Your Business Is What Google Says It Is – So How Can PR and Social Media Influence The Results?

by Scott Douglas

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

There’s a great story online about a woman who advertised for a housekeeper – only to be horrified when she carried out a Google search on the three leading candidates.

One was a proud binge drinker, the second a bitterly, frustrated artist only applying for “menial jobs” as a stop gap, while the third was a recently convicted shoplifter.

Sounds like an urban myth or an apocryphal story, right?

Since the story was related by Seth Godin on his mega-popular blog, it actually carries a high degree of authenticity.

The moral of the story is clear, according to Godin: “Google never forgets.”

It gets worse – or better, depending on your perspective.

According to an in-depth study carried out on behalf of Microsoft, recruiters and HR experts across the US and Europe openly admit to studying the social media profile of job applicants and using what they find as the basis for rejecting candidates.

A hat tip is due to Neville Hobson, as details of this study came to my attention after he discussed it on the For Immediate Release podcast (#522) and also blogged about it.

Intrigued, I checked out the findings for myself.  Below is a table which recounts the main reasons why job hunters are eighty-sixed by recruiters following online profile checks.

recruitment rejection

It’s not just job hunters who have to get used to the fact that there is a dark underbelly to the social web.

Recently I spoke to more than 20 Scottish businesses about social media and reminded them their businesses are no longer what they say they are – rather they are defined by what Google says about them.

Doubtful? Then Google the name of your business and see what come ups on page one. Are the results accurate? Are they properly representative? Are they useful?

Even more important, as someone running a business how much influence have you been able to have on those results?

In the best case you may find that what comes back from Googling your own business names is nothing more than a list of directory entries. Not bad, but not exactly engaging, interesting or likely to bring a rush of excited customers.

In the worst cases, companies and firms may find that negative reviews, complaints and openly hostile comments from disgruntled customers are returned on the first page of Google results. Not good.

The social media conversation is happening and you can no longer control what is being said about your business – or by whom.  In fact, the only thing you can control is how you react and respond to the conversation.

Think of it like this – in social media terms, there’s actually not too much to distinguish your business from a young job hunter.

Instead of a CV and list of relevant qualification and experiences, you are pushing  your list of products or services.

Instead of putting them in front of net-savvy recruiters, you are plying your wares to an even more demanding and web-aware consumers.

In both cases, what you choose to say about yourself will be all but ignored by an audience intent on prising off the lid from your id – and pouring out and poring over the previously hidden contents.

So let me ask this question of your business: Do you intend to be overlooked and rejected because you’ve blithely ignored the fact that your online profile is no longer your own?

Thought not. If you want to find out more about how you can take back at least some influence, the team at Holyrood Partnership will be happy to help.

Both public relations and a coherent social media strategy can ensure you are involved in the conversation and we can provide help and guidance.

Firstly though, I hope you’ll Google either Holyrood Partnership or Holyrood PR – and with a bit of luck the page one results will stand up to scrutiny.

 

 

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