On the morning of Friday April 26, 2013 the MBA class visited the offices of Viadeo in Paris, France. Viadeo is a professional social network, similar to LinkedIn, with a focus on France and the worldwide emerging markets. Our presentation was given by Telfer MBA alumnus and current CMO of Viadeo, Arnaud Devigne. The lessons learned during the presentation are elaborated on below.
An exciting piece of news from Viadeo was their $24 Million worth of funding they received last year in their most recent round of venture capital funding. This was one of the largest single rounds of funding for a French technology company, which is also based in France. The need for such funding really brings to the forefront the struggles that many internet companies that are not based in the San Francisco bay area have. The lack of funding puts constraints on a company like Viadeo to grow as rapidly as it otherwise could. However, the latest round of financing has given them some flexibility and allowed them to expand. Their expansion includes a planned moved to a much larger office that they can grow into in the near future, and the opening of a small R&D office in San Francisco to allow them to stay plugged in to the high tech scene. This organization is clearly committed to growth.
One key difference that was learned between individuals in France and North America was that the people of France traditionally did not work to keep up their professional network. This is exactly why Viadeo has been such a good fit for them. Viadeo strives to understand the local culture of their worldwide users by establishing many local offices in these markets. The success of this approach is evident when analyzing the comparative market share in emerging markets around the globe.
The pace of technology change and advancement is mind-boggling. What was new yesterday is old today. While we do not have any statistical evidence, based on the culture of Viadeo in Paris, it seems like the culture that exists within internet based companies is a key component to the development of technology. The culture of innovative internet companies is vastly different than those of historic industries such as manufacturing and engineering. At Viadeo, work teams collaborate in the games room and employees consistently spend time together outside of work. Top management strives to break down knowledge sharing barriers. It was interesting to discover that a novel hiring criteria is whether the hiring manager could spend a full weekend with the potential candidate. This hiring policy makes sense if you have to collaborate with someone for 8 hours a day 40 hours a week, as you would be much more motivated to work if you enjoyed both the environment and your coworkers. Ultimately, these work culture differences create an environment that stimulates creativity and innovation.
Arnaud also spoke about the importance of keeping a strong digital identity. He highlighted four key factors: connection, evidence, consistency and history. The one that seems the most important in our group’s point-of-view was the consistency factor. This means ensuring that what is said on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Viadeo or Google+ accounts are not drastically different. The reason this is so important is that a recruiter will usually run a Google search on your name and use whatever they find in determining if you are a suitable candidate or not during the hiring process. It was interesting to discover that individuals can now use an online tool called Yatedo to help manage their online identity and reputation.
Finally, in a company, it is important that everyone in the organization from top to bottom be involved with the social media presence of the organization. Social media is becoming more and more linked to the face of an organization and its image. Therefore, inappropriate tweets can bring huge backlash and negativity towards a company. This furthers the notion that executive level management should not leave this activity up to summer interns. Additionally, while it must be accurately measured, the potential return on social media investment is tremendous. Powerful tools like Google Analytics have made the process of these measurements much easier than ever before. These tools are actually much easier than the measurement of the effectiveness of even a traditional TV campaign. This is because online images and advertisements can be changed or even run in parallel in an A-B type testing environment. Return on investment measures are not the only thing internet companies are now doing. In addition to this, they are also measuring return on engagement. This can be done by initiating a Facebook campaign and then using their analytic tools to measure the responses or ensuring that the optimal taglines are used on websites. This is done in order to attract the right users and help generate both engagement and sales.
Viadeo is clearly an up and coming player in the online world. They are positioning themselves for tremendous growth in the near future. We have created our Viadeo accounts - have you?
By: Jesse Moon, Pouya Safi, Viet Tran