Friday, August 18, 2017

Social Media Screening for Potential Employees

social media screeningEight out of every ten Americans have a social media presence. Facebook is the most common, but the percentage of adults using Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter is gradually rising. For employers this means the ability to vet potential employees recent activities online, in addition to a standard criminal background check. This practice is called social media screening.

Looking into potential employees using social networks is beneficial during the hiring process, although there is a fine line of legality in doing so. You must know how to approach investigating a potential employee’s social networks without violating their rights and privacy.

Firstly, you should only examine publicly shared content. Never friend or request to follow a candidate. Look at the information they have shared publicly to avoid violating their privacy. 


Each state has different laws when it comes to what you can and can’t do online. Identify your state’s laws in order to understand your limitations when it comes to vetting job applicants over the Internet. Federally, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a law you should be aware of. The CFAA regulates what information you can legally access on the net. For example, you cannot gain access to private information like passwords without proper authorization.

social media screeningEqual employment opportunity issues can arise when viewing a potential candidate’s online profile. Viewing a public picture can give insight to things like race or political views. These are things candidates may not want to disclose, and legally can’t be taken into consideration during the hiring process. In 2010 the University of Kentucky learned this the hard way. The university found a candidate’s religious views online and took them into account when turning him down for a job. Kentucky argued that his “religious views on evolution would compromise his role as a scientist.” Ultimately, the victim of this unlawful social media screening received a six-figure settlement from the university

Here are some lawful reasons to reject an employee based on their social media:

  • Inappropriate pictures/information (including underage drinking/drug use)
  • Discriminatory remarks
  • Unprofessional or poor communication skills
  • Falsified qualifications


According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 43% of organizations surveyed said they use the Internet to screen potential employees. This practice is here to stay as the social media landscape is dominated by millennials, a major up and coming workplace demographic.

social media screeningAnother important thing to consider when social media screening is which networks you’re looking at. You should avoid screening Facebook for one candidate, and Twitter for another. It is best practice to search the same social media sites for each potential employee. Note, before using social media to screen a candidate you should have a social media screening policy in place. This policy should include information about when the applicant screening should take place in the hiring process, who’s doing the screening, and how to handle your findings.

Here’s some basic info on how to utilize social media screening for applicants:



Usually Facebook profiles are fairly private. For the most part you can view a profile picture and some public comments, so don’t go further than that. Keep your search to what you can publicly see, and definitely avoid friend requesting the applicant in an effort to dig deeper.



Twitter is a toss up. Profiles can be either public or private. If a candidate’s Twitter is private you are able to view their profile picture and possibly some descriptive information. If their profile is public you are able to see every tweet they’ve ever made, including retweets, and all the tweets they’ve liked. A public Twitter profile can be very revealing, and should be a focal point of your social media screening practice.



Like Twitter, Instagram accounts can either be public or private. Private accounts offer a small view of the profile picture and a possible short description. Public accounts allow you to see all the pictures a person has posted and the pictures they’ve been tagged in. Instagram is another valuable social media screening tool, but remember not to take into account things like gender, race, religion, political views, disability etc.



If you’re unaware, LikedIn is essentially Facebook for professionals. It is very uncommon to find inappropriate material on a candidate’s LinkedIn, but the site is great to screen for professionalism. Grammatical mistakes, for example, are a fair reason to disqualify a candidate.

In the event that you find something questionable during a candidate’s social media screening, it is often in your company’s best interest to allow a candidate to explain him or herself. You don’t want to lose a good candidate because of a potential fake profile or unsolicited comment their friend made. Give them a chance to illuminate on your findings. If you do decide to turn down a candidate for something you’ve found on social media, make a record of it. That way you’ll have evidence in the unfortunate event that the rejected candidate takes you to court. They can delete what you may have found, so play it safe and take a screenshot for your personal records.



social media screening
Taking the aforementioned precautions and information into account should allow you to successfully screen potential employees on social media; however, outsourcing your screen to an organization that specializes in employment screening is the smartest option if you can afford it. Companies like HireRight or ESS will look into a candidate’s background, including their social media history. 

