Social media and fake news

Fake newsAnyone who’s been near the Internet in the last year will have heard about fake news. It’s a global epidemic, and social media is a key part of the problem.

Fake news can cause problems for your business. Sharing inaccurate or false articles could be extremely damaging for your reputation. Your followers will not trust your judgement, and you will not be considered an authoritative and reliable source, therefore damaging your chances of gaining conversions through social media marketing.

Here’s a quick guide to how social media falls into fake news, and how to avoid the traps that come with it.

What is fake news?

The bewildering world of fake news and alternative facts is very confusing. But there are two main types of fabricated stories:

  1. Completely false stories that are deliberately published or shared for website hits or propaganda.
  2. Stories may have some truth to them, but contain inaccuracies.

How does social media come into it?

Social media is the driving force behind fake news. The stories are normally controversial and interesting – perfect for sharing with friends, though not so great for business accounts. Whether it’s shared by accident, or by an insufficient fact-checking procedure, fake news will damage your credibility.

Take a look at the five top political fake news stories of 2016. They all gained traction through social media due to their incredulous and clickbait headlines, even though they were untrue.

Companies that shared these articles lost the trust of their followers after each was revealed to be a fabrication.

While these headlines are all about Donald Trump and the US presidential elections, the UK isn’t without its problems. Throughout Brexit, and after the referendum, fake news ran rampant, and now with Scotland deliberating a second independence referendum, it is very likely that the number of fabricated stories will increase dramatically.

What is being done to stop fake news?

Governments, tech giants – like Tim Berners Lee and Mark Zuckerberg – and the general public have all called out for action on fake news.

Social media networks are constantly updating their algorithms, while Google has developed a fact-checker and deployed it across the globe.

This may not be enough to stop it, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

How fake news affects your business

Clearly, fake news is to be avoided at all costs. But how do you spot it? Here are our top tips:

  • Look at the source– who’s posting it? Can you trust them? Is it really them, or a fake site? e.g. www.abcnews.com.co or www.abcnews.com
  • Read the whole thing– don’t share anything unless you’ve read it all. Make sure it fits with your brand ethos, and that all the claims it’s making are true. Don’t forget to check the supporting sources too!
  • Check out the author– Google them, try LinkedIn or their company page. You can then make a judgement call about whether they’re legitimate.
  • Look at other pieces on that topic– could you back it up with another source?

So, select what you share carefully and double-check before you post anything. That way you’ll be able to avoid reposting fake news and damaging your hard-earned reputation.