Linkedin or Xing? The question has always been reminiscent of Adidas or Nike, Macbook or Surface, Audi or Mercedes. The only difference here is that both are used in parallel. Each platform had its peculiarities and each user has their preference for one thing or the other. Nevertheless, they were very similarly conceived networks, which differed above all in their brand presence and degree of internationality. Xing is the German player with a focus on the DACH region, whereas LinkedIn is an international giant offering contact possibilities around the world. Sooner or later there could only be one, it was thought.
In fact, the often predicted merciless predatory competition has not yet materialized. Both platforms are growing and, contrary to many predictions, Xing has neither been acquired nor disappeared. On the contrary: with 16 million members in German-speaking countries, the Hamburg-based company is one of the pearls in the Burda portfolio.
But LinkedIn is also flourishing. 10 years after its market launch in the DACH region, the Microsoft subsidiary has over 12 million members there and, according to its own figures, is developing faster than planned.
Both platforms can exist side by side in the market because they have each defined their own sets of priorities in recent years. Content played an important role in this.
A stage for the CEO
LinkedIn, for example, has long since ceased to be just a digital contact exchange and has become the largest business blog in the world. It is the place where entrepreneurs and managers directly exchange ideas with their industry, recommend links, share thoughts and announce news. When Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche had to make a statement on the diesel affair for the first time in 2017, he did not do so at a press conference or in an interview with a selected business medium, but on LinkedIn. The Leipzig media entrepreneur Florian Treiß calls the platform “the place to be for B-to-B”. The founder of the specialist service “Location Insider” uses the platform in all possible ways. He presents himself and his company, uses relevant content from his industry and has already entered an advertising deal on LinkedIn.
Unlike Xing, where the authors are preferably chosen in-house, LinkedIn has been open to anyone who wants to blog since 2014. This has transformed the career network into a meta-specialist medium, in which everything that moves an industry is negotiated. A separate word has long been created for those who are particularly active: “Linkfluencer”. But this can be deceiving. The conventional, range-driven influencer model of Instagram, YouTube or Facebook hardly works on LinkedIn. Successful content on the business network requires real class, not virtual mass. Leads are always more important than likes.
Obtain business information through the network
LinkedIn has changed the way many decision makers use the media. Harald Fortmann, longstanding vice president of the BVDW and founder of the personnel consultancy five 14, estimates that he obtains half of his business information via LinkedIn and only 25 percent via traditional media such as Handelsblatt, Wirtschaftswoche or Manager Magazine. Fortmann himself is living proof of how well LinkedIn and Xing work side by side, as he himself is among the exclusive circle of authors of 300 Xing “insiders”.
Business media have long underestimated the competition from LinkedIn. The network seemed to be much more harmless than Facebook or YouTube, and it was useful to distribute one’s own content for free. It is only gradually becoming clear to publishers that the platform has partially taken over their job: to publish statements, recommendations and complete articles including videos for specific target groups in the business environment. Volker Schütz, editor-in-chief of the trade magazine “Horizont”, takes the unusual competitors very seriously. He sees LinkedIn and Xing as “modern, data- and user-driven specialist portals” and classifies them as “frenemies”.
PR agencies serves as a good seismograph for the media transformation. They are increasingly receiving requests for LinkedIn. “Our customers very often ask for media relations using the platform,” says PR professional Kristin Steppeling from the Hamburg agency Frau Wenk. Iris Heilmann, Managing Director of Palmer Hargreaves in Cologne, confirms this as well: Communication consulting for activities on LinkedIn was “one of our fastest growing services.”
The bottom line:
LinkedIn represents a new style of trade medium. Companies and decision-makers can place their messages there right in the industry without detours via traditional editorial offices. Nevertheless, this does not make your PR agencies superfluous. On the contrary, they are perfectly positioned to advise and support you in content production.