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The Social Networking Pen is Mightier than the Sword

As the professional use of social networking tools finally comes of age, it is very interesting to see how their post adolescent development is being integrated into the technology firmament under which we now sit.Of course I’m referring to services such as LinkedIn and Twitter rather than Facebook; once I started receiving messages that people had “scribbled on my fun-wall”, I thought it best to spurn said site as I would spurn a rabid dog.

As the professional use of social networking tools finally comes of age, it is very interesting to see how their post adolescent development is being integrated into the technology firmament under which we now sit.

Of course I’m referring to services such as LinkedIn and Twitter rather than Facebook; once I started receiving messages that people had “scribbled on my fun-wall”, I thought it best to spurn said site as I would spurn a rabid dog.

Twitter on the other hand seems to be oh so very useful in the professional sense with companies who I trust using it to feed me stories, our own ZDNet USA feeding blog updates to me and respected colleagues informing me of events, news, trends – or simply updating me on what they are currently working on.

The reason for blogging in this general direction is that I’ve used both Twitter and LinkedIn in recent weeks to help look for work, to vet companies that I am meeting and to find out who I should be avoiding with a barge pole.

With this in mind, it was coming up to around ‘Go Home O’Clock’ this Wednesday when Gartner decided to put out a note saying that despite the fact that social networks and are changing organisations' marketing and web strategies, relatively few human resources (HR) organisations have grasped the effect that they have on the employer brand.

Fail to manage your online brand and you will fail to attract key talent says Gartner. I do some written work in the Web Designer space that constantly looks at the intersection point between web designers and web developers. Surely then this is a good message for both parties to take on board when engineering their next client’s online portal functionality?

I also work with a couple of user groups that support software developer and DBA networks – again, this should be a crucial element of how they put out their messages at a more subliminal level than simply making sure their latest e-newsletters look nice and snazzy.

"The employer brand has recently become a significant component of human capital management (HCM) strategy," said Thomas Otter, research director at Gartner. "Many HR leaders have instigated employer branding projects. This isn't simply a fancy new name for recruitment advertising, but a broad strategy to leverage the intangible values of the organisation to improve retention, employee satisfaction and performance."

Otter warned that complacency could be damaging in a world where job candidates have the ability to look ‘under the covers’ of an employer in ways that seemed impossible even a few years ago. "Online bulletin boards have provided discussion forums about companies for years, but the explosion of social networks has moved these discussions from niche to mainstream, stripping away the veneer of the recruitment brochure," he said.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report "The Effects of Social Software on Your Employer Brand”.

So beware – especially the company (which shall remain nameless) that I met about a month ago whose MD turned out to be a sarcastic self assured so and so. I put out some queries about the particular organisation before I met them and although the LinkedIn pages of their employees looked good… and Microsoft IM and Twitter chatting all pointed towards positive thoughts. If I get asked about them via any of these networks I will not come across as a happy camper.