25 Jul 2011

Would Your Brand Pass a Social Media Background Check?

Brand Social Media Background Check

Just a few years ago employers often didn’t look at a prospective employee’s social media activities, but a growing trend among employers today are social media background checks and may become the new norm. Social Intelligence is a company the FTC gave permission to run background checks of Internet and social media histories just this past May, making the process much easier for employers.  

A social background check screens for a few things including:

  • Unlawful activity
  • Discriminatory activity
  • Sexually explicit activity
  • Violent or aggressive types of activity

The growing trend to screen applicants in the business place is the result of our reliance and obsession with social media. While some are extremely careful with what they share to their online audience, others are less cautious. The same can be said about brands; some brands want to have a casual messaging strategy online, and don’t want to limit their employees branded messaging either. But, with this casual messaging can come along with it the possibility that you may not pass a social media background check with your prospective customers, investors, vendors, and even employees.

Would Your Brand Pass?

There are several things I can think of that might be included in a brand’s social media background check that would raise red flags if I was looking to do business with them. Not unlike those items screened in an employee social background check, things like unlawful activity and discriminatory practices would certainly be at the top of the list. But what else would be on the list?

Employee Activities

Your employees are an extension of your brand, more so today than in the past. Here at Vertical Measures our staff regularly contributes to our blog, tweet about industry news, post on our branded Facebook page, and many manage their own blogs. Those employees help to create the social voice for the Vertical Measures brand. Finding a balance between setting social media boundaries and allowing for creative freedom is tough though, but is a necessary evil.

Your employees have an effect on the leads you generate, the funding you receive from investors, the relationships you build with vendors, and the employees you hire in the future. Imagine the implications should an employee’s blog state negative aspects of their job, a tweet about how unorganized your office is, or a photo on Facebook showing employees acting unprofessional. That certainly might raise red flags on a social background check.

Customer Interactions

The way your brand handles comments on your blog, posts on your Facebook wall, or @ replies on Twitter could have an impact on passing a social background check. If you don’t properly monitor your profiles you stand a chance of having someone hack into your account, post malicious things, or even have a legitimate comment/post go unanswered for weeks or even months – certainly not a good look to a prospective customer.

Customer service and customer relationship management through social media is necessary today, but when done without consistency (or done badly) can prove to have unfortunate consequences.

Arguing with a customer on a social profile is a big no-no. Last year Nestle screwed up by telling fans if they don’t like their policy of not allowing others to reproduce their logo then “there’s the door.” Cooks Source Magazine handled a social media situation wrong as well last year as well. Could their activities possibly cost them business? Sure. Do you want to make the same mistakes? No.


Sometimes brands just aren’t equipped to manage their own social media profiles without some guidance. A boring brand that doesn’t use their social media channels to their advantage could cost them funding and customers. Without an innovative marketing strategy investors and customers may think that you aren’t the best of the best in the industry, and may just pass you over for another company who is more transparent and vocal.

Too Much Transparency

There can be a fine line between being transparent and being too transparent. Some vendors, customers and investors may find your extremely transparent social media activities outside of their comfort zone.

How transparent is too transparent? Last year the folks at SocialMediaToday.com wrote a post about this very topic. They give the example of Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s admitted that their pizza sucks and needs to be reinvented. Critics admit this was a bold move to revolutionize their brand that other brands should consider. But they also examine the “unnecessary beating” Domino’s took by admitting their pizza sucked and inviting others to agree. Evaluating exactly how transparent your brand needs to be deserves some thought and consideration, due to the implications it could have with the future of your brand.

These are just a few of the possible things that may come up in your brands social media background check. Have more to add to the list?