With the plethora of social media platforms that are constantly publishing posts left and right, social media users are incessantly bombarded with content as they browse. Whether it be news and scores about the NBA playoffs or short updates about the ongoing political campaigns, social media users are subjected to updates on the sites that they frequent. The sheer amount of this content begins to beg a couple of questions. How can someone gauge the veracity of something posted online? What are the potential consequences of taking something at face value and then later finding out later that you did not get the entire story or even the right story at all?
I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who has read something online, told it to someone else a few hours later, and later realized that what I had read and passed along has been an unsubstantiated rumor or outright falsehood that I had not only consumed, but also contributed to its spread. Loosely related, we discussed in class the story of the woman who tweeted something that was interpreted as being racist, hopped on a plane with no internet connection, and then debarked to find that the internet had already served as the judge and jury about the perspective and intent of her tweet. A lot of this stemmed from her being unable to defend herself from the internet, but this doesn’t lessen the fact that a large portion of the internet consumed and spread something that, she claims, was not true.
Determining what sources are authentic and whose content can be trusted has grown increasingly hard in 2015. Any random internet user can create a mock profile and begin posting content that could be, and frequently is, interpreted as being from the actual brand itself. We saw one instance of this in class when a rogue Facebook user impersonated the customer service department of companies and replied humorously to complaints posted on the brand’s Facebook walls. While this was most likely incredibly funny to us as third party viewers and even boosted the awareness of the companies themselves, this user certainly was a headache for the brand as many of their customers reacted negatively to the content being posted by the “customer service account”. Brands need to be aware of instances such as these and react appropriately or fear these types of things going viral and reaching the endless audiences of the internet.
I think an important step in ensuring that you’re consuming and sharing content that is authentic and verified is by doing some research of the topic yourself. It isn’t all that hard for someone to take a few spare minutes and search online to confirm whether an article posted is clickbait nonsense or is substantiated by other reputable sites. This step, albeit small, would work wonders if all internet browsers took it seriously. It’s sometimes wild to me how many posts I see shared on my Facebook timeline that clearly haven’t been researched whatsoever. I admit it’s funny when a Facebook page clearly messes up its content to be funny, but at the same time one has to consider when things such as clearly photoshopped quotes from presidential hopefuls could potentially shift public perception. How silly would it be if someone voted against the presidential candidate they most identify with because they saw an illegitimate quote from them on Facebook?
There is definitely a business incentive for brands to be aware of the content that is being posted about them online and make an effort to ensure that it’s of a legitimate source and authentic. Unsubstantiated sites publishing misleading content takes a lot of the brand control away from the firm and allows it to be potentially dragged down and damaged by these outside sources. Businesses should monitor social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook to ensure that third-party content matches their intended brand goals and marketing strategies.
Sorry for the long-windedness of this post, I am just curious what people’s experiences have been with this topic. Have you ever found yourself wondering about the truthfulness of something that you’ve seen posted online? Have you ever spread false content unknowingly?