Fake News and What It Means for Your Business

by Kenny Murray

Friday, November 25th, 2016

You may think “Fake News” will never affect your business. Here a Digital PR Consultant explains how it could

Digital PR Tips Fake News StampSINCE the US Presidential Election, the internet has been swarming with news articles and opinion pieces on ‘Fake News’.

 The term ‘Fake News’ came into its own in November 2016. The graph below shows Google search and such for the term from their worldwide search engine from 2004 until the present day. It’s clear that the term came to public prominence within the last month.

Digital Media Consultant Discusses Social Media Searches for Fake News

Source: https://www.google.co.uk/trends/explore?date=all&q=fake%20news

So, why the sudden rise? It seems that with Trump’s victory, many commentators and activists were discussing the possibility that Trump was helped by fake news stories around his fellow candidates – and that perhaps that was part of a deliberate campaign of misinformation.

What exactly is ‘Fake News’?

Fake News is the phenomena of online articles or posts which go viral – making a claim which later turns out to be false. A group of teenagers in Macedonia made a small fortune by deliberately promoting fake stories about Donald Trump during the US presidential election, prompting claims they may even have had an impact on the outcome.

However, other fake news stories are simply the result of stupid online mistakes and blunders which gather a life of their own – like the case in the US were a man wrongly claimed anti Trump protestors were being bussed around the country, sparking a national conspiracy theory.

Whichever way these stories are started, once shared across social media they can suddenly explode into life if they fit the narrative of a niche or special interest group or campaign.

Surely this is just a politics thing?

It’s easy to write this off as being isolated to the political bubble, unfortunately it isn’t. False news stories is an activity that only seems to be increasing as savvy conmen seek to increase their social media reach using pages which they later sell on after they’ve built up an audience.

In a month which saw the term ‘post-truth’ listed as the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016, experts have found that fake news stories actually travel further and faster than real stories. And businesses are now starting to feel the pain as well.

Indeed, the massive PepsiCo business (parent company of the soft drink, Pepsi) took a beating on its stock price after a fake news story went viral attributing the company CEO with comments she simply never made. There wasn’t a shred of truth in the story claiming that she told Trump supporters to “take their business elsewhere”, yet it sparked major calls for a boycott of the brand.

This leaves businesses in the highly worrying position of being vulnerable to deliberate fake news attacks from anyone with a motive to make money from a crisis or benefit from destabilising a company in this way.

As a result of all this Facebook is now being challenged by news organisations, its own team and politicians and being asked to find a way to stop the spread of ‘fake news’.

How will it affect my business?

As Facebook looks to stop the spread of ‘Fake News’ it is making several moves to rein in the situation. It is further promoting its ‘Instant Articles’ – a way for publishers to host their content directly on Facebook – which Facebook can control a little more because it can remove them from the platform.

Experts at Facebook are also looking to create a piece of code that spots a breaking story or a page which suddenly seems to be getting more attention than usual. How they will then act is yet unknown, but I’d suspect that Facebook will penalise the page by limiting the reach of such a story.

What this means for businesses is that if you post sporadically or don’t utilise your social channels on a regular basis, that when you suddenly do post content and it understandably does better than usual – then it will see your page possibly penalised with the number of people who can see your content severely restricted.

How do I avoid this?!

It’s difficult to say exactly what Facebook will do to limit the spread of this type of content – but to ensure you don’t become unfairly targeted follow these steps to be seen as an active and genuine page.

  • Post Content Regularly
  • Ensure your content is varied and includes images and videos where appropriate
  • Engage with other pages, using your business page
  • If at all possible, schedule time and secure a small budget to promote posts occasionally using Facebook’s advertising set up.

These steps aren’t the be all and end all. They are general tips on avoiding the Facebook penalties which will no doubt come in as a standard in the near future.

For expert guidance on your social media our digital PR consultant and team of experts can help you maximise your social media channels and provide a return for your business.

The digital PR experts at Holyrood PR understand the changing media landscape and know just how to tell stories in words, pictures and video to make sure your online profile is as good as it possibly can be.

Whether you want to see more positive stories about your business, or simply want to stay ahead of the potential beartraps and pitfalls of the web, then we can help. Get in touch by phoning us on 0131 561 2244 of by taking a few seconds to fill out the simple form, below:

 

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