Chinese Internet giant Sina is hoping to expand its microblogging service, called Weibo, through a new business orientated social network that resembles LinkedIn.

The new direction for Weibo, spotted by Tech In Asia, is in beta at the moment and can only be accessed via an email invite.

It’s called ‘Wei Renmai’ – which roughly translates to ‘Weibo Connections’ – and looks at first glance like a slightly different spin on the company’s original product. It still offers many of the microblogging service’s hallmark features, such as the ability to follow other users, add them to circles and republish other status updates. However, it also has a new search engine located at the top of the page, which can be used for business orientated tasks such as searching for ‘people’, ‘companies’ or ‘opportunities’.

The following screenshot taken by Tech2IPO shows what a profile page on Wei Renmai looks like:

sina weibo crop 520x495 Sina Weibo challenges LinkedIn with its own business focused social network

One interesting feature is a map that shows two Weibo friends what business contacts they share, as well as how they are connected to one another. The concept sounds remarkably similar to the connections concept on LinkedIn, which often shows how you might know someone through other acquaintances.

The launch of Wei Renmai puts Sina in direct competition with LinkedIn, who is already looking at creating a local site aimed at Chinese companies and professionals. LinkedIn is currently fending off Vidaeo, which hit 45 million registered users earlier this year, as well as other professional networks operating in China, such as Tianji and Ushi.

Earlier this month, Sina passed 400 million registered accounts on its Weibo network. While that may sound like a lot, the company has admitted that it is under mounting pressure from its rivals such as WeChat, a messaging app created by Tencent. As a result, the amount of time that users are spending on Weibo is currently in decline.

Sina is now looking at how it can monetize Weibo. The company is already exploring a promoted feed feature that will allow small and medium-sized businesses, as well as regular users, to pay for in-feed advertisements. Perhaps Wei Renmai, if it attracts enough Weibo users, will be the firm’s next big source of revenue.

Image Credit: ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/AFP/Getty Images