (1) activities organized and participated by Chitu’s operation team and (2) activities organized by third parties besides Chitu (Interviewee 1, personal communication, February 24, 2016; interviewee 6, personal communication, March 26, 2016).
“LinkedIn’s influence” is a series of brand activities developed by LinkedIn China in 2014 in compliance with its concept of “consummating a generation of Chinese professional elites.” The foundation for this notion is on sharing business concepts and insights, lecturing on professional knowledge, and spreading of the innovative ideas from professional biggies (Xudong, 2014). Users can only take part in such activities through enrollment, and those activities are mostly held in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. However, as disclosed by a senior executive from LinkedIn China, “many students and white-collar workers from second-tier or third-tier cities had positive participation in the activities and have cherished such opportunities a lot. Some of them even came by trains or planes to have face-to-face communications with the biggies” (Interviewee 5, personal communication, March 25, 2016). Value of the activities is thus expanded and well reflected. Through organization of such activities, Chitu has, to a certain degree, provided chances for equal learning and self-improvement to a wider range of Chinese professionals, who may not come from well-developed and abundant areas as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Shenzhen, and are relatively lacking in network and resources. It is one of Chitu’s most important missions to win their trust, favor, loyalty, and frequent presence (Interviewee 3, personal communication, March 25, 2016; interviewee 4, personal communication, March 25, 2016; interviewee 6, personal communication, March 26, 2016).
Chitu posts details about various offline activities through its platform daily, and users can choose ones they are interested to take part in. Currently, the activities are mostly about Salons for expansion of network, parties, lectures, trainings, and various conferences (Interviewee 1, personal communication, February 24, 2016; interviewee 3, personal communication, March 25, 2016). China is now having an increase in start-up entrepreneurs; therefore, many of the experiences shared and activities held are related to entrepreneurship and investment. It takes Chitu’s operation team better than average effort to collect and sort the needed information for the activities, and then post them on Chitu (Interviewee 1, personal communication, February 24, 2016; interviewee 3, personal communication, March 25, 2016). A wide range of industries are involved in Chitu’s activities, and the excellent themes of such activities can be a vivid presentation of the variety of professional life.
Furthermore, Chitu has added a new function for posting recruitment information (“LinkedIn’s Chitu app,” 2016). It is designed to satisfy the social needs of professionals. To provide users with job opportunities is to create value for users. That may be a reason that users become fond of Chitu and keep their loyalty towards Chitu. It is, to a certain extent, also the extension of that main values of LinkedIn China through Chitu. One of Chitu’s executives mentions that,
Chitu has the willingness to explore deepest values of social recruitment and to activate potential opportunities lying under users’ network resources. It is a more vivid and lively way for recruitment than the one through resumes. Employers can have a much clearer and overall understanding of the job seekers; meanwhile Chitu users as job seekers can find the most accurate match between their personality characteristics and position requirements. It is beneficial and convenient to both parties in finding like-minded ones to improve the recruitment efficiency (Interviewee 1, personal communication, February 24, 2016).
The content above is derived from Chapter 4 of my master's thesis - A Case Study of LinkedIn China and Its Sub-Brand Chitu - with a focus on Public relations and social media strategies. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Li Yingying and www.liyingying.us with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.