Educating companies in the Small & Medium-Sized and Very Small Business (SMB/VSB) brackets in the digital culture can help to boost business growth. This conviction is behind the recent move by CCI France (France’s federation of regional Chambers of Commerce) and Viadeo, the country’s leading professional social network, to go into partnership together.

PSNs Helping to Boost SMB/VSB Growth

Fully 83% of all entrepreneurs swear by professional social networks (PSNs) to help them profile their business, according to a survey carried out by Viadeo among 457 entrepreneurs and small business owners from among its subscribers. In fact PSNs are the medium of choice to increase online visibility for the majority of these smaller businesses. “An entrepreneur has to gather customer references, needs to open doors, and requires a platform to speak out on behalf of his/her company,” points out Olivier Fécherolle, Chief Strategy & Development Officer at Viadeo. The bilateral agreement between CCI France and Viadeo will therefore concentrate primarily on these three areas. The scheme developed by the partnership will place the emphasis on getting closer to firms and encouraging them to step up their use of digital channels.

Spreading the digital gospel among smaller firms

The initiative calls for CCI to boost its own presence on the network. Viadeo has given each of France’s 154 local Chambers of Commerce a Company Page to help raise their online profile and has also set up 27 regional discussion groups whose aim is to spread the word about the initiatives undertaken by the Chambers of Commerce. Moreover, in order to raise awareness among those firms which are still not on a social network, or at least not on a PSN, Viadeo, via CCI representatives, is also offering business owners three months of Premium membership free of charge. Under the scheme, whose details are still being finalised, the two partners are planning to run training sessions and workshops throughout France. “The network is not confined to Paris. Our strength is in the regions, where 65% of our members are based,” stresses Olivier Fécherolle.

Higher profile jobs board

The second main aspect of the partnership is about employment. In a difficult economic environment, it is clearly a wasted opportunity whenever a company is unable to fill a vacant post. Viadeo/CCI are therefore planning to raise the profile of job vacancies at small companies, with the more general aim of boosting the overall appeal of working for a smaller business. “The recruitment process at an SMB is very often the opposite of what happens with large corporations,” says Fécherolle, explaining:  “When the boss of a small firm comes across a person s/he believes can meet the firm’s latent needs, it is only then that s/he thinks about creating a job position, not the other way round.”

By Pierre-Marie Mateo