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#630: If You Think Your Online Brand Doesn't Matter, Think Again

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 12, 2011
Updated: Friday, August 12, 2011
We always assume that clients select consultants from a prequalified set of technically competent candidates based on intangibles and personal chemistry. However, because we have increasingly been going online for our own market research and prospecting, it begs the question of whether clients do the same when looking for consultants.

It should not amaze us, but it does, how quickly technology can change business practices. A decade ago, LinkedIn and Facebook did not exist. By 2010, business had embraced both as legitimate research sources for recruiting and, yes, even for researching consultants and consulting firms. Perhaps most interesting is now clients have a way to get a real picture of large firm consultants as individuals. We can't hide behind the firm brand and are exposed to clients who want specific individuals as consultants and are less interested in the company they work for. Consultants may consider this is good or bad but it is uniformly good for clients and they are using it more and more.

Recent surveys of recruiters and businesses give a clear sense of how comfortable businesses are with researching individuals who they want to work for them (as staff or consultants). Most businesses now consider online research on individuals essential to their decisions to hire. When over 80 million individuals are Googled every day, we consultants are surely among them.

Several surveys in 2010 found:
  • 79% of US recruiters and hiring managers screen candidates using online social networking profiles and blogs (Microsoft).
  • 70% of US hiring managers have rejected candidates based on what they found online (Microsoft).
  • 80% of business people believe their online identity is now as important as their offline personal or professional reputation (Intelius).
  • 44% of online adults have searched for information about someone whose services or advice they seek in a professional capacity(Pew Internet study).
Tip: It is more than just the information you provide about yourself that is important. It is also what others say about you that clients and recruiters will see. A flaming response to one of your blog posts, an unflattering picture or a document that might be perceived by someone as a release of proprietary information can damage your reputation without you ever knowing it. Since you do not control everything about your online brand (and once content is on the Internet it is hard to remove) we are well advised to monitor and manage as well as we can our online identities and brand. This article has more information about recent surveys.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  prospect  publicity  reputation 

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Comments on this post...

Michael E. Cohen CMC MBA says...
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Very interesting Mark. You say above: "We can't hide behind the firm brand and are exposed to clients who want specific individuals as consultants and are less interested in the company they work for." Somehow I don't think this is true to the extent implied. In the Federal arena, clients, as in all clinet sectors still hire companies, not individuals. And the company reputation and capabilties remain critical. What this post and the survey results may be suggesting is that clients may use social networks to check out individuals that are bid for a contract by a consulting firm. I say "may" because while there is mnetion of the use of on-line research to check out employee cndidates, there is no mnetion explicity made of the use of on-line research to check out the credentials of consultants bid in proposals. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that consultants should ensure that they are appropriately represented on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and that any negative information is excluded.
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Mark Haas CMC FIMC says...
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Federal procurement may use less social network research than the private sector because in many cases, a source selection board is permitted to use only what is contained in the submitted proposal documents to assure a common evaluation basis across the panel. However, I am told by some (a sample of only 5 or so) procurement staff that they have checked out proposed project directors for contracts, even though they can't use specific information to select or exclude a bidder. GSA and other federal agencies have embraced social media (it has an active Facebook, Twitter, etc. presence). Finally, it is interesting to see social media penetrate federal procurement from a process standpoint (e.g., using Twitter to field questions, posting pre-solicitation materials through RSS).

But consulting companies are on board with maintaining their online brand. Accenture, Booz Allen and BCG all maintain Facebook and LinkedIn company pages, which they watch very closely.
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