Friday, April 12

Social Referencing

This week I spent some time at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) at the International Business Forum where I was one of four keynote speakers.  Great fun.

My talk was about recent trends in the brand experience ... initiatives that we see the big brands doing that are causing a stir in marketing.  Oreo's "Dunk in the Dark" was a hot topic.

A very interesting phenomenon happened when I started speaking about how employees have become an active part of the brand experience, and should be "marketed" as such.  I noted a trend toward "social referencing" which is when potential employees check out candidates via social media.  Many firms are starting to pay attention to the digital footprint of people they are thinking of hiring.

There was a collective "ohhhh" in the audience ... and a catalytic spark of questions about the kind of social media presence you should have.

Of course the answer is all about personal branding.  You need to decide what you want out of life and then behave accordingly ... toward building your personal brand ... and activate your social channels accordingly.  One of my colleagues pointed out that you shouldn't completely "sanitize" your persona online.  After all, we like to see texture and human-ness in the people we hire.  But you should make sure you are projecting the kind of image you intend - to your friends, family, and perspective employers.

Social referencing.  It's become the new "first impression" that you want to manage when interviewing for a job.

So I must ask ... what's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
- President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
- Author, The Experience Effect series
- Professor, NYU
- Contributor, Entrepreneur


  1. Just forwarded this to someone I know who's looking for a job. Very good advice.

  2. I wanna say "ohhh" too. I started my account on Linkedin last month due to one of NYU professor's instruction. Social referencing is somewhat new to me, even to many Thais. The first time I started learning how to open the account, I found that I've already been invited to try Linkedin by my vendor who I dealt business with when I worked in Thailand. Right now, he works for one of the top IT global business as the top management. In last couple weeks, he sent an email, asking me when I go back to Thailand and whether I feel interesting to work with him. I totally agree. With social referencing, we have the better chance to get hired. Let's make our profiles more approachable.

  3. I agree with what you mentioned, “employees have become an active part of the brand experience, and should be "marketed" as such.” There are tons of examples proving it: Apple, Whole Foods, Google and so on. You must have an experience, when you talk to their employees, you can tell which stores they are working for from the way they talk and act. Employees can be an active marketing brand to our customers, people like their service, they will also fall in love with their brand. In the meanwhile, if you work for a famous brand, you will also take an advantage from it, people will think you are good enough to work in those famous and big brand and company. I think this is a Win-Win situation!

    From. Serrina (Yi-Chun) Lin- NYU

  4. Love hearing all of the perspectives. Jim.