Employment branding and social media: Influence or control?

by 06 Dec 2012

Is your organisation brand influenced or brand controlled in the social media age? Mike Larsen outlines the differences.

The seemingly unstoppable growth of social media and micro-blogging sites has created a new set of challenges and opportunities for marketers in all industries. For HR professionals, however, the greatest impact is in the way their organisation is perceived as a workplace, also known as their employment brand.

Communications about employment brands were once a one-way conversation with employers sharing ‘what it’s like to work here’ with current and prospective employees. Before social media, no platform existed for a meaningful exchange about whether that position was actually aligned with the reality.

In 2012, however, the channels for this communication can split into two categories.

Brand controlled

With over one billion people now using Facebook alone, opportunities to share opinions about specific employers are virtually endless. The majority of large organisations have fully embraced Facebook as a means to engage with their audience and examples of effective use include:


  • Boeing Careers has over 89,000 ‘likes’ and posts regular information about company developments and opportunities.
  • Unilever Careers boasts over 106,000 ‘likes’ and successfully leverages the high profile of an impressive array of global brands.
  • Microsoft Careers has 78,000 likes and links to both a job search page and a YouTube channel.


Each of these cases demonstrates a real commitment to audience engagement and is on a platform where the employment brand can be effectively controlled, with the moderator able to delete comments deemed inappropriate.

Brand influenced

A much newer channel is websites that share workplace reviews provided anonymously by current or former employees.

Unlike Facebook, this medium does not allow employers to delete comments made about their organisation, but instead encourages a response. The approach is therefore to influence rather than control the conversation.

San Francisco’s Glassdoor pioneered this format in 2008 and since that time the US has seen a steady stream of fast followers (in full disclosure, I have a similar site in Australia). Welcomed by active and passive job seekers, this approach provides a ‘look inside’ via reviews that are uncensored by the employer and potentially provide more authentic information than available elsewhere.

So what are the pros and cons of this type of website for employers? 


  • Credibility. Engaging with an audience where they can be truly honest demonstrates a commitment to transparency and a willingness to listen. In reality these opinions are being shared elsewhere and the ability to respond provides a great opportunity for employers.
  • Candor. Reviews made in this format will tend to be more candid about your workplace and provide a sound reality check as to whether your employment value proposition is being delivered.
  • Cost to hire. Many websites in this space allow free basic job postings with the option to pay for greater job visibility, so overall cost should be significantly lower.



  • Bad reviews have the potential to undermine employment-branding efforts, however content is generally moderated and offensive or spurious comments should be removed promptly.
  • Resources. Additional resources may be required to monitor and influence discussions on these sites, however many online reputation management applications exist that allow this to occur with ease.


From a candidate perspective, job search engines with workplace reviews provide an information rich experience and are a natural extension to well-known sites like Tripadvisor and Eatability, albeit with more at stake than a below par dinner!

For practitioners, opportunities abound to enjoy a greater level of transparency and engagement with stakeholders, while credibly influencing your employment brand and reducing sourcing costs.


About the author 

Mike Larsen is CEO of InsideTrak