I have written many times, both here in this blog and in the pages of SNIPS, about the importance of effectively using social media.

While Facebook may one day be overtaken in popularity just like it overtook MySpace, social media has moved far beyond the fad phase and will remain — in one form or another — in perpetuity.

The news of the Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent capture of one of the suspects last week proved that. Major media outlets were using Twitter to update readers and viewers every few minutes.

Unfortunately, such rapid-fire reporting exposed the flaws of breaking a news story in 140-character bites. Depending on whose feed you were following, the suspects were arrested within hours of the bombing or they were identified immediately. Several news reports also claimed there was at least one more bomb than what police eventually found. None of that ended up being true. 

In the days of slower news cycles, journalists would take the time to verify information before printing it. But in the world of the constant, instant news cycle where anyone can be a reporter, such basic fact checking takes a backseat. 

Like anything online, Twitter accounts also have the risk of being hacked, as happened earlier today to the Associated Press. The AP’s Twitter page said there had been explosions at the White House and President Barack Obama was injured.  

The news service quickly spotted the fake tweet and sent out a correction -- and eventually Twitter temporarily shut down the account -- but not before the false news spread, sending the stock market into a 100-point dive.

If you’re company is involved in social media or anywhere on the Web, be sure you’re monitoring your accounts. Here at BNP Media, some of our magazine’s pages have been affected a few times by people with malicious intent. And there are a few HVAC and sheet metal companies that we follow whose Twitter accounts have been hacked. They currently send out spam messages several times a day.

Your online identity is important. Don’t ignore it.