You may have been amused by the futility of a gag order in Britain earlier this year that sought to suppress media stories about the scandalous sex life of soccer star Ryan Giggs.
Within hours of the judge granting the injunction, thousands of Twitter users were discussing the scandal and there was nothing that the legal system could do to put an end to the chatter. This is an episode that should give any company that uses social media in its communications mix pause for thought.
If a piece of information that you consider to be sensitive or confidential is accidentally leaked in a social media outlet, you will not be able to stop it from spreading across the Internet within a matter of minutes. Imagine the implications of an early leak of your financial results, for example.
This is why companies that use Facebook and Twitter to communicate with customers, suppliers, shareholders and other stakeholders must put sound policies, processes and systems in place to prevent the accidental leakage of sensitive corporate information.
The challenge of controlling information that comes out of your company via social media is that there will typically be so many people in involved in distributing content across multiple social media channels and feeds.
You may outsource online reputation management to one or more PR agencies, as well as have customer support staff from a number of divisions using social media. There is also the challenge of synchronising the publication of information on social media with issuing press releases and publishing across Web sites and email.
To bring this environment under control, you need to have lines of accountability and clear policies about what people may post and when. It will be easier to manage the strategy if you centralise control of your electronic communications.
Automated systems can be a big help in managing a dispersed team from a central point of control. They can help you to track and manage the people responsible for making each post. But there needs to be a person who centrally manages and monitors social media policy and operations to ensure that all messaging that comes out through the social Web is approved, appropriate and on-message.
John Ginsberg is chief marketing geek at Ensight