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

Jennifer McClure Culture, Jennifer McClure, Social Media

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.