Stars. Billions of them in the galaxy. Five that matter. Five that can sway a decision. Five that have the power to make or break a company.

The age of social media is upon us, and these once harmless shapes have become the weapon of choice for a new generation of expressive individuals as they wage war on things they simply don’t like. In today’s technology- and internet-driven world everything has a rating, and everyone has a voice. Amazon and other online giants are putting customer reviews front and center, while other sites like Yelp and Google are even allowing users to upload pictures of their meals before, literally and figuratively, picking them apart. Now more than ever, people are doing their research and making everyday choices based on how many stars they see. In fact, according to Khaled Saleh of Invesp 90% of consumers read online reviews and 88% of them trust the online reviews just as much as personal recommendations.

So how does this affect you, and the reputation of your company? Think about this for a second: If people are now willing to travel significantly further and through heavier traffic just to eat at a place rated half a star higher by complete strangers, you better believe a decision with the gravity of a career move will have some research behind it. Now, this exploding trend of ratings and reviews has expanded beyond just food service and shopping. Just as there are sites focused on recommending (or not) coffee shops and home services, we now have places where candidates can access employee written reviews of their employers. The most familiar of these sites is Glassdoor, which will likely pop up on the first page of results for almost any company. Thus, the chances of a Glassdoor page being noticed during a search are extremely high. Clicked or not, the star rating for a company is shown right on the search results page. This makes it powerful. Very powerful.

“It’s important to sit up and pay attention to this growing trend because you no longer have sole control over what’s being said about your company and by whom. You can do your damnedest to create the world’s best careers site or the most enticing job ads, but all it takes to destroy your reputation as an employer is one derogatory comment in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Siofra Pratt of ERE Media. Essentially, with just a few stars and a handful of words, a single review can impact the fate of your company by swaying decisions of potential candidates, attracting flocks of talent or sending them running for the hills.

As this phenomenon continues to grow it’s vital to stay ahead of the curve and maintain a positive online image, one that represents a place where people want to work. However if you do happen to find yourself on the receiving end of negative feedback, here are some tips to remember before taking action:

– Respond promptly
– Correct inaccuracies
– Highlight your strengths
– Be consistent
– Most importantly, write like a person and not a corporation!

Thanks for reading!