The revolution in online communication and social media has, over the last few years, moved beyond being an information security challenge and become a genuine governance issue.

The worktime use – and/or misues – of FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube is a management and HR issue; data leakage through these channels is a compliance and, potentially, a competitiveness issue, and the risks to confidentiality, availability and integrity of information is clearly an information security issue. But social media may also have a significant role to play in how the organisation communicates with customers, partners, suppliers, potential employees and stakeholders. Social media have an increasingly important part to play in corporate marketing strategies, whether in brand development or product positioning.

Organisations that embrace social media increasingly recognise that they need a joined-up approach, an approach that ensures clarity about corporate policy, identifies roles and responsibilities, provides appropriate training to individuals supported by guidance and practical tips for effective use of these media. They need, in other words, a governance framework that contains board-level guidance about the role of social media in the business strategy, which ensures that roles, responsibilities and resources are allocated, that risks are identified and controlled, and that appropriate business objectives are achieved.

Social media governance – at one time, the idea that something as individually-based as social media might be governed would have occasioned laugher – now, it’s an essential step for forward-looking organisations.