In the web 2.0 world, user-generated content is king. Blogs, Forums, YouTube, Flickr– all have armies of users who are giving away content (some of which is actually compelling).
Regardless of the poor signal-to-noise ratio in user-generated content, it’s certainly turning marketing on its ear. It’s no longer what you (or your high-priced advertising firm) say about your product or company– it’s what the masses say. And the masses are sometimes not very nice.
Amazon was the one of the pioneers of user generated content with their user reviews. From what I understand, several of their major manufacturers were upset by negative reviews by users and wanted them removed. Amazon held firm, and the sanctity of their user-reviews was preserved. Amazon knew that the instant they started editing and removing negative reviews would be the instant that people would cease to value the content.
Jobster is just starting to dabble in the user-generated content game. It’s a natural evolution– job seekers want the security of having a deep understanding of a potential workplace… Which is something you simply can’t get from a job interview and a 15 minute tour of the facility. So, with the At product, users can record their impressions about a particular workplace through a nifty question and answer interface.
Some of the people in the company are horrified. They are envisioning the day where a user says awful things about the work environment at one of our top clients. I’d be scared, too. Our clients pay us a lot of money to provide them with a tremendous service, and might well feel a sense of outrage if they see a former employee bashing them in a public forum on our site.
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that you simply can’t put the genie back in the bottle. It’s only getting easier to express your opinion on the Internet. Honest discussion about what it’s like to work at a particular business is valuable information– if Jobster doesn’t succeed at creating a hub where such information can be posted and viewed, someone else will. If none of the major jobs players creates the hub, the expression will find an outlet on blogs, in discussion forums, or elsewhere.
So how do we deal with a negative comment when it comes to our attention? I should lead with the fact that firm policy has not been set here. I’m just thinking out loud. But, I think the first thing that you must do is set some editorial guidelines. No personal attacks on individuals. No obscenities.
Assuming a negative comment gets through these (relatively lax) guidelines, your best bet is to encourage contrarian viewpoints. If someone bashes your book on Amazon.com, encourage your fans to post there and the detractors voice will diminish in a sea of supporters. Similarly, if a company gets clobbered in our At offering, surely you have a sea of happy employees you could encourage to get the truth out there? If you don’t have a sea of happy employees, I’d probably suggest adjusting your work environment.
The great thing about Jobster customers is that they all necessarily have a sea of happy employees. Jobster’s core product is predicated on using the power of networking and referrals to find new employees. If you have a lousy environment, Jobster simply wouldn’t work.