Impact of Fake News on Brands

Impact of Fake News on Brands

Parneet Kaur
29 March 2017

The rise of fake news

Until just a few years ago, the traditional way of news and information consumption was heavily reliant on journalists and news channels. Now when people are asked ‘where do you for your news’, the answer is quite different- Facebook has become a source for news and information. We get updated on the latest happenings via Facebook posts or from other social media channels. The crux of most social media channels is user generated content. Most brands and people create enticing content for social and aim to get seen by collecting the maximum number of likes and shares on their posts. In order to do so, posters/brands may use unethical techniques to make that content exciting so that their campaigns go viral. Many times, creators take the support of not so authentic or somewhat fake news to gain popularity acting as click bait for easy profits. This practice has led to more and more sources on the web to become fake news sources. Compared to mainstream news, fakery is difficult to decipher in origin as well as intent.

We also notice satirical content on the web causing both laughter and confusion. The information overload era has now turned into an information missoverload era. We bend towards popular content that is being shared in our networks and we believe it- simply because it is pushed towards us. Thanks to the power of machine learning and Facebook news feed algorithms!

We have entered a new world of democracy where anyone can post anything on the web giving rise to the bloggers. Brands take the support of their popularity to spread brand awareness and even generate sales. What started off as an innocent mutually beneficial relationship slowly turned into a monetary mechanism. In the era where consumer starts and ends their purchase cycle by reading reviews and peer generated content, brands realised the potential to sell through influencers leading to unethical promotions or somewhat fake advertising practices.

How does fake news affect the brand and customer experience?

The Internet has disrupted the media industry and we lie in a strange place where there is a constant dilemma of what to believe and what not to believe.

Audiences now are more alert than before to this kind of indigenous PR opportunity and consumers of these brands have started cringing at extreme promotional advertising that may not come across as real. In such cases, the new era of customers might shun the brand or even start negative campaigns against them expressing that the brand is not telling the truth in advertising. Millennials in particular desire to be real, unique and appreciate real brand experiences. They want relationships based on consistency and honesty. Once a customer becomes suspicious of the brand’s messaging, this fake messaging could impact the authenticity and credibility of brands. In other words, authenticity is more than a one-dimensional attribute. It has psychological and subjective value.

From a customer journey and reputation standpoint, it is important for brands to identify and distinguish real and fake news. Such influencing factors directly impact customers journey to locate, consider and purchase products and services.

To combat the fake news circuit brands must:

  1. Create reliable and honest content true to their brand values.
  2. Build relationships over time, do not only rely on one blogger or thought leader to promote the brand.
  3. Keep an eye out for similar websites and URL- some websites have really dodgy and unique names, be sure to check the content on such websites before advertising on them in any form. Some others may also have similar URL’s to legitimate sources such ABCNews.com.co mimicking ABC.com, which is a legitimate news source.
  4. Constant monitoring by brands- Brands must ensure that they monitor their coverage regularly to keep a tab on fake sources. Tools such as Meltwater can help detect a crises situation in advance.
  5. Turn on your detective mode! Before considering any partnership, look for evidence. Who has the source worked with in the past, does the headline make claims that are not supported within the article and so on.
  6. Harvest media contacts database to ID influencers who can spread your message and correlate the correct story to the right audience.
  7. Facebook’s new ranking algorithms can help. The integration of fact checking into Facebook’s publication platforms will help identify and reduce misleading and spammy posts in the news feed. This move also depicts the value of authentic content in order to maintain brand credibility.
  8. Give customers the power to curate their authenticity alongside the brand. E.g. the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ advertising campaign, which is an attempt by the brand to accurately represent and engage their customers.