Impact of Social Media on Hiring

The words “reputation management” today mostly elicit a vision of marketers huddled over computer screens using software to monitor what consumers are saying about their brand. But there’s another aspect of a company’s reputation (not just online) that needs factoring in and one that social media monitoring tools aren’t really very good at. And that is a company’s reputation with it’s employees and prospective hires.

Many job candidates today do a lot of research on a company to which they might apply. There’s the key word “might”. In an interview, often one of the most common questions asked is “what do you know about our company?” You expect them to have gone through your website, maybe done some industry research. Today however, it is more than likely that they researched your reputation as an employer before they even applied. It doesn’t take much work either. A quick look on search engines, checking out LinkedIn, viewing your Twitter account. They can quickly gain some insights into your corporate brand. And small businesses are not immune to this approach either.

What Candidates Look For
We’ve done a fair bit of deep research for clients in this area and below is a graph that shows the most common things people talk about or look for when looking for work through online channels.

Hiring & social media

As can be seen, after wages, reputation of a company is most important. In our analysis, we defined reputation as consumer negative commentary in social media, former employee statements, negative news media and comments on blog posts about the company. We also found it interesting that a lot of people are looking for financial information on a company; perhaps to determine stability of a job? Possible candidates are also looking for ex-employees, to see if they say anything about a company. Comments and information about management team members is also of interest to candidates.

Why You Should Care
In two past research projects for US clients, we found that there were a number of online forums where people were posting negative comments about the employer and their company culture. One client is in the extractive resources sector and the other in the financial sector. Both were experiencing difficulty in attracting certain skill sets to their company. This wasn’t information a social media monitoring tool would pick up either; the chatter was on channels those software tools don’t monitor or can’t analyse. For these employers, such commentary was turning candidates away from even applying for a job.

So before you start wondering about a potential hire’s reputation and engagement in social media, perhaps take a look at your own company’s online reputation when it comes to your corporate culture.

Social media impacts businesses well beyond just marketing today. It can impact corporate governance, social responsibility, product development and more.

MediaBadger extracted data from seven prior research projects in aggregate and then established a metric of “weighting” the value of words. Sample size was 2,500 profiles. We note that at no time do we ever review private information, nor do we store any information that would identify an individual.

Introducing The Narrative Architecture

Over the past three years and hundreds of research and analysis reports we’ve completed for companies and governments, we’ve gained deep insight into how humans are using the social media, reacting to news media, engaging with brands…and how business and government is struggling to deal with the impact of the Internet and social media.

Forget Reputation Management
A number of companies, but still not very many, have given their PR or marketing teams social media monitoring tools, reputation management software and engagement solutions. The VP in charge has reported this to the C-Suite. Pats on backs all around, notice to shareholders that all is under control. Great. Problem solved. Yet they are still finding it a struggle. This is because by the time they are deploying reputation management tools, it is too late. Necessary and the right decision. But they may have less issues if they understood that they have lost the “narrative” entirely. This is why we’ve developed the Narrative Architecture.

What The Heck Does “The Narrative” Mean? Why Does It Matter?
It matters where it counts – in the bottom line. Hard cash. Profit and loss. What the “narrative” is today, is all the pieces of digital and traditional media that come together to reflect what people believe, not whether it is right or wrong, just what the perception is. News media stories, video snippets, tweets, blog posts – all come together to form the narrative. Once a narrative has formed the perception is set.

How The Narrative Forms
Everything we do as human beings starts as an idea. An idea comes from any number of inputs; a news story, a book, an email, a tweet a Google+ posting. A person or perhaps a group, then creates the mythology behind the idea – the components that make it come alive. This could be as simple as putting together a blog post that says Monsanto’s GM seeds cause cancer. This is not true of course, but perhaps a vague science report indicated a possibility. So a group makes a lot of content in such a way that it forms a mythology. They then publish their myth online. If enough people and that includes influencers with a large number of followers, picks it up and it starts to spread and new elements are added, it may then reach the mass news media. At that point, the myth forms into the narrative and the perception of the public is set. We will be publishing some findings to reflect how myths about Monsanto have become the narrative and now Monsanto is in a pickle trying to control the narrative. You cannot control the narrative.

The Mythology Phase is Key
If Monsanto and other companies, such as those in the Oil & Gas sector around fracking, understood how the narrative is formed and could engage as a myth forms, they might have a chance to shape the narrative. Instead, the PR world and many traditional practitioners are still in the world of dealing with the narrative. This costs businesses and governments far more than it has to.

The Narrative Architecture
The architecture of events, signals and actions that results in the narrative are as follows. We’ve built this architecture based on hundreds of case studies and our own research projects, tracing them back to their beginnings when the foundation of what the narrative was laid. These four phases are as follows;

Inception: When the idea is formed based on some kind of input. It may be one person or a group that is the inception of an idea.

