Social Media and Viral Marketing Strategies : When the Much Anticipated Party Turns Into a Fiasco

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social networks marketing, virality and Internet recruitment, social media and human resources

When we take a look at the "social media meets HR" market, we find a lot of almost miraculous-sounding "ready-to-use" and "can't fail" solutions. Yet, most of the time, their implementation turns into a nightmare and results are far from meeting expectations. But why does it have to be that way?

Author: Bernard Morel, CEO of The BeMore Group

Embracing social networks is basically like opening wide the front door of your company and inviting everyone to come in - including people you'd rather have left outside. You must be prepared to discuss (and not just push some marketing blurb!) with them. It can be compared to organizing a party in your home. In order to make it successful, you will need:

  • A way to let people know that there is a party at your home (marketing)
  • People to greet and chat with your guests (community managers or employees assigned to this task)
  • Drinks and food to satisfy their needs (client and/or candidates acquisition budgets)
  • Pleasant or useful things to do in order to keep them entertained (exclusive and social-network friendly content)
  • A clear idea of what will happen at your future parties to make them come back (loyalty building strategies)
  • Good reasons for them to talk about your party and bring their friends next time they come (viral marketing strategy and sponsorship)
  • A sound method for measuring your guests' satisfaction in order to tune in your next party according to their wishes (monitoring and analysis tools)

All the existing strategies, methods and tools available on the market claim to provide you with at least one of these components. Yet, they cannot bring you the essential. Experience indeed teaches us that when a company has to make an action involving a strong technological component and communication or collaboration, success is less tied to the chosen strategy or tools than to a clear definition of the searched goals. But, alas, gold-fever being what it is (see "Social Media Recruiting: a New Gold Rush?"), the pursuit of utopic dreams tends to replace the setting of pragmatic goals. And given the intricate and delicate nature of social media mechanics, this lack of realism often leads to severe disappointments.

In order to set yourself sustainable goals in the social networks area, you obviously need to take into account your business objectives and areas of activity and define your target audience and budget (to which you may add any other quantifiable and predictable parameters that you deem relevant). However, this is not enough. Indeed, the key - and often overlooked - ​element to designing a successful social media marketing strategy is related to the setting of internal transformation goals that should be related to the company's organizational culture.


But let's go back to our party. Let us assume you have gathered all the above mentioned elements and have set your goals in terms of audience outreach: you are expecting three-hundred guests, two-thirds of which shall come back next week, each one with two new friends. That's an attractive-looking exponential traffic growth projection. Indeed, the more people are going to come to your party, the larger the pool of candidates will be, thus making it easier to find good matches for vacant positions.

Everything is made ready and you get the whole process started. With the help of an advertising campaign ("quite expensive", the agency and marketing guys warned you, "but definitely profitable on the longer run"), three-hundred people do come to your first party. The following week, you run a downsized campaign ("hey, that's where the virality effect is supposed to kick in!"), yet little more than a hundred people show up, only a few of whom were already present at the first party. The third week, it's even worse; you realize that unless you agree to a substantial marketing budget, no new guests will come (and anyway, you know they won't be back next time). Your costs have become unsustainable and the advertising bubble bursts. This is exactly what happens to a large majority of HR consulting companies' Facebook , LinkedIn, Viadeo or Twitter pages; after a short initial burst of hope, they are simply deserted. Just go and check how many followers and how much traffic, fresh content and fans the top 10 Swiss HR companies generate, and you'll get a shock. The root cause, however, is not to be found in the outside world: it lies in the mismatch between the goals that have been set and the organizational culture.


But let's go back to our initial "must-have" list in order to understand what has gone wrong:

  • Marketing: It has been assigned to the same managers and agencies that produces your brochures and websites for ages. They often don't have a deep-rooted social media culture or experience. And no, having a personal Facebook page and a Twitter account is not enough to qualify as a social media-friendly culture, just like being able to drive a car doesn't qualify you as a car manufacturer.
  • Community management: Unless you decide to hire qualified community managers (a rare and expensive resource), some employees will have to be assigned to this task. With a little luck they may receive some kind of training, but in general, no substantial amount of their working time is officially allocated to this task.
  • Budgets: The client/candidates acquisition budgets are often unrealistic and/or represent one-shot operations. However, the development of a Human Resources-related activity on social media is more like a marathon than a sprint.
  • Contents: These are expensive to produce, so companies tend to recycle items that have already been used (links to specific website pages, announcements, pictures) thus resulting in a lack of interest among visitors.
  • Vision: No recruitment process is implemented because no loyalty program has specifically been designed for the social media audience.
  • Virality: A bad or mediocre visitor experience implies that no viral marketing or sponsorship strategy can work out.
  • Success monitoring: Non-returning visitors and low frequentation make all monitoring tools perfectly useless.

As we can see, the aim of the company's presence on the social media should first of all be clarified internally. Any HR consulting company may initiate this change by achieving a social media-compatible organizational communication and culture, a necessary step before hoping to reap the - very tangible and potentially significant - benefits of social media marketing. Opening a Twitter account or a Facebook page and assigning the marketing trainee to manage it is clearly not a good enough way to proceed. We will see how to do this in a more relevant way in the next article.

Further readings:

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