For all of the innovative and interesting things a website can do, for all the ways it can help you focus and refine your business practices, manage your assets, or connect you to your team, the core of any site is always the content. However, as an engine for communication all too often the content is given short shrift during development. It is frequently left until the end of the development process when the pressures of a deadline can undermine the best of intentions. There is little time left to pay attention to properly summarizing and key-wording content in meta tags. While this has little visible effect on the website it can have a profound effect upon the way your message filters out into the world at large.
By focusing on content first, all the content on a site, you actually have a unique opportunity to not only shape the message you overtly communicate to your readers, but to also craft the way in which those users share the content with other users. Most users will not change the summary information that their sharing tools derive by reading your site, as in the share link provided by FaceBook. You can provide specific content for sharing that will direct the conversation and control your exposure to regulatory risk. Put simply, by using all of the types of content you can encourage people sharing your content to use the words and ideas you have written for them.
This is where meta tags come in to play. FaceBooks's new Open Graph protocol provides standardized meta tags specifically designed for the needs of social networking (sharing) sites. This standard allows you to define, among other things, a title, a type, an associated image, the page's url and its description (which is used as the summary in the seperately from other less precise methodologies (HTML title tag). By tightly integrating support for the these tags into your content publishing process (a task which can be made infinitely easier by a content management system that supports it, like ours) you can direct, if not control, your message and how it is distributed.
For life science companies the significance of this subject came into stark view when the FDA issued a warning letter to Novartis in August.
Too much of the initial discussion around the FDA's warning letter focused on the presence, and therefore the significance, of the ShareThis widget on the website. This is a red herring. Your company's content can be, and is, shared to Social Networking sites all of the time with or without widgets or special tools being availble on your site. The functionality that reads the site lives on the Social Networking site, FaceBook.
Removing a widget, or pretending like web 2.0 never happened won't protect you.
The only way to address this is to pay attention to and review your content, all of your content, including the unseen meta tags, craft it into communication that satisfies all of the various outlets and ensure it is all approved for regulatory purposes.