If you are looking to conduct business in a foreign country, your plan will need to cover finding talent, advertising your services, researching your market and developing partnerships, among other key strategic elements. Given that as of August 2014, the number of global social media users surpassed 2 billion, social media marketing can play a key role in turning these challenges into opportunities. And depending on your target market and needs, Viadeo, a professional networking website headquartered in Paris and launched in May of 2004, just might be your solution.

Using Viadeo for Business Purposes

© Shutterstock.com | Gil C

In this article, we will explore 1) the history of Viadeo, 2) the purpose of Viadeo, 3) the benefits of Viadeo, 4) setting up a Viadeo account, 5) using Viadeo for business purposes, 6) Viadeo key terms, 7) best practices for using Viadeo, 8) Competitors, and 9) a case study of Viadeo usage. This will help you determine if Viadeo is a fit for your business needs.

HISTORY OF VIADEO

Viadeo was founded by Dan Serfaty and Thierry Lunati, two then-recent college grads, as Viaduc. Serfaty, a serial entrepreneur, who had already run, founded, or co-founded three successful firms before 2004, and Lunati, took the membership base from a previously founded business – Aggregator, an online private equity community, and built Viadeo. Becoming profitable in 2006, through recruiting services, advertising, and premium memberships, Viadeo has grown by acquiring other social networking services. In 2007, it acquired Tianji.com, a professional social network based in China. In July 2008, it acquired ICTnet, a Spanish professional social network. In early 2009, it acquired an Indian social networking site known as ApnaCircle. And in 2009, Viadeo acquired a unyk.com, a Canadian contact management firm. In 2013, Viadeo acquired French startup Pealk to refine SMB targeting. This has allowed them to increase their user base in a number of international markets (making them to be second only to LinkedIn in terms of total membership in the professional social network site marketspace), and enhance the features they offer users. In July of 2014, the firm went public and currently enjoys significant membership in Russia, China, and France. Its Chinese site Tianji.com is number one most trafficked professional social network in China, and Viadeo itself is the market leader in France.

PURPOSE OF VIADEO

Viadeo was designed to provide individuals with contact management services, professional networking opportunities and job-seeking tools, and employers with engagement, networking, and engagement opportunities. Unlike LinkedIn, Viadeo’s membership is more heavily concentrated in middle managers than senior executives; Mr. Serfaty stated in a 2009 interview with The Economist that this yields more engagement as senior executives are less likely to engage with middle managers. The site also uses a glocal approach: by signing up large numbers of users in particular markets and catering to local tastes, Viadeo hopes to increase user engagement further than other networks. That seems to be paying off to some extent as roughly 10% of members pay for the service, compared to 15 of LinkedIn users.

As Mr. Serfaty said in a 2011 interview with Business Insider:

“We’re the number two professional social network worldwide, with 35 million members. What sets us apart is that we want to be the leader in a small number of local markets. So we’re most active in France, Italy, Spain and emerging countries. We are a multi-platform, multi-product, multi-features and mulit-brand company. We’re called Tianji in China, Apna Circle in India, Unyk in Brazil and Viadeo in Europe. That sets us apart from LinkedIn, which has a very global approach. When they go into a market, they play up the fact that they’re international and start with the top of the pyramid. We aim for the core of the market, the middle of the pyramid. So it’s a very different go-to-market strategy.”

BENEFITS OF VIADEO

For individual users, Viadeo offers profile pages, content-sharing tools, professional interest groups (known on Viadeo as communities), and professional recommendation solicitation and display capabilities. Viadeo’s benefits for businesses, particularly those with premium accounts, are numerous and include:

  • Targeted advertising opportunities in multiple local markets across the world: Viadeo has a robust advertising program and exposure to many markets, in addition to Russia, China, and France, including Canada, Madagascar, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Algeria, Belgium, Switzerland, Cote D’Ivoire, Morocco, and Brazil. Premium account holders have access to a wealth of information about Viadeo users in all of these markets.
  • Engagement opportunities with international users in linguistically and culturally appropriate ways: Viadeo allows users to create profiles in different languages depending on the market(s) in which they either live or are targeting. Further, Viadeo’s acquisition of existing local social networks has allowed it to provide culturally appropriate features. For example, many Indian employers pay attention to horoscopes when hiring. Viadeo’s Indian site has a widget allowing users to consult horoscopes. Another example can be found in the SMS feature Viadeo offers; Indian members commonly begin the recruitment process with phone interviews.
  • Substantial recruitment opportunities for brands and businesses across the world: a revenue driver, Viadeo’s recruitment platform can be of great use in finding talent across the globe.
  • Increasing their business opportunities: by providing networking opportunities, and increasing online visibility through profile features that allow brands to share expertise, product/service lines, and testimonials.

