By: Emily Bennington
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of or experienced a good social media cautionary tale. You know, the one where Potential Employer A searches for Candidate B online, only to be confronted with an image of him mooning a crowd during Spring Break or holding an arsenal of weapons? (Both of these are true by the way.)
There are a million stories and articles out there about how companies are using social media to screen candidates, and as the business owner or hiring manager, you may feel like you have all of the control, right?
Not so fast.
Naturally, candidates can use the same tools to screen you and, just like you, if they don’t like what they see, they move on. Any guesses on where they begin their research?
That’s right. So if you don’t have a Google alert set for both your name and your company’s name, stop right now and sign up. Google alerts are free. But when it comes to keeping you informed about what others are saying on the web, they are priceless. Even if you have an alert set, though, it’s still a best practice to Google yourself and your business every few weeks to see what’s ranking high in the results. Since prospects are obviously searching for you on Google, you want to be hyper-aware of what they’re finding.
While Facebook can certainly be considered the most social of all social media sites, your business should still be here as well. If you’re not convinced Facebook is the place for social media recruiting, consider the most basic rule of marketing, i.e., go where your customers are. Certainly when it comes to college students, you will find them on Facebook. The question is: Will they find you? To get started, simply set up a page for your company and post industry updates, events, photos and so on, and do so a minimum of every 2-3 days. Once you have a pretty lively page going, it’s worth testing a few ads on Facebook that specifically target the demographic you’re trying to reach. Assuming you have a compelling message and photo, Facebook ads can really drive traffic to your page and make it easier for potential hires to find you.
For businesses, Twitter represents a huge opportunity to directly engage with your audience. However, many companies are too scared to fully utilize the site for fear that someone may post something negative about their experience. Meanwhile, users are posting anyway and, if you’re not part of the conversation, you miss a key chance to respond. So, if your business is not on Twitter, sign up and jump in. Use the site to communicate with your clients, find out about HR best practices, offer deals to your followers, launch exclusive promotions, be a resource to your industry, or -- ideally -- all of the above. Your next great hire may be watching so understand that it’s okay to be a Twit, just this once. Really.
The first rule of thumb with LinkedIn is to actually have a presence on the site. If you don’t know where to start, see what your competitors are doing…then top it.
Blogging is a great way to give your company a voice in the marketplace today. In fact, with the right content and design, it could become the linchpin of your marketing strategy. That’s because we all want to pull back the curtain on our favorite companies and a blog is the perfect format for this. So develop and embrace a company blog and use it as a way to distinguish yourself from the competition. For examples of how businesses have successfully leveraged their blogs, check out Michael Hyatt as well as Zappos.
As you can see, it’s smart to turn the tables and take a hard look at your own web presence once in a while, particularly from the standpoint of a valuable potential hire. But remember: Do not be afraid. NO, you won’t have 100% control of the message and that’s okay. The benefits of putting your company “out there” and having a positive, online message far outweigh the negatives. In other words, Pandora is out of the box and she’s not looking back. Neither should you.
Emily Bennington is the co-author of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job (Ten Speed Press, 2010.) She is a contributor to The Huffington Post and a frequent speaker to college students and organizations on the topic of career success. Emily also teaches a graduate-level course on social media and hosts Professional Studio 365, a popular career blog which helps new professionals successfully navigate their first year in the workforce. She can be reached via email at ebennington (@) msn.com or on Twitter @EmilyBennington.