Is Your Employment Brand Being Created on the Social Web Without You?

Talk to any business leader or HR professional today about implementing a social media strategy to enhance their Employment Brand and recruiting efforts, and you’re likely to be met with a blank stare. Once they snap out of their trance of horror, the first question is often – “But what happens if someone says something bad?” Which makes me wonder…

If an Employee or Customer complains on the Internet – and no one from the Company is listening – doDigital they make a sound?

Ummm – you betcha.

In the book “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000: Running a Business in Today’s Consumer-Driven World” – author Pete Blackshaw points out that companies no longer control how consumers talk about their brands, so it’s important for business leaders and brand managers to build credibility and trust online with their web-savvy consumers. And while the message in Pete’s book is directed primarily at marketers and brand managers -Recruiters and HR Professionals can (and should) apply many of the same strategies toward creating a trusted and credible web presence for their Employment Brand by participating in digital conversations. Let’s face it – the internet is one of the first places where potential employees will be looking for information about your company. It’s also where current, former and future employees are hanging out and interacting with “Friends” asking questions, having conversations and sharing information.

So how to shake the fear and get involved? Follow the examples of some of the big kids on the block who’ve been at it for awhile and start with these steps:

–Develop a Social Media policy and communicate it to all employees. You know you want to do it. Creating policies and procedures is something most human resource professionals live for and here’s your chance to feed that need because in this case – it’s a good thing. (Example: IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines)

Monitor what’s being said about your Company/your Brand and respond appropriately to both positive and negative content. Build a reputation for being responsive/engaging and use the feedback you receive to correct problems or make necessary changes. (Example: ComcastCares on Twitter)

–Develop a strategy for addressing negative content – before it happens. Determine who the appropriate people are to respond and treat comments or questions on the web like a face-to-face adult conversation. Apologize if necessary. Correct inaccurate information with facts and data. Thank commenters for bringing up issues and communicate any changes that will be made as a result of their feedback. (Example: The United States Air Force, whose awesome Blog Response Flowchart could be used as a guideline for social media responses in general.)

–Have a real human on your team create content and respond to comments or questions – not your Attorney, PR person and often – not the HR Manager – since these people often have a tendency to speak in gobbledygook.  Remember the social web is about “conversations” and real humans typically don’t talk that way. (Example: Southwest Airlines – Nuts About Southwest incorporates a variety of company voices on their BlogSouthwest page.)

The truth is, as stewards of the Employment Brand, it’s past time to implement a social media involvement strategy and plan. Employees and potential employees are likely already engaged in (or lurking within) “conversations” – both good and bad – about our companies on blogs, social networks, video/photo sharing sites, online forums and message boards – but unfortunately, company leaders aren’t listening in or participating in the dialog. With no balance or credible response, we risk allowing these potentially negative conversations to become our “Employment Brand” when prospective employees turn to search engines to research companies of interest. Don’t be the one to let that happen on your watch.

FOT Background Check

Jennifer McClure is a Vice President at Centennial, Inc.,a Cincinnati-based recruitment and coaching firm, where she's charged with strategic recruiting efforts, executive coaching and business development for the firm. Send her an uncustomized LinkedIn invite at your own peril...


  1. Dmorris says:

    Excellent Article Jennifer! Fist full of talent is the premium blog for the latest info on what is happening in the different industries.
    I think corporate branding is very new especially for everyone but the “very savvy” but I see a trend and it is something everyone needs to address. I have been in sales for a LONG time and the saying used to be “if a customer likes you he will tell 1 person, if he does not like you he will tell 10 people” That is how old I am. Today, one bad posting can be seen by millions!!
    One of the other areas that I have not seen addressed is the personal sites of our employees. At my company, we do not let employees go onto social sites at work and we are just looking at the legal aspects of what is on an individual’s social site. Is this “free speech” or can you or should you get into trouble with the possibility of being fired if you have slanderous or defaming things on your social site? I would like to see more on the policies companies are coming up with and what the laws are that govern the individual. A friend of mine who is a manager at another company was on Facebook or some social website and they noticed a remark from an employee that was derogatory to the company and they were not happy about it at all. He actually wanted to fire the person and that opens up a whole other realm of conversation and probably law practice.
    Another new trend I see is someone looking at social websites as a way to “tell” about the person. Judging a person by their social website is a habit that many are getting into. For instance, another friend who is a manager got on Facebook and saw that an underage employee had a picture of her drinking beer with friends on her Facebook page and was very unhappy about it. Do we have the right to use these sites as “background checks”?
    Food for thought and I would love the staff to write about it.
    Thanks for the info

  2. Bonita Martin says:

    Loved the IBM Social Media policy. Thank you for sharing, Jennifer!

  3. Great piece, Jennifer! And thanks for the reference to the book. – Pete

  4. OsCarHR says:

    A great article and SM is where it will be if it is not there already. Not just in being reactive but by being proactive too. When making redundancies the chances are that you brand is going do be seriously damaged but correct use of outplacemant people can reverse that and ensure not only that people feel cared for but that they get real help through coaching. Higher motivation and loyalty are key right now for finding the real talent under your nose. What works for us is here:-

  5. Wally Greene says:

    Great article Jennifer, makes me think of the old adage – something like: “good press/bad press…as long as they spell your name correctly…”
    Companies should take a hard look at the kinds of suggestions you have made as the Social Media is a real branding opportunity!

  6. Daniel Hoang says:

    Nice post Jennifer. I also put up a well researched post on social media policies and procedures:
    Check out some of the resources I referenced.

  7. Ken Horst says:

    Great post Jennifer! You’re absolutely right, employment brands are being affected every day in the social networks and companies that aren’t already there with a strategy need to wake up fast!

  8. Mary says:

    It’s great that you mentioned having a strategy in place to address negative content. Domino’s is a company that recently had to learn this the hard way, when two employees released a YouTube video that could’ve done major damage to the brand. Domino’s, however, quickly decided to use this same vehicle to do damage control. We recently discussed the story on TheHiringSite: It might offer some additional insights into the impact (both positive and negative) social media can have on one’s employment brand – and how to use social media to one’s advantage.

  9. Erin M says:

    I read an article in the WSJ that brough to light some of the legal implications that are being formed with employers and social media recently. Have you heard about Houston’s firing their employees for talking bad about the company and customers on their password protected msypace account? This one’s going to be interesting.

  10. Thanks everyone for sharing your comments and feedback and adding to the “conversation”! Several commenters shared some good links to learn more, and here’s another good one from a recent post by Sharlyn Lauby on Mashable – 10 Must Haves for Your Social Media Policy –
    It’s important to think through your strategy ahead of time as to how you’ll be using social media. As Dmorris and Erin M mentioned, many companies are now using the social media actions of employees & potential employees to make decisions about them. It’s still a bit of a gray area, but I recently attended a meeting of corporate attorneys discussing these issues. The advice was to create a policy, communicate how you will be using the tools and what criteria you’ll consider – and of course be consistent.
    I’m sure as social media becomes more and more widely used, we’ll discover some “norms” in how to best use it to brand our companies, encourage positive participation by our employees and customers and how to effectively deal with the less than positive aspects. In short – it’s evolving, so don’t get left behind!

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