16 Mar 2017

How Social360 can help corporate communications teams with the challenge of misinformation

Since the inception of Social360 seven years ago, we have provided accurate, timely and comprehensive social media monitoring and analysis to a range of blue chip and independent clients across the world. For us, fake news is nothing new. Since the world of social media boomed, we have been using our combination of proprietary monitoring technology and human judgement to determine a news source’s credibility so that our clients receive information that is relevant, trustworthy and digestible.

The past twelve months have seen fake news pushed to the forefront of the communications agenda. Credibility has been shunned by certain news sources, as headlines have sought to appeal to human emotion, while facts have been stretched, and often ignored. New terminology has been introduced: alternative facts, post-truth, fake truth, fake news. In the UK, the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2016 was post-truth, so great was its impact.

But outside of the political context so closely associated with the concept of fake news, what is the impact of this new era of “alternative facts” on corporate communications teams? Does fake news affect companies in the way it affects political campaigning? And how can Social360 assist in addressing these challenges?

1. No more mass audience

Social media has already presented communications professionals with the challenge of the erosion of the concept of the mass audience. Audiences are fragmented, not into traditional demographically-based segmentation lines, but into smaller, fractured and unpredictable groups.

A hundred people can easily form a Facebook group that can make a lot of noise and cause untold disruption.

As fake news enters the mainstream, if these fragmented groups decide the basis for their own fact, how can an in-house communications team deal with dissemination of untruths from such splintered voices?

Social360 has monitored social media noise for the past seven years. We have listened to the social media activity of activist groups campaigning against large corporations, with our intelligence assisting companies in developing their own strategies to engage with these stakeholders.

We have monitored and analysed campaigns – both marketing campaigns and activist campaigns – to assist in gauging the effectiveness and reach of these often small, yet vocal groups. And the dissemination of fake news is in no way different to the way our editorial professionals always treat news sources – questioning credibility and relevance to our clients.

2. Keeping ahead of fake news

No company is immune from a fake news attack from an activist group or an unverified source. The consequences can be significant, and sometimes even catastrophic in terms of share price – let alone reputational damage.

Regular, ongoing media monitoring allows communication teams to have real-time notice of any brand or company name mentions.

At Social360, we deploy various tools to ascertain a source’s credibility.

OpenSource’s curated lists of credible and non-credible sites provide an instant reference point to examine news sources. The First Draft Group also provides training materials for organisations such as ours to verify news sources and works with leading platforms to continue a dialogue around fake news.

But above all, the human element in our process provides a breadth of scrutiny that no bot or Artificial Intelligence programme can offer. Our editors and analysts examine any source that appears dubious, looking at its URL or social media handle, reading beyond sensationalist headlines to get to the root of a story, and examining the small print and disclaimers which often refer to satire or falsehoods.

3. Engaging your influencers

For any communications teams concerned about the effects of fake news on their business, an influencer network is a good starting point to counter any false claims.

It is likely that in-house PR teams will have identified influencers and stakeholders who act as brand advocates and can promote the company, as well as helping to reach social media audiences with an interest in the company.

Social360 has experience in helping companies identify those social media users who have influence in their particular sector and area of expertise. We can uncover these as part of our regular monitoring process, and often our clients provide us with details of their influencers so that we can ensure we monitor their activity.

We also conduct in-depth analysis projects to drill down on specific areas and identify social media users who are likely to become engaged as influencers, helping our clients with their stakeholder engagement strategies.

4. Ramping up your own social media use

Communications teams can be prepared for the threat of fake news directed at them by engaging in a communications strategy where their own social media channels regularly disseminate information, be it promotional or fact-based.

Fake news sits uncomfortably beside the truth, and the current climate is forcing companies to be more transparent. No one can argue with an open, truthful communications approach founded on integrity and credibility.

We regularly monitor companies’ social media accounts for them, tracking the reach of their posts and gauging their audiences’ reaction to them. For large multinational companies with presences in many countries – and in turn a multitude of social media presences – this can be a vital way to keep ahead of response and sentiment regarding their activity.

If you want to discuss how to keep your team ahead in these fast-moving times, do get in touch with Social360. We have the insight and expertise to help you challenge the fake news agenda.

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