Mythology: The idea is then expanded, others may contribute and collaborate. Content is created around the idea to form the mythology.  This could be a blog post(s), a tweet or two, some video and images.

Amplification: This is when the mythology starts to spread across social media and the Web as a whole. When key influencers start to share and add their own views and content two things happen that can be measured (which we measure at MediaBadger); 1) Adoption, which is the rate of adoption by influencers and 2) acceleration, which is how fast it is spreading. There are a few good social media monitoring tools that will pick up a weak signal at this point.

Narrative: At this point, it has either mass appeal across many social media channels and may also hit mainstream mass news media. This is when the larger population then forms their perceptions. The narrative has been formed.

Over the next few weeks we will be presenting some case studies that show how a narrative was formed and where companies could have jumped in to dispel myths before they became the narrative. Keep an eye on Twitter, Google+, here and Facebook for more.

Stealing Business Secrets Via Social Media

Your IT department is constantly dealing with securing the corporate network. Protecting your infrastructure from malware, viruses, phishing attacks and hacks. But there’s a slightly more ominous threat to corporate secrets, taken from the old school world of industrial espionage. This is about using good old fashioned human to human connections – only via social media channels. And it’s very likely your employees don’t have a clue. In the past year we’ve completed client work finding strong indicators corporate information is being leaked in this way. Here we hope to provide some insights, naturally we can share all our methodologies, nor can we share the clients we’ve worked with in this regard.

General Techniques for Espionage via Social Media
There are several key tactics that are used  by both foreign governments and competitor companies to gain access to corporate secrets.

Cut-Outs: This is where a government or corporation hires a third-party agent to conduct the work. It may be an existing supplier or representative agent.

Direct Handler: This is when a government or corporation uses one of their own directly to engage an employee and get what they’re looking for.

Compromised Employee: A disgruntled worker or one that has a vendetta on their mind. As they share their frustrations with the company via social media, a government or competitor can find them and begin the recruiting process. For the aggressor, these employees who have vengeance on their mind can be golden – and a lot cheaper as they may give information out of spite alone.

Digital Honey Trap: One of the oldest tactics, and still most effective. The target is engaged with a member of the same/opposite sex, depending on preferences, and the courtship begins…call it “virtual pillow talk” perhaps?

How They Go About It:
In most instances, aside from having a paid internal spy stealing your corporate secrets, the methods used are much the same as traditional espionage tactics. A handler or cut-out will attempt to befriend an employee through social media channels. One method is to find out a particular hobby of the target (golfing for example) then begin to foster the relationship with the target in a forum for golfers or Facebook group. All innocent enough. Over time, a relationship is built. You can see where it goes from there.

What Are They Stealing?
This can range from sales figures for market information, upcoming product launches, issues with products (to exploit in counter-marketing), information on board members that can be used for blackmail…and of course proprietary secrets about a product.

Foreign Governments & Corporations
Increasingly, countries such as China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Argentina…are all in this game. They are targeting Western businesses to help them improve their competitive position and to block Western countries by launching their own products to “own” their domestic market. There are global economic reasons as well. As we are so interconnected today, a competitor may learn where your components are manufactured in China or Taiwan and then attempt to cause supply interruptions or infiltrate the facility to damage production creating shipping delays.

The reasons and ways such intelligence is used are wide ranging. Developing nations understand how to leverage these new tools and exploit them. Companies in the developing nations who do not understand this are already losing market value. Western companies today have to compete against increasingly aggressive smaller market competitors. Corporations today should create awareness of such tactics to staff or in planning their risk assessments for corporate information security.

Coupons and Social Media: A Risk?

Couponing. It’s become rather popular again, although some evidence suggests it’s a waste of marketing dollars. Now with the common use of social media by consumers, there may be an added risk for retailers, especially when a campaign isn’t well thought out. We write this post for CPG companies as we’ve now done a couple of risk analysis projects for consumer product manufacturers in the U.S. that have lost revenues as a result of social media use in coupon promotion.

The Dangerous Viral Effect of Couponing in Social Media
In two cases, the client indicated they didn’t think social media was involved, yet we showed in all cases social media were key. What happens is that most print flyers also get uploaded either to an online flyer site or by the retailer. There are a large number of bloggers who hunt for coupons (we identified over 1,800 in the US and 400 in Canada alone) then assemble the information into a coherent focus on a product or brand. In the US (not in Canada) a consumer can combine coupons on a product so instead of just 20% off they can end up getting 80% or sometimes actually end up getting money back! The manufacturer makes up the difference on the coupons to the retailer. The retailer therefore doesn’t really care what happens; they aren’t taking the hit.

