With current sensationalist headlines, such as “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President” or “Starbucks CEO: If You Support Traditional Marriage, We Don’t Want Your Business,” it is getting harder to know what is truth and what is fiction. This is especially the case for rushed, small business owners, who may just peruse the first article they see to keep their social media feeds current and active.
For one of my clients, it very quickly became apparent to him that the item about the Starbucks CEO’s supposed comment was not real. He tried to take it down from his personal feed, but the damage was already done. Many of his connections had already shared it from his original post. He felt awful that he hadn’t taken the time to check into it and find the falsehood within the story. This is a problem that many small businesses face, and because of a lack of knowledge about how to avoid the pitfalls of fake news, they may end up feeding the beast by sharing misinformation.
Even worse, sharing fake news can affect your business. A constant stream of false news on your business feed can lead to a mistrust of your brand. Social media is used to create not only your online presence, but it is also a form of trust building. Your content is designed to show your knowledge base in your particular area of expertise and build trust with current and potential customers.
So, how can you, the business owner, protect against fake news? When possible, hire a social media manager, who understands that it’s your online reputation at stake. If hiring a social media manager is not an option, here are some other possibilities:
- Check to see where else the story appears. Checking on other mainstream channels is a good way of verifying that a story had substance.
- READ the article before you post it. These are the questions you should be asking, as you read the article all the way through:
- Is the article poorly written?
- Are there grammar issues that make you think, “Hmmm…Why didn’t an editor catch this?”
- Are the purported facts verifiable?
- Consult with colleagues who are experts in the field.
- Here is an Example: If you read an article that states, “ACA is repealed, and business owners who paid are getting a rebate for last year’s insurance expenses,” you could call your accountant or tax attorney before you started spending that supposed refund!
- Is the headline a clickbait headline? As Carl Sagan once said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
For small business owners who don’t have the time to handle their business and take care of all this fact checking—when possible, ask a professional. It is our job to keep fake news out of your feed.
Wendy Pace is the founder of Pace Setting Media, a social media strategy agency. Pace holds a B.A. in Communications and Marketing from Hunter College. She credits her husband and children as motivation for getting up every day to face the world of social media.