2howSocial media has a huge impact on branding as it encourages the user to share stories and details with others. But, be aware that social media communication messages need to be completely different from advertising to encourage the consumer to share.

For example, no one talks about how great a particular bank product is, because such products are all very similar. However, poor customer service by a bank will be shared via media channels with millions of people in seconds. The consumer may be reading negative social media at the same time while watching a slick TV commercial for the same brand.

More and more companies recognize the importance of social media for their corporate identity, but are afraid of handling it, due to its speed and uncertainty. But even if the company isn’t using social media actively, it gets represented there by the postings of employees and customers as a topic of conversation. A successful project, a fun company outing, nice talks with the new colleague, but also trouble with the department head, frustration to have been passed over for promotion, lack of appreciation of the boss etc., are all topics that have always been popular and frequently talked about.

Since people spend much of their lives at work, their work environment and work tasks, colleagues and superiors, are constantly providing new material for discussions and the exchange of opinions and views. From time immemorial, it is common to talk about events and well-being at work, but so far, only rarely such talks reached the boss or even the public.

The employer image in social media

However, in times of social media, the urge to communicate reached new dimensions: Experiences are discussed not only with friends and family, but distributed publicly via Facebook, Weibo and Twitter. Positive as well as negative experiences in the workplace are now eagerly reported, inevitably bringing each and every company into the public conversation sooner or later.

The very reverse, staying out of social media and letting things take their course, is certainly not very productive either, as the reputation of the company among customers, business partners, lenders, applicants and other stakeholders is at stake. Through the public expression of opinion as posts, comments or tweeds of employees, most companies are already part of content in social media - whether they want to or not.

Take employee feedback seriously

The need of employees to communicate anonymously and publicly on their employers is immense. Companies that were evaluated positively can appreciate the honest feedback of their staff and use the positive feedback for further action by the employer branding. Positive feedback of your own employees is in fact balm for the corporate image.

Survey results show that people generally attribute a very high objectivity to views expressed on the Internet. That’s why companies that have to deal with criticism should understand this as an opportunity to respond precisely to approaches to improvements. Even measures of minimal efforts, such the holding of regular meetings or setting up a canteen, can often quickly help to improve the image as an employer.

Authenticity is obligatory in social media

With an active participation in social media, an authentic presentation as an employer and the continuous drive for an open dialogue, companies can gain the trust of existing as well as potential employees. In this way, possible defamation campaigns by competitors are at least in opposition to a realistic picture of the firm. Since the valuations in social media are often done anonymously, the risk of abuse, however, can’t be absolutely prevented.

A positive employer image requires a "clean slate", besides having stay vigilant as superficial alibi measures quickly get exposed. Prior to Web 2.0, companies presented themselves exclusively by high-gloss folders or impressive stands at trade fairs. However, today a company's reputation and image is affected significantly by employees’ subjective and authentic feedback.

Managing the employer image

Any weaknesses inevitably come to the surface and are distributed through the channels of social media at a rapid speed. It is therefore imperative to solve internal problems, to take the well-being of employees seriously, and to actually implement appropriate action.

Satisfied employees, that remain loyal to the company, are motivated to excel and speak positively about the person who signs the paycheck - and that’s in the end the reward for these efforts. If they comment a positive image in the social media about your company, this is read by candidates that are interested in working in your company as well. That way an upward spiral for the employer image and reputation of the company gains momentum, because positive news spread through all these channels of the Internet.

Be original and not a copy

Being authentic and a pioneer are crucial competitive advantages. The same that applies for music or art is valid in the world of brands, too: Even if an Elvis impersonator may objectively have a better voice than the idol himself, the mimic will never reach the status of Elvis Presley, same as Coca Cola will always outrun any other soda maker. How valuable such an original position in the minds of customers is, doesn’t really have to be explained, as all other market participants simply get automatically branded as copies.

How effective an original position can be is most impressively demonstrated by Ricola with their slogan "Who invented it?" Introduced about 15 years ago, almost everybody knows today the answer, namely Ricola. That way, the company created in a clever, witty and even charming way an original position in the minds of customers. In 1998 launched by the Hamburg-based advertising agency Jung von Matt, the campaign and slogan "Who invented it?" reached cult status that created Ricola its true original position.

Since the biggest challenge for most brand owners is the speed of information distributed online, the consumption of messaging on multiple platforms simultaneously and the growth in e-commerce and m-commerce via multiple devices, I believe that brand owners of the future need to have most importantly real honesty and complete integrity. Ethical sourcing, sustainability, product truths, personal service, grace and politeness are distinguishing factors required by consumers. It’s simply like that.

By Daniela La Marca