MOST people would accept that social media is a great way to identify talent, connect with it and promote the values of your business.

Get your strategy right and the rewards are great. But get it wrong and the damage to an employer’s brand can be significant, according to recruiting expert Hays.

Engaging with the array of social media sites that potential jobseekers use gives organisations a means to boost and enhance their reputation as an employer of choice.

And it is not just marketing and communications departments that need to put social media at the heart of their strategy. It is clear that for businesses to remain competitive, the human resource (HR) function has to embrace it, too.

But while it is clear that the HR function ignores social media at its peril, the right strategy is harder to define. One size definitely does not fit all — and risk is often overlooked when developing and resourcing a social media strategy.

The hot topic of social media and its place within recruitment is explored in the latest Hays Journal. According to the Hays Journal article, a survey of US executives found that social media ranked among the top five sources of risk to a business.

Beware the minefields

Potential problems the research identified are manifold and include the need to monitor comments that employees and others post on social network sites, the importance of protecting the employer brand and the constant investment needed to keep up with evolving technology.

Therefore, companies must take this new method of communication seriously and ensure it is handled by staff who understand it.

Employers need a clear strategy on how they address social media and present their brand. It has to be part of an overall brand strategy and not a free-for-all. Hays, for example, uses social media to demonstrate that it is a  specialist.

Companies looking to make use of social media have to bear in mind that content is king. This means the investment needed to implement an effective and safe social media strategy can be substantial.

Content must be consistent, high quality and channel-specific to add value and reflect well on a firm’s brand. Potential and existing employees will only return to a blog or follow a feed if it is relevant and topical.

Getting this right can be hard and raises questions of message and brand control. An ongoing resource is needed internally or externally to post and monitor content and to interact with a company’s followers.

Managing resources in-house presents its own hazards, since content is often provided by more than one person and by different departments. So, heads need to be allocated to manage this process across all channels to ensure content and messaging is aligned to company positioning and to respond consistently to any negative comments.

Just as social media has the power to support and drive an employee value proposition, it can completely undermine those efforts if badly handled. And worse, the evidence remains online indefinitely.