Most of us have done it, many times it is too eye catching not to. You see a controversial or compelling headline a friend on Facebook or someone you follow on Twitter has shared. You share it too. No harm done, right? I mean, how could sharing something you are interested in hurt anyone? The answer may surprise you.
It may sound elementary, but just because you read something on the Internet, does not make it true. Before I go any further, let me first explain that I love the Internet. So don’t be confused, I admire everything the Internet has brought to humanity. I use it countless hours every week, and chances are you do too. And that is sort of where the problem lies.
We consume a whole bunch of content day in and day out. On social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, content is shared very quickly through our feeds. Because of this, it is hard to decipher the accuracy of what is being shared. Being too “share” or “retweet” happy can lead to the worst symptom the Internet can be exposed to: misinformation.
The most dramatic case of misinformation because of viral content that I recall came just hours after the bombing at this year’s Boston Marathon. After the FBI released the photographs of the suspects involved in the bombing, very quickly social media users scoured the Internet looking for clues. A young woman stumbled upon a Facebook page dedicated to a missing high school student in Rhode Island. The teenage male resembled the photos released by the FBI. That young woman shared what she found on Twitter. The revelation quickly made its way to Reddit.
At this point, according to many on social media, the identity of the suspect had been found. The problem, however, was that the high school student from Rhode Island had nothing to do with the marathon bombings. Nothing at all. But before the correct information could get to the public, users on Facebook had already left nasty messages on the page dedicated to the missing teen.
Why do I bring this up? Because I strongly believe that when you share content on social media, it is your job to make sure everything your sharing is accurate. You owe it to your audience. And just because a headline from a major news source has popped up while scrolling through your favorite platform, you really should make sure the report is accurate. Need we be reminded how many times CNN had to restate what they had previously reported in the days following the marathon bombings?
So in times of breaking news, as the most well known sources of information are always in a fury to be the first ones to report breaking news, the wrong information can quickly spread like wild fire. Why is this important regarding social media marking? This phenomena of being first to report does not only happen in TV. Breaking stories always spread to the Internet. In fact, most times the Internet is where a story breaks.
Do not misunderstand what I’m trying to say. The Internet and social media are great sources for information and yes, even news. But verify the content you share. Your audience will respect your brand if you check for accuracy. And if your audience respects you, all of your blogging and social media marketing efforts pay off.