Consumers watch the flyer sites and active couponers are well connected with the various bloggers that bring them together. When a really good deal comes along, especially when they can combine coupon offers, it spreads quite quickly. We found that a combined offer will spread 35% faster than a single over 40% discount coupon when the deal exceeds 45% of the value of the product. The deal is shared across Twitter, Facebook, Blog Rings, Pinterest and a number of other social media services.

The Risks of Couponing Via Social Media
Some, like the Retail Doctor Bob Phipps, show why couponing isn’t a very effective marketing strategy to begin with. When combined with the impact of social media, especially on combination deals, the risks can have a major impact on a retailers bottom line. In addition, no loyalty to the product is built up.

Unintended Retailers & Liability Risks: What we are also starting to see is that people will go heavy on buying products where they get over 60% off. They then “resell” these products on eBay or other auction sites at 40% to 50% off the listed retail, the consumer thinks they’re getting a deal (because they didn’t coupon) and the couponer makes some good margin – and you as the retailer get nothing. Fraud? Could be. A couponer may also sell the products via Craigs List or at local fleamarkets. Yes, you might be reaching new markets, but no loyalty is built and with some products there could be liabilities.

Couponing today presents some serious risks to a business, from hurting brand loyalty to third party liabilities and to reducing the consumer value perception. Social Media usage makes these dangers compounded. Is couponing really worth it?

What Not To Expect From Social Media in 2013

There are, as usual, many a pundit pontificating on the great things to come in the social media landscape of 2013. So we decided to be a bit more realistic…we are after all, analysts and researchers. We like to poke holes in things. So. Will 2013 be an incredibly exciting, exhilarating and over the top explosion of all things social media? Sorry, but not so much. But it won’t entirely be boring either.

What Not to Expect From Social Media in 2013 | Apps to Services

Really Cool New Apps & Services: Perhaps the last biggest exciting app for social media that came out in 2012 was LeadSift, which looks very promising as that final answer on how business can monetize social media. Other than that, right now, things are looking rather bleak for 2013. The penultimate of social bookmarking is Pinterest, not much more to add to that really is there?

Exciting New Gadgets to Connect With? No: Perhaps, hopefully, just maybe, RIM’s new Blackberry10 OS with its Hub and Balance apps will make for some very useful ways for mobile connectivity to social hubs. Actually, RIM seems to be the only exciting gadget with integrated apps out there. Some anticipate Apple will release a TV, but TV sets that integrate social media and content are not new. Samsung, Sony and Panasonic have all been there, done that and are still losing money. Besides, they’re just connector devices with nothing really compelling behind them. CES is coming up in January but none of our team are drooling in anticipation; a mention around the office tends to generate a “meh” kind of shrug. It will be the “Year of Features” added to existing gadgets, but nothing much more. An iPhone5S? Yawn says the market.

The Next Facebook: Sorry, but Google+, while it is awesome in our view, is not going to replace Facebook. Neither is any other variant out there. It will take something quite powerful for people to give up their network connections/personal address book. We just haven’t seen anything innovative enough and no matter how pissed people get at Facebook, they aren’t leaving in droves, despite the latest furor.

So What Won’t Be Boring in 2013?

People: What we can expect is interesting and sometimes exciting ways in which people use the technologies. From political and civil actions through to silly memes and consumerism. That’s what will be interesting. We expect to see some interesting new uses and content come out of Africa, India, the Middle East and other developing nations. In the Global North, look for people to start getting a bit more serious with civil society issues as well.

Analytics: This may be the year things get interesting, but we aren’t holding our breath…other than what we’ve go in store to release this year. Enough said.

Governments Will Get Interesting
If you thought all the SOPA action was fun and the proposed bills in Canada and the UK parliament got people riled up, it’s going to get a little nuttier  this year. Issues around content paywalls, broadband fees and metering, privacy laws, patents and freedom of speech will bubble and spark all year.

While it may not be an exciting year for awesome new gadgets to lose our cool over and give the tech journalists vast amounts of speculative fodder to get paid for…it should be an interesting year in how we start really using these tools. We anticipate a number of dribbling hangers-on type services will likely fade away as Series A funding starts to dry up or demand more commercialisation. Remember, its how people engage in social media that really makes it interesting…how the adopt and adapt the various tools, sometimes in ways never anticipated, such as Twitter. Speaking of Twitter, the other thing we can expect to see is the top tier players like Twitter, Google, Facebook and Pinterest etc., start to consolidate their online territory through acquisitions and lawsuits. Tech lawyers will be very happy this year.

So 2013 is not the year of “tech and apps” but the year of people and laws, civil society and entrenchment.