Companies like these are equipped to obtain all relevant and lawfully available information on your candidate. Utilizing an employment-screening firm removes bias from the equation, and is probably the best option if it is within your means. 

In today’s world social media screening is an imperative part of the hiring process. Whether you do it yourself or outsource it, you don’t want to find out that someone makes inappropriate posts online after you hire them. Don’t hire an unprofessional “professional”.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Negative Publicity & Bad Press: Coping as a Small Business

negative publicity
With limited resources, small business owners face the unique challenges of avoiding bad press coverage and handling negative publicity. These challenges can seem daunting, but managing them isn’t as hard as you think.

Preparing ahead of time makes all the difference when limiting bad press. Simple steps can be taken to lower your risk of receiving undesirable media attention. In this day and age social media gives everybody a voice, and even the smallest businesses are likely to receive negative publicity. Learning how to deal with this is critical to your livelihood and longevity.

Bad Press

negative publicityFake news. We’ve seen a lot of it lately, and for a small company it can be absolutely devastating. When it comes to bad press coverage, being ahead of the curve is crucial. Having a policy in place for social media usage is key. Training your employees in media relations is necessary. Every employee has a voice that can negatively or positively impact your business.

Be forward thinking. Instead of allowing bad press to occur, generate your own good press. Go into the community and present what your business has to offer. Share the positive and progressive values which you represent. 

Word of mouth is also a great resource for small businesses with a limited marketing budget. The idea here is to turn your customers into brand ambassadors who will promote your brand to their networks. 

Negative Publicity


negative publicity
Whoever came up with the saying “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” probably wasn’t a small business owner. Large firms like Volkswagen or United Airlines have faced a boatload of negative publicity recently. And they’ve been able to bounce back from this with relative ease due to their extensive customer service and marketing budgets. Small companies simply do not have these luxuries, and must use alternative, more cost effective methods to cope with negative publicity.

Used well, social media can be a primary tool for representing your company and responding to customer complaints. Today, over 81% of Americans have a social media presence. This is an over 3x increase from ten years ago, and this huge market can be tapped for little to no cost. Spreading your message through social media content or low-cost paid ads are proactive ways to generate good publicity. However, as a business owner you’re likely to face some sort of backlash online. Knowing how to deal with this is very important.

Be Responsive


negative publicityWhen it comes to responding to negative publicity on social media, you must learn how to distinguish genuine criticism and complaints from trolls trying to get a reaction. If the issue is not very serious no response is necessary, but that doesn’t mean not responding is the best option. Not responding won’t actively bring negative publicity to your company, but negative comments from customers can spread like a wildfire online. And speaking of fire, you don’t want to start a flame war with a customer. If you’re going to respond be decisive, transparent, and have the customer’s interests in mind first and foremost. Your response to it is a great opportunity to show the world what your company’s really about.

As a business owner, bad press and publicity can be difficult. Being prepared and knowing how to respond is essential in order to avoid a PR nightmare. 

For more information about dealing with bad press and negative social media experiences, contact Spotlight Publicity for a free consultation today.

We love your feedback and comments- please share your experiences with positive and negative publicity in the comments below.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Small Business Survival During Tough Times

food truck
Every company goes through rough times now and then - it's a fact of a credit-based economy. Small business survival during tough times depends on staying focused, making informed and logical decisions and staying creative within the bounds of your business plan. Whether the issue is receding cash flow, staffing issues or a spate of bad business choices, remaining calm and patient will see you through to better times.

To succeed, review the following best practices and take the appropriate steps. An adjustment here and a change of habit there can do a world of good, as long as you focus on the future when making short terms decisions.

Be Patient

Positive change doesn't happen over night, just as negative trends in your market don't last forever. Before making any adjustments to your business strategy, ensure that they are required. Sometimes, forces beyond your control are at play and will soon pass. Be calm and collected in order to analyze the situation before taking steps to correct it.

Speak with employees, advisors and peers in the community to gain a larger picture of the situation. Should you determine change is required, make them methodically and consciously. Know how they will effect your business not only in the present, but in the future. Don't make decisions that will come back to haunt you such as selling vital infrastructure or reducing hiring requirements.

Strive For New Business

All solid business plans call for the regular acquisition of new clients, but in tough times small business survival often means generating new revenue on a stepped-up scale. Look to professional networking opportunities, referrals and old-fashioned foot work to revitalize your bottom line. Tough times means getting out there and making things happen- don't sit back with crossed fingers hoping luck will save your company. Small business survival means going out and doing the work.
Look to these types of organizations for much needed connections:
  • Local Chamber of Commerce- Hosts various events to showcase local businesses and often sponsors networking events to support local member businesses.
  • BNI - Business Networking International is a large, formalized and international membership group driven to help it's members succeed.
  • An online social networking platform designed to bring group meetings together based on common threads.
  • Google it- Quite simply, a Google search for networking events in your area could turn up a hundred or more gatherings, sponsored by a wide variety of players in your community. Everything from industry-specific meetings to affiliation events are at your fingertips with only a few strokes of the keyboard.
  • One on One Meetings- What's stopping you from networking on a small scale with those in your business park, office or town? 
Remember- with networking, commonalities are what make connections.

Social Media & Small Business Survival

social media
Staying relevant in your sector means staying relevant with your customers. Though they may not require your services daily or even monthly, keeping your brand in front of them is critical. Revisit your social media strategy to continue to provide quality information and opportunities for your customers. Don't slack off. If the concept is new to your small business, consider having a reliable social media guide on hand to assist.

Social media posts should be a mix of 1/3 sales pitch, 1/3 niche news and 1/3 pertinent content such as videos and articles- share news articles your clients would find useful or entertaining. Post updates on your products. Sponsor contests. Engage with your feedback and take steps to adjust as your clients needs change. Stay on top of what your demographic needs and you will foster an audience that is receptive to direct marketing- coupons, sales alerts and promotions. Give your clients a reason to follow you.

Use LinkedIn to write original blog articles about your industry and share relevant posts with your audience. There is a caveat, however- LinkedIn isn't a place to advertise directly for business. Instead, it's a place where your expertise is on view. If you are providing value to an audience on LinkedIn, you will see business resulting from your activity.

As a general rule, keep your social media pages and your website up to date. A weekly review of what information you have available would be a chance to provide the latest news or events to attract customers. Your accounts are living netizens in a sense. Make sure they act like it.

Outside the Small Business Box Thinking


big fish little pond
Look to the micro-economy for ways to incorporate sales volume into your business. No two businesses are alike, and reaching out to those in your niche to cross promote products and services can help breath new life into your business plan.

Keep an eye out for businesses that aren't in direct competition with you and schedule a meeting. Be straight forward and keep mutual benefits in mind- these connections have customers who need the services and goods you provide, while existing customers may benefit from your new relationships.

It's time to work hard and keep an eye on the future. For more information, or to schedule your free consultation, contact us at Spotlight Publicity.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

5 Terrible Pieces of Business Advice

Business adviceHindsight is 20/20. Who could have predicted in 2000 that bigger wasn't always better when AOL and Time Warner agreed to merge the two largest media companies in the world? Against even skeptical business advice at the time, it went through. 

The deal became the poster-child of disastrous business mistakes with the collapse of bubble and the introduction of high speed internet. $100 Billion in stock value was erased almost overnight due to a near-complete loss of advertising dollars.

Dial-up was dead and so were the hopes of a New Age media revolution.



It can be tempting to place too much stock in advice given from your peers. What worked for them could possibly work for you. What seems like a 'no-brainer' most likely will turn out to be exactly that - a solution that has no merit in intelligent decision making. To understand how business works, you must realize the uniquely individual circumstances of your own success. There is never a magic bullet that solves every issue, and there's no common path to positive growth.

To this end, here are five pieces of free business advice that should never be followed blindly. 

After all, you get what you pay for.



business adviceIn 1985, the Coca Cola Company revealed it's re-formulated soft drink 'New Coke,' after a mistaken belief that the youth of America demanded a sweeter, more syrupy taste in their soft drink. Market research had shown that Pepsi, which had that taste, was quickly gaining shares and the folks at Coke were nervous. 

It is no secret that the experiment failed, and New Coke was removed from shelves after only three months. The outrage from loyal customers was unexpected as sales plummeted. What Coke thought was what the customers wanted was completely off base.

Satisfying customer needs is important, but it is not the final answer to business success. Though a common piece of business advice, it does not take into account the damage caused by re-branding to meet a poorly conceptualized market demand. The customer is not always right.

For small businesses, a daily issue is bowing to every customer who demands a discount. They insist the know what will make them satisfied, and often money is the only solution to their issue. This can be harmful as well. Take each request for a price adjustment in stride and balance the options. Each pacification hits your bottom line.

A customer does not take into account your profit margin when demanding a 'break,' and does not have the inside track on the maintenance of your bottom line. Instead of providing a dollar discount, perhaps counter their demand with an upgrade or perk to please them.



Believe it or not, there can be a thing as too much business. For small businesses, there exists a saturation point where too many customers means a decrease in quality of services. Limited employees means a finite ability to provide quality service, and taking on more than you can handle decreases the quality for existing customers.

A decrease in service is noticeable, and a small business can soon discover their customers are leaving in droves to a competitor who can satisfy their needs.

To combat this, know the limitations of your service and focus on giving the highest quality you can. Your existing customers will appreciate it and remain loyal.



It would be great to have the latest technology, the newest model of delivery vans and a top of the line insurance plan for your employees. But by depleting your cash reserves or extending your credit line can turn disastrous quickly.

business adviceIn 2005, News Corp Billionaire Rupert Murdoch wanted to add to his empire and spent $850 Million to purchase the social networking site, MySpace. The concept was clear - monetize the insanely popular website by introducing advertising to its platform.

Instead of clicking on the advertising, users of MySpace flocked in droves to Facebook, an upstart, add-free alternative with a more user-friendly approach. 

Murdoch lost a fortune, selling the company for a paltry $35 Million and tweeting, "We screwed up in every possible way, learned lots of valuable expensive lessons." 

The lesson here is to not be in such a rush to make a buck.



It's often noted that there's no substitute for experience, but that isn't always the case. Experienced personnel may know how to perform in the manner the business is accustomed to, but their fault is they often don't have the ability to step outside of the box and provide new concepts.

The world is constantly changing and to keep up, a small business must be prepared to change with it. By hiring employees who are eager, young and ready to learn, a company can expect to be inundated with fresh ideas to broaden its horizons. A millennial with a briefcase filled with unique proposals can do more with one idea than an experienced salesman with a Rolodex stuffed with old contacts.



Business plans are living documents, meaning that they should be adjusted to fit the direction your business is heading. Sometimes, the unexpected opportunity arises outside of your plan's spectrum, and you must jump on it to succeed. 

Business AdviceAs business advice goes, this one can surely do the most damage. Keep on top of developments in your field, have operational funds earmarked for the unexpected opportunity and always be open minded. 

In 1974, Kodak engineer Steve Sasson developed a way to translate photographic images into binary code. This was the birth of digital photography.

Though the Research and Development branch of Kodak invested billions of dollars in its development, a conservative cadre in the upper echelons of the company stalled the technology's release in fear of losing a profitable edge in traditional film and paper photography.

When the company finally got on-board with digital in the late 1990s, it was too late to capitalize. 50,000 employees were laid off and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

When the opportunity arises to change for the better, take it.



The next time you attend a networking event or find yourself chatting over a cup of coffee, be conscious of the business advice being shared. It may not be detrimental, but blindly taking advice without looking at the possible impact can be damaging to a small business. Weigh out the pros and cons, and at the very least, get a second opinion.

What's some of the worst business advice you've ever received? We want to know, so leave your comments below.