Social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twittercontinue to alter their functionality, business use and privacy settings in anongoing battle to attract and keep audiences coming back to use their site asthe main hub.

Recently, LinkedIn announced that individualscan now “follow” a corporate page. Previously, users could only view acorporate page and then connect with an individual from the company. Now,individuals can follow a companyand receive instant notifications if there are changes to employees, companyprofile content and other updates such as new groups.

For businesses, this means that any employee updates areinstantly public. If an executive is hired, a small number of planned layoffsoccur or an employee quits, smart reporters and bloggers can find this newsinstantly if those affected individuals update their LinkedIn profiles before thenews has been made public.

On Facebook, companies can now integrate a “like” featureinto company websites and blogs so readers can instantly “like” any content, which is thenconnected to the company’s Facebook page. For individuals using Facebook,privacy controls and settings continue to be tweaked, so an employee shouldrealize that any information posted there could and might become publiclyavailable when changes are made.

Communicators must understand these changes and have crisisplans in place for any scenario. With news instantly available and sparsesocial media policies at companies, news can and will become public before acompany might be ready to communicate it.

— Tonja Deegan