Among the many changes that social media has wrought in its relatively short existence sits an interesting phenomenon. One often overlooked by organisations wrangling with the risk management and governance implications of approving corporate social channels – be they consumer or candidate focused.

Which is this: hardly anyone will believe what you tell them via these channels anyway.

Craft beautiful content, time its release with precision, even allocate budget to promote it to an audience the data sets tell you are a strong match for your message. You may gather armfuls of likes, but credibility will remain in short supply.

In part that’s no doubt because we are becoming increasingly message weary and ad cynical when it comes to marketing; to claims and counter-claims. We are sceptics. Not impervious to the craft of the marketer, but better armoured certainly. Perhaps also we better understand our roles and our rights as consumers, or are still tending the scars of the 2008 global crash and less willing to trust.

I suspect however that it’s mostly to do with there now being so many other sources of information available that we have no need and no desire to rely so heavily on the word of the producer/salesman.

We live in a world where even the views of unverified strangers – Bill on Amazon or Greta on Glassdoor etc. – carry more weight in our decision making than the ‘retailers’ themselves. And we’re talking about some pretty significant purchases here. Like honeymoons, cars and careers.

We might trust the provider to show us what it looks like and describe its technical specs – but not whether it’s right for me. Whether it suits what I need. I’ll rely on the combined experiences of people I’ve never met for that thank you very much.

We might trust the provider to show us what it looks like and describe its technical specs – but not whether it’s right for me

Our friends in the ether

In fact, at the very top of this pyramid of trust sit our friends and our family. Exactly where they should be, and where they probably have always been.

But only a few places below are the broader set of ‘friends’ that constitute our Facebook connections, our Linked In network and other social relationships we’ve developed. Their activities are interesting. Their opinions carry weight. We can experience things vicariously through them, then cherry pick the ones that feel right for us. Not all, but many.

This is why the voice of your employer brand has to be the voice of your current workforce, not the voice of your organisation. Acme Plc telling the world at large what a fascinating, valuable and genuinely different place to work they are sounds like so much empty rhetoric and marketing-ese. What else, after all, would they say?

The voice of your employer brand has to be the voice of your current workforce

But Jeff from Acme – or Lydia or Ashmila or Ben – telling their connections on LinkedIn, or visitors to your website this self-same thing carries resonance. It has mass and with that, it also has the prospect of attracting that individual to engage with your brand.

Someone like me

At the heart of this is our desire to buy from someone like us. Notwithstanding our uniqueness, we find it easier to buy from and believe in those who seem familiar (or, more truthfully, the version of ourselves we aspire to). Maybe they look like us, share an interest, support the same team or took the same qualification.

Whatever it is, we can find an affinity with people it’s virtually impossible (Innocent and a few others aside) for a brand to replicate.

So when they tell us what it feels like to build a career at Acme Plc, we listen. And are more likely to believe. Which can in turn make us more likely to apply. There’s a feeling of truth and honesty attached to the experience of an individual that seems inherently less cultivated than the organisation they represent.

In truth, no one has ever liked to hear how great something is from the thing itself. Films, concerts, music, art, cities, hotels, toys, wedding venues – reviews have never been so broad or so vital, treading the line between telling us what to think and helping us make the lifestyle choices which suit us.

In truth, no one has ever liked to hear how great something is from the thing itself

What’s the lesson?

It’s a simple one. Businesses should continue to focus their energies on making their workplaces as interesting, purposeful, enjoyable and distinctive (for the right people) as they can. You’re amazing at that, so keep on going. This speed of change has never been so great, and many of us employees have never had it so good.

Many of us employees have never had it so good

Just don’t be the people shouting about it.

Let the people who live your ideas every day, or who have done in the past, tell it. In my experience they’ll be proud to do so and welcoming of the trust this shows. It will also help build the consensus and consistency, which candidates are searching for in order to be confident moving forward. Remember that it’s not only the quality of the review, but the number of advocates that are important. Maintaining a consistent, strong score over 100 or 1,000 reviews is much harder than getting it right once.

Plus, there’s a much better chance people will believe them. And, as any film director will tell you, the most important thing is that your audience walks out of the theatre happy, not who takes credit for persuading them to buy the ticket.