Leveraging the 'Testimonial Economy'

March 23, 2017

Leveraging the 'Testimonial Economy'

In the Industrial Age, people were swayed by traditional advertising, clever campaigns and discounted pricing. In the Social Age, people have learned not to listen to marketing or selling. Even for the best employer brands, they’ve become less prone to switching allegiances based on claims of “a great company culture” and “dynamic work environments.”

Why? Because we’ve all grown tired of quick-win hype and short-term discounts. We’ve learned what a company (and often, even a person) says about themselves carries very little weight. Talk about yourself too often, and you’re labeled a self-promoter and spammer—and that all-important trust is lost.

So how do we build trust in the Social Age? How do we earn the interest of the best available talent? We leverage the “Testimonial Economy.”

Today, our best prospects count on objective online reviews and comments. And it isn’t just on Yelp, Glassdoor, and Google Review. They look for comments, positive and negative, on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. In some industries, Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat, and other platforms play a role.

What prospects find becomes their version of the truth—and the foundation of trust. Even one great recommendation can fill your talent funnel. Many enthusiastic comments can override even the best talent acquisition plan from your competition.

Here’s how your employer brand can earn the most positive reviews, develop the best online reputation and ultimately win the war for talent:

Encourage Existing Employees to Share

There is no better champion for your employer brand than your existing employees. Their views can light up review sites like Glassdoor and start a flurry of positive comments on social media. So some of the best employer brands—Google, Zappos, and Limeade included—have learned to encourage their employees to share their passion online. When done sincerely and in a mutually-beneficial manner, those reviews become gold to active job seekers building their list of dream companies, and to passive job seekers you may be pursuing about a new opportunity.

Actively Listen to Online Chatter

Make it a part of your hiring team’s daily—even hourly, depending on volume—duties to actively listen to social media and monitor the review sites for comments about your employer brand. Just as important, do the same for your primary competition. What do employees like about working for you versus the competition? What don’t they like? How is sentiment running, and how does it impact your online reputation as an employer?

As many organizations have learned, social listening is key to collecting real-time data about the current state of your employer brand. And that data? That is key to creating a compelling employer brand.

Track Your Champions (And Your Competition’s)

In a CRM, intentionally track everyone—employees, candidates, influencers, and stakeholders—who talks about your brand and those who compete against you. Note both the positive comments and the negative reviews.

Then, diligently engage with each engagement on the platform they chose to talk about you. To show them you care about their positive reviews, sincerely and openly thank them. To demonstrate you’re willing to listen—and do whatever it takes to make things right—reach out after a negative comment. Not privately, and not through back channels, but publicly so all those who read your response see you are being accountable and forthright in your response.

Taking responsibility for a negative review can have even more positive impact on your employer brand than a positive review. You may never turn around the person who left the less-than-positive comments online. But your sincerity and candor will offset the negative review. You will show others you made every attempt to set things straight.

Once you see the scales tip—your brand is now getting far better reviews and begins to benefit from positive digital word-of-mouth—leverage your online reputation. Make that your calling card! You’ll no longer need to talk about the benefits of working for your organization; your employees, champions, and industry influencers will do that for you.

In the Testimonial Economy, that is how an enviable online reputation as employer brand is earned. That is how the war for talent is won.

The Authors: 

Mark Babbitt is CEO and founder of YouTern, a social resource for young professionals that Mashable calls a "Top 5 Online Community for Starting Your Career." Babbitt is also president of the leadership community Switch and Shift and serves transitioning military veterans as cofounder of ForwardHeroes.org.

A prolific blogger, Mark’s work can be seen in Huffington Post, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and many other media outlets. An in-demand speaker, he was named one of Inc. magazine's Top 100 Leadership Speakers. Babbitt is coauthor of the best-seller A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive