LinkedIn’s Localization or How I Stopped Worrying and Published This Post

Last year, I decided to give Linkedin’s long-form posts a try. Yes, the ones that used to be exclusive of LinkedIn’s Influencers some time ago. Like this one you’re reading now.

However, I was not able to write them because, until recently, that feature was not available in my profile. And depending on the language in which you use LinkedIn, you may face the same problem.

Why me, LinkedIn?

Linkedin has been on my top 3 favorite social networks since I joined it in 2010. I consider myself what you would call an active user: I use it on a daily basis, connect with people in my industry and share some updates here and there. To a certain extent, I even came to appreciate its new UI design!

I had read countless stories about the multiple benefits of Linkedin’s long articles. But, as I prepared myself to turn some ideas into draft posts, I realized that the orange button with the pencil icon was missing in my homepage.

When I realized I couldn’t post long-form articles

I couldn’t understand it. I checked with some friends in my area and most of them could publish long-form articles. I kept seeing people around me blogging on the platform in different languages… Even people without a profile picture could publish! So, what was wrong?

LinkedIn Help?

Long posts were supposed to become available to users worldwide by 2014 according to TechCrunch. So, I started looking for help. The overview on long-form posts at LinkedIn’s Help page (last reviewed in June) wasn’t of help at all. Sending them feedback was in vain. And on Twitter they kept telling me to wait for the rollout to arrive:

So, the global rollout was taking longer than expected… (No surprise here).

Wait for the rollout, they said…

Enter Michael de Groot: The Sales Pro

I was determined to just sit and wait for the rollout when I saw an update fromSocial Selling expert Michael de Groot, encouraging people to make use of LinkedIn’s feedback link. The comments about LinkedIn’s help were far from positive, so it seemed to me like a good place to vent vent about my bad experience with them.

Even though I’ve never had the luck to work with Michael, I am 100% positive that his clients are 110% satisfied with him. Guess why?

Because Michael did what a true sales pro does, and what people from Support at Linkedin should be doing as well: he listened to me and did his best to help me out. He even reached out to one of his contacts at LinkedIn to get some feedback about my problem!

Unfortunately, the answer was the same one I got before: sit and wait for the roll-out to arrive.

Sitting and waiting for the rollout…

It wasn’t about Linkedin, it was about me

When I first joined Linkedin, I started using it in my native language: Spanish. A few weeks ago, while playing around with my profile settings, I happened to change the UI language into English.

Minutes later, as I went back to my homepage, the orange button with the pencil icon was there waiting for me to click it. And this time I was able to write long posts! Had the rollout finally arrived?

H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H

But no, it wasn’t the rollout’s second coming. I must admit that it took me a while to realize that this was related to my language choice of the UI. So, when I did, I thought about how blind I had been and started testing all the localizations to see which features were enabled in each of them.

The results of those tests taught me a valuable lesson about the localization strategy at Linkedin.

No, it wasn’t the rollout’s second coming. I must admit that it took me a while to realize that this was related to my language choice of the UI. So, when I did, I thought about how blind I had been and started testing all the localizations to see which features were enabled in each of them.

The results of those tests gave me a bit of an insight on LinkedIn’s localization strategy.

Language priorities at LinkedIn

As I found out later, the rollout was planned to prioritize the Portuguese, German and French localizations.

Looking at how the 400M+ members registered on LinkedIn are distributed in over 200 countries and regions, it is easy to understand why Portuguese was a top priority at LinkedIn. Brazil is their largest market where English is not an official language, with 23M+ members.

Prioritizing French works well both as a nod to their French-Canadian neighbours, and as a way to further penetrate in an always challenging market like France, with a membership of 10M+.

But what about German?

Source: Linkedin

That’s right. For some reason, in the page where LinkedIn boasts about its global membership, the data about Germany is nowhere to be found. However, they do say that there are 7M+ LinkedIn members in the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland).

The push for the German localization could be seen as an effort to take over the leadership in Germany from local social networking platform Xing. Despite losing the lead in Austria and Switzerland some time ago, the Hamburg-based company claimed 9M+ members in German-speaking countries by the end of Q3 2015. However, according to global marketing specialist Hans-Peter Bech,Xing’s superiority in Germany may not last much longer.

Spanish, RTL languages and LingYing

According to a recent study from Instituto Cervantes, Spanish is the second most used language on Twitter and Facebook. With 30M+ LinkedIn members based in Spanish-speaking countries, my guess is that Spanish would make for a perfect candidate to be the next language to enable long posts and a language-specific Pulse feed.

Another localization that could be ramped up soon is the last one the platform adopted: Arabic. LinkedIn launched the first Right-To-Left (RTL) version of the website one year ago and and claim 17M+ members in the MENA region.

Those of you who are familiar with bidirectional localization will understand how much of a milestone this was for the company, given the difficulties of delivering a great UX with RTL languages. If you’re interested in this topic, I strongly recommend you to read this article on building bidi by LinkedIn’s former International Product Manager Talia Baruch.

However, all eyes are on LinkedIn’s localization strategy in China. It took them more than a decade for the company to enter the Chinese market. But, after launching the Simplified Chinese beta version of the platform 2 years ago and with 12M+ members in China, their patience is starting to pay off.

LinkedIn’s approach to China is a particular one:

  • Brand strategy: LinkedIn China, a.k.a. LingYing, is not a branch of its parent company, but a joint venture of local and foreign venture capital firms, which allows them to innovate at a local level.
  • Local products: LinkedIn China has developed a local app named Red Rabbit to better target the country’s younger workforce generation.
  • Partnerships: Apart from offline advertisement and local celebrity endorsements, LinkedIn China has also teamed-up with local social networks like WeChat and Weibo in order to increase signups.

This strategy has allowed LinkedIn to scale in a region where other tech giants have failed before. But the key to this success comes at a price:renouncing to one of their core values (freedom of speech) andabiding by the censorship rules of the Chinese government. As a matter of fact, it is not possible to publish long articles or photos from the Simplified Chinese version of the site at the moment:

Long articles and picture posts are not available on the Simplified Chinese version of LinkedIn.

Conclusion

So, if you’re using LinkedIn in English, Portugues, German or French, you should be able to write long posts like this one and see the Pulse feed in the relevant language. For the rest of localizations (20) that is not possible yet.

I think that Spanish should have been a Tier-1 language for the localization of LinkedIn’s long form post and Pulse features. But still, I believe LinkedIn did a great job at prioritizing the languages that were most critical for their business goals.

What do you think? In which language are you using LinkedIn?

If you’re like me and are just getting started with LinkedIn’s publishing platform, check out HubSpot’s Beginner Guide to LinkedIn Publishing.