By Mark G. Auerbach
We hear about “fake news” constantly these days, and yes, it exists. It used to be that we could figure out what was real and what was not. Remember those supermarket tabloids with headlines like “Saddam and Osama in Love,” “Alien Bible Found: They Worship Oprah,” and “Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby?” We all chuckled, because we knew they were fake. We know that The Onion publishes fake news, and we read it for the laughs.
But we sometimes fell for the ads in these publications, which were fake, but which we wanted to believe…cures for cancer, baldness, erectile dysfunction, diabetes–if we lived with one of these or had a loved-one who did, our emotions often overtook our smarts.
Fake news is out there, and with the Internet and social media platforms, it’s big business. The catchier the headline, the more clicks on the site. The more clicks on the site, the larger the advertising revenues. People see something of intrigue, and they hit “share,” and the posts take on a life of their own.
As a small business owner, you likely use social media as a marketing tool. You have created an online community for your business, where you can share conversation and ideas, and encourage your customer base to share theirs. When fake news hits your page, or you share fake news from someone else, you lower your integrity as a business, and that’s when a problem develops.
When you see an article that you’d like to share, or someone shares an article to your site, fact check it.
NPR offers some ideas in this article.
Business Insider explains what Facebook is doing to fact check.
USA Today offers ways to spot fake news.
If you see that something’s fake, you have several options:
-Delete the post. If it’s harmful to an individual or to your competition, it’s the quick way to put the item to rest–although you may be perceived as censoring someone else’s opinion.
-Identify the post as “fake news.” You could say, “Thanks for sharing this, but we feel that either the source or the information doesn’t check out, when we researched the claims.” It acknowledges your concern, thanks your customer for sharing something, and warns others.
-Simply state, if you’re posting it, that it’s fake.
If you’ve mistakenly passed along fake news, retract it, by either acknowledging that it’s fake in your opinion, and apologizing for posting it, and/or deleting the post.
Best business practices require setting high standards for integrity. Taking these mall steps when dealing with “fake news” insure that.
Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.