SETTING UP A VIADEO ACCOUNT

Joining Viadeo is a straightforward process. Visit www.viadeo.com and sign up by allowing Viadeo to access either your Twitter, Facebook or Google+ account, and populate your profile with information from whichever of those accounts you select. Or you can sign up with your email address, by filling out the fields to the left: First Name, Last Name, Email address and Password. You will be prompted to create a password and following sign up, have access to the site. It is important to note that signing up for a Viadeo account gives you access to apnaCircle, but not Tianji. You must sign up separately at www.tianji.com to access Viadeo’s Chinese members.

Setting up a business account takes a few more steps. Unlike LinkedIn, Viadeo’s Company Pages cost money and are set up by Viadeo staff. Their features include an overview, a careers page, a discussion forum, customization possibilities, followers, and a back-end dashboard. Company Pages are key to creating a branded presence on Viadeo, and should be regularly updated.

USING VIADEO FOR BUSINESS

As a professional social networking website, Viadeo offers considerable opportunities for business, including targeted marketing, advertising, and B2B marketing. It can also be used to enhance your visibility online, as well as for recruiting.

Recruiting

Recruiters can use easily Viadeo to identify and recruit talent. As with recruiters everywhere these days, the majority of European recruiters comb through social media to research potential candidates during their searches. The talent pool on Viadeo provides recruiters a perfect place to start.

Further Viadeo provides recruiters with a variety of premium tools to assist in their efforts through its platform Viadeo Recruiter. The Job Offers page allows recruiters to easily post jobs, target up to 50 users to contact, have a partitioned inbox for recruiting, and share recruiting tasks across team members. The Talent Search page offers project management tools and enhanced search features, allowing recruiters to have full access to the Viadeo database, and organize potential candidates through tags. Further, the Talent Bank allows recruiters to created targeted job ads; when candidates respond, they are automatically ranked according to the recruiters criteria to screen out those who do not fit the bill. Viadeo also mines its database to find candidates who meet the Targted job ad criteria automatically.

As ApnaCircle is integrated with Viadeo, you can target the Indian market from Viadeo’s job tools. Tianji offers similar functionality with a Tianji account.

Targeted marketing

Viadeo’s glocal approach affords its users the opportunity to target professionals and businesses in a number of different markets. Apnacircle and Tianji are prime examples, as is unyk, which had 50 million members, mostly from Canada, at the time of its acquisition. The site also captures considerable geodemographic information from its users, which it provides premium users of its recruitment and marketing services. And it is currently available in the following languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Chinese, allowing you to market to individuals, jobseekers or firms in their primary language.

Map viadeo

© Wikimedia commons | Vieuxloup (2010)

Extending reach and visibility through content marketing

Like many social networks, Viadeo offers content-sharing tools in the form of status updates, questions, blogs, and professional interest Groups. Actively sharing compelling and relevant content here will enhance your visibility on the site and help increase the number of users following your firm.

Advertising

Viadeo offers firms the opportunity to offer native advertising on its mobile apps and both native and digital advertising on its website. Native advertising offered by Viadeo includes sponsored articles and job offers, suggested companies to follow, companies, hiring, and suggested apps. Coupled with its database of geodemographic information and its ability to offer the ads in the language of the targeted consumer, Viadeo offers advertisers strong opportunities to target its more than 60 million members.

B2B marketing

Viadeo’s groups offer a great opportunity for a firm’s professionals to network around industry or other topics. Blogs on industry-related topics can help increase your standing in the industry and open your firm up to networking and marketing opportunities in the B2B space. Targeted advertising and premium search offer other opportunities for lead generation and conversion. And because of Viadeo’s glocal approach, firms in a narrow market space can effectively use a variety of niche marketing strategies on the site, depending on the product/brand.

