How you brand can avoid a fake news social media storm.

No one can question the power of social media in spreading new information, connecting like-minded individuals and creating a platform for debate. But what happens when that information isn’t based on facts, those like-minded people have bad intentions or the debate is taken over by trolls? How can your brand avoid being caught up in the chaos?

Fake news has emerged as a major problem over the last year but the gravity of the situation is only recently coming to light. Lawyers from Facebook, Google and Twitter revealed to the US Congress that a staggering number of Americans were likely influenced by content linked to Russian sources ahead of the 2016 presidential election. A reported 288 million Americans saw Tweets from ‘bot’ accounts with Russian links in the months ahead of election day. On Facebook, some 126 million users saw stories, posts or other content from Russian sources. This content spread disinformation, propaganda and worked to subvert democracy itself.

Fake news has certainly had an impact on social media, journalism and consumers, but brands are also feeling the sting. Considering that people are more likely than ever to get news from multiple social media sites, it is critical that brands understand and work to mitigate the risk.


Here are 6 ways that brands can avoid being caught in a fake news social media storm.


1. Know where your brand stands

The divisive nature of politics has put brands’ political leanings into the spotlight. That makes it tough for any brand that prefers to sit on the fence. Consumers want to support brands that align with their personal views and they’re not afraid to use their wallets to show favour or disdain.

When social media learned that Nordstrom, a high-end department store, was selling Ivanka Trump‘s fashion line, it faced an organised boycott. It’s decision to dump the line resulted counter boycotts from Trump supporters. Similarly, some Keurig customers posted videos of themselves destroying their products in response to the brand pulling its advertising off a Fox News show. It is more important than ever that brands know and live their values.


2. Be proactive in monitoring conversations and mentions

If you don’t know what’s being said about you, how can you respond? Invest in social media monitoring tools and services that enable you to keep a close eye on conversations that are important to your brand. Misinformation or negative coverage can spread like wildfire, so it’s important to get on the front-foot as quickly as possible.

Social media monitoring also allows you to better understand where and how your customers get their information. This insight allows you to get closer to your customers and provides more context around what’s important to them.


3. Focus on quality instead of vanity metrics

Many brands still prioritise vanity metrics such as clicks and impressions over quality metrics, such as engagement, comments, shares, retweets and conversions. Engagement metrics offer a much clearer picture of how consumers are interacting with your brand and their feelings towards it. This makes it easier to stop trouble before it starts.

You might have a post or ad that appears to be ‘going viral’ but no one wants to go viral for the wrong reasons. Monitoring consumers’ sentiment and importantly, changes in sentiment will help you keep an eye on potential problems.


4. Make building organic communities a priority

If your brand is the victim of fake news, it’s likely that your most loyal customers will come to your rescue. I love seeing consumers correct misinformation or defend brands they love. That only, happens, however, when they’re invested in it. That’s why it’s more important than ever to strive for authentic, relevant social communities that prioritise relationships.

Be positive and interactive with your social media channels. And never, ever pay to grow your following, as tempting as it may be!


5. Be authentic…always

Another negative impact of fake news is that it erodes consumer trust. A recent report found that 59 percent of consumers would stop buying from a brand they loved if the brand had fake content.

Be real with your consumers. Ensure your content adds value to your consumer’s lives. That means sharing new or relevant information, simplifying something they think is complex, making them laugh or cry or inspiring them to act. Don’t trick or mislead customers – you might get them to click once but you’ll likely won’t see them again.


6. Nurture lots of goodwill

When you hear something interesting, curious or scandalous about a celebrity or brand, your first step is usually to type it into Google to get more information. If you can build a bank of brand goodwill, you may be able to mitigate the impact of negative or fake stories.

Look for opportunities to improve the SEO ranking of positive stories. Be proactive about seeking and publishing reviews from happy customers and contribute valuable content to trustworthy media publications. You may not be able to make the fake stories go away, but you can at least give customers other stories to read that demonstrate what your brand is all about!


What do you think about the impact of fake news on social media and the traditional news cycle? How else can brands stay clear of trouble and make their content work for them? Share what you think in the comments below.

And if you need help navigating a social media storm (or making sure it doesn’t happen to you!), get in touch!

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