There are two types of job seekers in the online world: those that are keenly aware that their social-media presence factors heavily into employers’ hiring choices, and those who are about to become aware of this fact. In recent years, however, the shoe has grown to fit the other foot as well. Candidates may be using social media to get the skinny on potential employers too. But is the cow already out of the barn, or are there things that a company can do to prevent or to repair a tarnished reputation via social media?

Although social media can preserve a professional faux pas well past its expiration date, it can also preserve your positive image and facilitate damage control. Here are three things that should be a part of you and your company’s social-media protocol, especially if you’re already concerned that it may be too late. The key is to be proactive and take the initiative sooner rather than later.

  1. Respond quickly to negative attention.

When bad social-media comments come to your attention, you have to answer them in some way. The future success of your company depends at least in part on how you react to negative feedback online. Social media moves rapidly. You can establish a rapport with your audience and tell your own side of the hiring story if you get out front and say something clearly and quickly.

  • Respond to the comments where they are posted, and not only in an editorial on your company blog. By meeting the complainant on level ground, you will be seen as genuine. Your response will also be seen in the context of the original comment.
  • Don’t pass the buck or dismiss concerns. This will make you appear disingenuous. Instead, acknowledge mistakes and explain how your procedures have changed to fix the problem in the future.
  • Viewers are looking for two things: how do you handle criticism, and whether you are willing to solve problems that affect employees negatively. Workers want to know that if there are issues, you will handle them with professionalism.
  1. Be true to your word.

Follow through on your promises in a timely manner. When addressing negative comments, don’t be vague. Let the person know what’s being done and when. Don’t add doublespeak or build in back-door plans in case you change your mind.

  • Potential hires want to know that they count on what you say. They’ve been given the run around before, and they often know this song and dance when they see it.
  • Transparency is more than a buzzword. It builds trust and encourages talent to seek you out. No one likes ambiguity. A lack of transparency can make even those who sign on with you into continual job seekers.
  • Honesty is exactly the behavior you expect from your employees. As a result, modeling is the best way to make it a part of your company’s culture.
  1. Tell your own story.

The best defense is a good offense, as the old sports adage goes. When you relate your own story of events, you can control the narrative. Companies with a strong social media presence can turn negatives into positives, especially when higher-level personnel is involved in monitoring social-media activity for the company. Additionally, the more positive things you share about yourself, the less the negative comments will impact you.

  • Keep your responses friendly and conversational. In your interactions, courteously highlight what the person may have missed about your offer to help.
  • Telling a story does not mean sales speak: be genuine and a little vulnerable. By showing where you are making improvements, you’re relatable in admitting your imperfection.
  • Use a conversational tone and approach in your social media to encourage interaction, but be there to get conversations started. Encourage employees to be a part of the conversation too.


  • Lynda M. says:

    Social media first measured people, and now it is helping people measure companies. If you are not on social media, you don’t exist or are not important enough. If you don’t manage your online presence and you think you are too strong for it to do any damage, you couldn’t be more wrong. You have to be proactive, active and reactive.

  • Marcy P. says:

    Companies use social media to draw the picture-perfect image of what they have to offer and, most recently, to attract top talent. The response to negative attention to their products or services is fast, but sometimes they tend to ignore the complaints from inside the company. It is a dangerous practice that can leave a bad feeling with customers and make a poor impression on future candidates or professionals you are targeting to hire.

  • Delphine H. says:

    Social media has been front and center in confrontations between unhappy employees and employers for many years. The companies are usually big and known worldwide. You cannot make everyone happy; someone is bound to complain about an injustice, and it is your duty to show respect in the first place and address the now very public issue. The later you react, the less transparent and communicative you seem and the worse the damage to the company will be.

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