With the recent events spanning the country and the world showing us that 2020 is, indeed, a raging dumpster fire and that society still has a lot of work to do to ensure that people are treated equally regardless of their actual or perceived skin color, gender, or sexuality, it is important to ensure as best you can that you are sharing only factual information…not that the fast changing nature of information or the media’s desire to be sensationalistic helps anything. However, as a business owner, it’s important to ensure that you’re doing everything you possibly care to share factual information because it helps you protect your online reputation.
You must understand that your clients as well as your prospective clients will see your social media posts; regardless of whether you include your opinion with the sharing of the “news.” If you are one of those who spreads misinformation because you do not check the sites that you are getting the information from, you may find that clients and prospective clients are no longer unwilling to work with you or will not hire you. This isn’t persecution. It’s free market. Just like you have the right to shop wherever you want and buy from wherever you want, others have that same right. Your business may very well be impacted by what you share online.
And, yes, mistakes can be made when it comes to the sharing of misinformation. That is more likely to be overlooked when you have a history of sharing factual information than a history of what seems like constantly sharing misinformed or old information. In this article, you’ll learn why it’s important to check your sources and how to check your sources so that you’re less likely to commit social media suicide.
Why You Should Check Your Sources
Just because you see a post that you agree with does not mean it is legitimate or factual information. Babylon Bee and The Onion have been around for what seems like forever. Most of us recognize they are satire sites. Yet, there are people who don’t treat them as such. There’s also the disgraced Alex Jones of InfoWars.
A more hilarious and lighthearted example is the 2007 trend of “Rickrolling.” The trend disguised itself as legitimate news articles.
Then, there’s the more serious election of 2016, and the alleged Russian involvement against the presidential candidates. Many people shared the information they found without even attempting to check the validity of the claims being made by a foreign power to influence the election process. This led to many people being upset with one another and losing friends and family members. Why do we state alleged involvement? It isn’t that we don’t believe in the possibility of foreign involvement, but both political parties blamed the other side and had “proof” of each other’s meddling with foreign government involvement. So, you could literally find a story to support your preferred political persuasion. Was either side 100% factual? Of course not.
A lot of businesses share news stories through their social media accounts. It may be done for industry reasons, to share breaking news, or to share their support of certain positions. However, by sharing information that is not verified as being up-to-date or that is blatantly incorrect, you could potentially lose current clients as well as prospective clients. Your clients may not want to be associated with a business that does not take two minutes (that’s really about all it takes) to verify information you share.
How to Verify Your News Sources
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort to ensure that what you’re sharing with your social media followers is valid news. Here are some tips as provided by the AP 2020 Style Guide.
Black Moth Media is an annual subscriber as well as an online subscriber! AP is the gold standard for the media. Ask your current content writer or digital strategist if they adhere to the AP style guide.
Always review websites and social networks that allow anyone to contribute information or photos. Examples include Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. These social media networks use an icon, such as a checkmark or star, to show that certain accounts that are verified and belong to a named journalist, government official, celebrity, or any other public figure who took certain steps to prove their identity. If the social media account does offer a verification method for these types of accounts, you still must ensure that the information provided is accurate (because hacking still happens and people still make mistakes!). Verified accounts just help you know that you’re following the named individual or entity. Some of these accounts are just fraudulent, parody, or they could be sites set up to pass on malware, or other viruses. Such things are done through social media a lot. It even happens to regular people, not just celebrities, journalists, and news entities.
If you’re looking to follow Robin Bull of Black Moth Media, all of her accounts can be found on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook by TheRobinBull. She is only Google verified as an author, although she is working to become verified through other platforms. On Pinterest, the account name is LeNoirComm (short for LeNoir Communications, LLC, Robin’s LLC registered in Oklahoma!). You can always find her social media profiles here on Black Moth Media!
Spreading fraudulent claims that a client or prospective client may could alienate you from your client. Starting parody accounts or purposefully sharing parodies can be great (we love Weird Al…do you know how often White and Nerdy is sent to Robin? It’s right up there with Word Crimes!), but it needs to be clear that it’s a parody account and meant to be fun.
While this is not meant as legal advice because we are not lawyers, it is important to not purposefully spread false information about another individual or business. Depending on the circumstances involved, it could become a serious legal problem for you (or, again, cause you to lose business or make it more difficult for you to solicit business).
Easy Peasy Tips to Determining If Your Source Is Credible
Here are some easy peasy tips to determining if your source is credible and if you should share that article:
- Open the article and read it for yourself. That’s right. Don’t just blindly share it. That lost dog or lost child may definitely tug on the heartstrings, but that may have happened six years ago and they were found. That article about that thing that makes you really angry might have happened nine years ago and is just making the rounds again and Facebook will label it as partially true and, in fact, Snopes will tell you the same thing (and, yes Snopes is a credible source). This is 2020. Do you really need to share an article that is four years old? No.
- Look for a date of publication. No date of publication? Don’t share it. It may have a “Last Updated” date as well. If it has a date of publication or a date it was last updated, this is a very good sign. However, there are some websites that do not publish dates on certain types of material, including many institutions of higher learning.
- Look for the name of the author. Again, there will be times when there isn’t a name or when the name is “Staff Writer.” Generally, it is clear when the material is relevant, timely, and accurate.
- There are no typos, misspellings, or grammatical errors. Professional writings are free from these mistakes.
Social Suicide Is Unacceptable
Committing social media suicide is harmful for both yourself and your business. If you are continuously spreading false or misleading information no one will want to work with you or trust you an expert in your industry. This will not grow your business. It will eventually hurt your business. It is social media suicide, whether you purposefully share bad information or not.
Don’t blame the media when you have the ability to check information to determine if it is factual on your own, call it into question, or just not share it if it is incorrect.