Online Brand Management: How to Protect your Company’s Online Identity
By: David Thompson and Michael Fertik
Whether you’re a mom-and-pop business looking for seasonal help or a large retailer, your online brand management is more important than ever, particularly as you recruit candidates.
The best and most savvy candidates for any position now spend time researching online before sending a resume, scheduling an interview or accepting an offer. They often look for reviews from current employees, search for information about the employer’s culture and values and research competitive salary information. Even if a candidate doesn’t go online, they are likely to hear echoes of online content from their friends and the media.
At the same time, many of your current employees are probably searching online for news and gossip about the company. What they find can shape watercooler talk and either boost or sap your office morale.
How False Information Can Spread Online
The online culture of anonymity has changed how businesses’ reputations are made and broken. Sites like GlassDoor, JobBite, and JobVent allow anyone to leave an anonymous review of any company in the world, often with little or no effective validation that the author is even a real employee.
These sites allow reviews of everything from law firms to retail to restaurants. Other sites like Vault create lists of the “best” and “worst” companies to work for, while countless other web forums feature debates about the best and worst local and regional employers. These sites are designed to rank highly in a Google search for the name of your company and often appear in the first few positions for searches that include your company name and terms like “reviews,” “careers,” or “employees.”
Just one false, misleading, incomplete, or outdated review can impact how potential employees see your company. Additionally, web searchers often look at the first three search results that appear in Google and may form their initial impressions about your company based entirely on those results.
What’s worse, false information in these sites can create an “echo chamber” effect: tidbits of false information that appear high in your search results are often copied from one site to another until they are taken as truth. Once you get a reputation as a bad employer, it is often self-sustaining.
Taking Control of your Company’s Online Reputation
It is possible to take back control of your company’s online brand management and your hiring process. The first step is finding what is out there about your company. Run a Google search for your own company’s name, plus common search phrases like “reviews,” “careers,” “salary,” and “employees.” Repeat the search in other search engines like Bing.
Next, check the major employer review sites mentioned above for reviews of your company; if you find inappropriate content, you can sometimes ask for it to be removed as a violation of the site’s Terms of Service.
Finally, search on your own personal name, as well as the name of senior management and hiring personnel. Many candidates will use Google to research the people they will be interviewing with, as well as senior management. Other candidates will also check Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Run a search for the name of each person who is listed as management or might be interviewing candidates and note what you find.
No matter what you discover (and especially if you find false, misleading, outdated, or negative information), you need to take control of your search results. One of the easiest first steps is to simply encourage happy employees to post truthful reviews on job review sites. Most employers find that a simple reminder is enough to get many content employees to share their experiences; anything further (such as a monetary reward) creates complex issues surrounding disclosure and reliability. Stick with the basics.
Next, build your company’s online presence. If you have not already done so, building a social media presence through sites like Facebook and Twitter can help provide positive search results to allow you to spread your side of the story and block falsehoods from entering the top 10 Google results.
Michael Fertik is the founder and CEO of ReputationDefender, the world's first comprehensive online reputation management and privacy company with customers in over 50 countries. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Michael serves on the advisory board of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition.
David Thompson is general counsel and Chief Privacy Officer of ReputationDefender. He is a graduate of Yale University and Stanford Law School. His expertise ranges from founding his first Internet business in 1997 to advising seed-stage startups to a clerkship at the Supreme Court of the United States.
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