VIADEO KEY TERMS

Key terms to understanding Viadeo are:

  • Groups: professional interest groups for Viadeo users that allow like-minded users to interact, share content and otherwise engage with each other;
  • Profile: a page where an individual user can upload content from their CV and other professional and personal details; and
  • Tags: keywords or phrases you can append to your contacts for organizational purposes.

BEST PRACTICES FOR USING VIADEO

In general, some of the best practices for using any professional networking site are recommended for Viadeo. If you maintain a presence on LinkedIn or any other professional social networking site, these should appear familiar:

  • Fill out your profile fully and keep it up-to-date. Inform existing and potential customers about what’s new at your firm. Humanize your brand by adding photo and video content. Increase your credibility by having key staff members publish whitepapers, blog posts, and comments on the platform.
  • Engage followers with questions and opportunities for online and offline activity, not just press releases. Go beyond canned responds and respond personally where feasible. Follow your customers and commenters back. This will help you grow your follower base, generate sales leads, and increase your visibility.
  • Target influencers and market leaders in your industry. Engaging these key figures can lead to increased visibility on Viadeo, and even partnership opportunities.
  • Ensure your messaging is clear and concise. You’re competing with other brands, big and small to engage with Viadeo’s users. It’s critical to make sure every word drives your target users to complete the tasks you prescribe, whether visiting your Viadeo company Page, your own corporate website, or applying for a job opportunity you have available. Avoid sharing too frequently, particularly in markets where the preference is to avoid mass marketing.
  • In some cases, increasing visibility is a sprint, but maintaining it is a marathon. Develop a plan, composed of content marketing, marketing campaigns, and other tactics to engage Viadeo users over the long-term.

However, there are some best practices to Viadeo, namely:

  • Fully assess your current and potential markets (ideally before you sign up for Viadeo). Monitor social media channels to see who is talking about you where, which, depending on the results, could radically approach your content and messaging strategy on Viadeo;
  • Customize your content to fit local markets. Viadeo’s user base is more diverse in scope than LinkedIn’s user base, as the majority of the latter’s users are U.S.-based. Keep in mind cultural relevant conventions when posting content, especially in Groups; and
  • Create Company Pages in different languages to attract diverse talent and showcase your firm’s diversity.

COMPETITORS

Viadeo’s two largest competitors are LinkedIn and Xing. Whereas LinkedIn is based in the US, (with a strong presence in the UK, India, Australia and New Zealand) and targets both senior executives, as well as middle managers, XING is based in Germany and has a strong profile in countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey and Italy. XING counts a user base of 13 million and operates in 17 different languages in over 200 countries. Its presence The features for all three networks are similar with layout, design, and geo-demography of users being the biggest differences between the three; further XING, like Viadeo, also has special features designed to appeal to its primary demographics.

Which should your firm choose? It depends on your targeted area and strategic business goals. While LinkedIn may be the biggest in terms of membership, its membership base (both individual and business) in countries like China is fairly poor in comparison to LinkedIn. XING also employs a glocal approach and has grown through acquiring locally-based social networks. If you are a business looking to recruit or do business in countries covered by multiple professional social networks, it may well benefit you to establish a presence on applicable sites. And even if you don’t plan on doing business in a country covered by Viadeo, a presence on the site could expose you to new opportunities you hadn’t thought possible.

CASE STUDY

Many firms have successfully used Viadeo to recruit top talent. Vulcain Ingenerie, an energy and and environmental engineering consultancy firm, considers it an essential part of their recruitment process, making over 200 hires a year aided by the website’s recruiting platform. In one talent search for a nuclear safety case manager, Vulcan’s recruiters reached out to 30 Viadeo members qualified for the position to gauge interest. After receiving six replies, resulting in two interviews, they were able to successfully fill the position. On average Vulcan’s recruiters reach out to 400 Viadeo members per year to fill positions; they also make use of a customized Company Page to enhance their profile on the site and share their openings with viadeo users.

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