What Is Fake News And How Can You Protect Your Business Against It [P2S Podcast]

Hi and welcome to the Passport 2 Success podcast, where in this week’s podcast we talk about fake news, how to spot it and how you can make sure you don’t fall victim to it in your business.

Before we get into the meat of the podcast, we’ve got another tool that you can try to help with your marketing. This one is called Canva, and it’s to help you with your visuals and will easily allow you to create designs from scratch in a few minutes. Canva’s got a suite of features that make it easy to create stunning visuals. It’s a simple drag and drop and you have access to search their database for the best graphics, photos, and font. They have transparency tools, speech bubble makers, and more. They have a free version which is more than enough, although they have a Canva for Work option which is $9.95 (about £7) a month.

Now onto the podcast.

Listen on your favourite player

Fake news is a type of journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate lies or hoaxes spread via print or more predominantly in this age through social media. Fake news is written and published usually with the intent, more often than not, to mislead in order to damage the target of the news using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase engagement. Similar to the click-bait titles on articles you see on your newsfeed.

Click-bait is the term used for titles designed to make you click them. For example, using something that is a small part of a video the main focus of the title would be considered clickbait or the main focus be fabricated or exaggerated. Put simply, they are designed to make you click by using sensationalistic messaging.

When creating links, you want people to click on them and your adverts. So you need to make them exciting and spark people’s curiosity. It is a form of click bait. But it needs to be business click bait. If you’re a plumber and want people to click on your advert, create click bait relevant to plumbing. Something along the lines of “This leaky taped turned into £50 worth of damage, all because they didn’t do this one thing.” (make sure it’s true.) Rather than click bait of a celebrity gossip nature.

Due to the nature of fake news, it’s can be quite scandalous and gossipy. It’s designed to get the most engagement out of people. An analysis by BuzzFeed found that the top 20 fake news stories about the 2016 U.S. presidential election received more engagement on Facebook than the top 20 election stories from 19 major media outlets. So, you can see how effective clickbait and sensationalistic titles and content can be.

Claire Wardle of First Draft News identifies seven types of fake news:

  1. satire or parody (“no intention to cause harm but has the potential to fool”)
  2. false connection (“when headlines, visuals or captions don’t support the content”)
  3. misleading content (“misleading use of information to frame an issue or an individual”)
  4. false context (“when genuine content is shared with false contextual information”)
  5. impostor content (“when genuine sources are impersonated” with false, made-up sources)
  6. manipulated content (“when genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive”, as with a “doctored” photo)
  7. fabricated content (“new content is 100% false, designed to deceive and do harm”)

Strictly speaking, fake news is completely made up. It’s been designed to deceive readers to get the most traffic and profit. The definition of fake news also includes distorted, or dubious information. These stories can become viral. And it’s not because the readers are stupid, it’s because the news format is easy to mimic.

Remember, anything that you share on your business social media platforms will reflect on your brand. We’ve talked before about the importance of brand perceptions. If you share trustworthy news stories, relevant to your business content and something a bit fun, people will have a positive perception of your brand.

If you share negative news stories, fake news, and miserable content, they will see your brand more negatively. Also, be aware if your personal social media profiles are linked in any way to your business ones

Also, the term has been loosely thrown around recently, especially in American politics, mainly in the Trump presidential campaign. Chris Cillizza described a tweet from Trump, on CNN as an “accidental” revelation about Trump’s use of the term ‘fake news’ and wrote: ” To Trump, those words mean the same thing. Negative news coverage is fake news. Fake news is negative news coverage.”

In October 2018, the British government decided that the term “fake news” will not be used in official documents. This is down to the fact it has become “a misleading term that conflates a variety of false information.”

So how does fake news become viral? We’ve taken the example of a tweet from Eric Tucker, a 35-year-old co-founder of a marketing company in Texas. At the time of his tweet, he only had 40 Twitter followers. His tweet was a photo of some coaches, he speculated were about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations against President-elect Donald Trump fuelled a nationwide conspiracy theory — one that Trump joined in with.

His post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. The problem is that Mr Tucker got it wrong. There were no buses packed with paid protesters. But that didn’t matter. The buses were actually there for an unrelated conference. Buses that the conference organisers proved it was their buses. But again, no one listened or cared about it.

Tucker said, “I’m also a very busy businessman and I don’t have time to fact-check everything that I put out there, especially when I don’t think it’s going out there for wide consumption.”

It was posted onto a sub-Reddit for Trump and generated over 300 comments. It then got picked up on a discussion forum for Democrats, which then got linked onto some high profile Facebook pages, they were then shared again over 5,000 times.

The storyline became a prominent one throughout the conservative blogs, with other sites incorporating Tucker’s tweet and referring to him as an eyewitness in Austin, despite the fact he had tweeted earlier he saw no unloading of protestors. Even Trump tweeted about fake protestors.

This all happened over the space of two days. All because someone speculated what they saw and didn’t properly do their fact-checking. And yes, it’s about the presidential election, a high-profile social media frenzy, all ‘fake news’ isn’t going to blow up that quickly.

So how can you tell a fake from the real deal? And how can you help to stop the spreading of the fake news?

It’s not that hard to make an educated guess as to whether it’s real or not. Here are the things you should do to ascertain if it’s real or fake:

  • Check out the domain name. Is it one of the more common ones such as .com or .co.uk or is it one you’ve NEVER seen before?
  • Google the sources or figures given in the story. If they’re credible, chances are, they’ll appear on other websites or articles.
  • Look for a contact us section. Real websites will have a way to contact someone if this is missing; chances are there isn’t someone on the other end.
  • If the first you hear of a story is from a website you’ve never heard of wait for it to be reported elsewhere. News websites such as BBC is a credible source for breaking news and news stories.
  • Check the date of publication to see if the story is relevant and up to date, or is it an old story which has been dug out of the archives again and again.
  • Is it a satire site? Some websites, such as The Borowitz Report on The New Yorker, The Onion and NewsThump are based in satire. Their stories have been taken at face value and spread. Look at the website, read the other articles. Are they in jest?

And what can you do to help stop the fake news going viral?

Make sure you don’t blindly share any new stories that you see. One of the reasons it gets so many shares are people read the title, make an instant decision and share. They may not even read the article. But the click bait title makes them think they don’t even need to read the article.

You have the control over what you share. Don’t react to the articles designed to trigger your emotions. And remember whatever you share, is on behalf of your business and your brand. If you share too much fake news and click-bait articles, then your brand will become associated with the negativity of fake news. You don’t want it to have a negative effect on your brand. It’s fine to share your business content on your personal one, but don’t share your personal content on your business profile.

December 20, 2018

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