What does fake news mean for brands?

May 18, 2017

Written by NewsWhip
fake news social media monitoring

Fake news has had an impact on social media, journalism, and audiences alike. But what about the effect for brands on social media?

Did Don Draper ever have to deal with fake news? The ad executive might have something pithy to say about how it takes years to build up a reputation, but only seconds to destroy it. 

The fake news hysteria is a nightmare for brands who end up on the wrong side of misinformation. The subsequent battle to fix a brand’s reputation is an uphill one.

As our CEO Paul Quigley told Bloomberg recently, “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on”.

There has always been fake news, but today’s politics have thrown brands’ political leanings into question too. In today’s hyper-politicized landscape, it is increasingly harder for brands to opt out of the political conversations taking place.

Many consumers don’t want to feel that they support a brand that doesn’t align with their political leanings. There have been brands that have been politically active for years, but now what companies do with their wallets is being scrutinized across the social sphere.

So how can brands address the impact that fake or hyper-politicized news will have on their reputation?
There’s a clear distinction between what brands can control vs. what brands can’t control, and we looked at how to manage both.

1. Stay aware of fake news taking off on social

Hoaxes happen all the time and have preceded this most recent fake news frenzy for years. We’ve all heard stories about soda dissolving pennies, or how mixing Mentos and soda can make your stomach explode.

These urban legends aside, the political climate makes navigating fake news so much trickier now. You never know when your brand will be mentioned and go viral in the social sphere.

Websites like Snopes tackle these myths daily, but only after the stories have already driven considerable attention. The sheer volume of fake claims shows how brands must be diligent in facing fake news. In Spike and Analytics, we can analyze the impact of some recent controversies.

Just this spring, Kay Jewelers received social media backlash for allegedly replacing its customers’ diamonds with fake stones. The claim started from renewed attention on a BuzzFeed investigation from last year. Kay Jewelers’ parent company addressed the claim as false last year, though not before the brand’s stock fell 3.7 percent.

The renewed interest on the post shows nothing on the Internet is ever truly dead. We can identify the social spread of these stories in Spike.

kay jewelers social media monitoring fake diamonds
This article has driven over 1,083 Facebook engagements since publication. Going onto Facebook, we can see the response from commenters.

kay jewelers social media monitoring fake diamonds
Snopes linked the recent backlash to a 2016 article from Conservative Tribune. The article started accruing comments through its Facebook plugin again this month.

The Kay Jewelers story is just one of many. These claims can possibly be politically-founded — as US Uncut’s story about ACE Hardware stores refusing to sell supplies to Standing Rock protesters.

US Uncut’s story drove over 135,975 Facebook engagements, and these engagements only grew as other publishers reported on the story. ACE Hardware released a statement saying no such ban was in place, but the social media outcry was already underway.

[fb_pe url=”https://www.facebook.com/114517875225866/posts/1557206704290302″ bottom=”30″]

This post from The Other 98% drove over 25,000 shares and 3,900 comments from incensed readers. While these two claims about Kay Jewelers and ACE Hardware are currently unproven, it’s clear that brands need to be aware of what effect such claims can have on their reputation, sales, and stock values.
There are countless such claims on Snopes about brands like Macy’s pulling support from Planned Parenthood, or whether the brand Harry & David supports neo-Nazis.

With how politicized the current climate is on social, it’s more important than ever that companies pay attention to the spread of such stories. NewsWhip Spike can help brands to stay aware, monitoring the creation and distribution of brand mentions across social.

2. Measure social engagements as KPIs, not clicks

Traditionally, clicks and impressions have been measured by both brands and the publishers placing branded content, as the measure of success. Our news feeds were assailed for years with clickbait.

Facebook has made concerted efforts recently to combat clickbait, leading to the algorithm’s favoring of more straightforward headlines. Clickbait headlines tend to be sensationalist, already revving readers up for an emotional sucker punch reveal.

Instead of clicks and views, brands and publishers should look to other, higher quality KPIs as as metrics of success. Shares, retweets, comments, reactions — these can indicate the specific intent and response that your audience had to your content.

There are some great ways to encourage this, such as building a brand newsroom. Brand newsrooms like GE, Reebok, and NASA are creating content that is inherently sharable.

[fb_pe url=”https://www.facebook.com/chubbies/videos/vb.212377122105873/1649730951703809/” bottom=”30″]

Chubbies, though a men’s fashion brand, has seen a viral reception to posting adventurous videos. This video has driven nearly 178,000 engagements on Facebook.  

For publishers, creating branded content for your advertisers is also a way to create a more natural experience for your social readers than traditional advertising.

[fb_pe url=”https://www.facebook.com/147285781446/posts/10154395042486447″ bottom=”30″]
This branded story from DICK’S Sporting Goods drove over 71,000 Facebook interactions. 

3. Be genuine in your social presences and advertising

Fake news has made brands and media less trusted by consumers. A report found that 64 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with a brand they perceive to be trustworthy, and 59 percent of consumers would stop buying from a brand they loved if the brand had fake content.

Social media already eschews anything that seems insincere. It was hard to miss the major backlash against Pepsi’s recent ad. With such issues still happening today, how can you make your brand trustworthy enough to stand up against fake news?

Make sure that you’re adding value to your followers’ lives instead of traditional advertising. Are you offering them something that’s informational? Inspirational? Entertaining?

[fb_pe url=”https://www.facebook.com/arbys/videos/vb.51500251811/10155419329426812/” bottom=”30″]

This quick video from Arby’s simply paired up the fast food chain’s products with another fan favorite, “Pulp Fiction”, appealing to the audience’s love of the pop culture reference.

One way to get fresh ideas is to look at what the best brands on social are doing, as well as the brands in your industry. Again, Spike can help you pinpoint the companies you can derive inspiration from.
This will help build a reputation for your brand that can serve as armor against fake news.

4. Stay aware of best practices from social platforms

Will Facebook’s actions to fight fake news affect brands? Over-promotional content has already had a hard time breaking into the newsfeed. Fake news may lead to users being more skeptical in general.

As Facebook cracks down on this sort of publishing, such as the recent down-ranking of bad sites, brands should focus on being as genuine as possible, building out organic communities.

One way to do this is by encouraging your followers to comment on content, creating interactive experiences, or by using user-generated content.

[fb_pe url=”https://www.facebook.com/251678208362947/posts/563139920550106″ bottom=”30″]

French cookie brand Michel et Augustin is quirky and fun on social media, showcasing the lives of its employees and creating contests for cookie lovers.

5. Keep a tight rein on your paid media and advertising

Spending ad dollars on untrustworthy sites can diminish your reputation. Beyond disreputable sites, brands can also receive ire for supporting hyper-partisan sites due to today’s political unrest. Backing away from such sites can be tricky, so monitoring the social channels is vital.

Boycotts, petitions, and other backlash can all pop up if a brand missteps. Some companies are fine with taking a political stance, such as Ben & Jerry’s and Starbucks. Others find themselves the subject of vitriol for even unintentional actions.

By knowing where your paid media and advertising efforts are going, you can control some of the perception around what your brand supports.

What to know

Though efforts are being made to combat fake news, hoaxes and rumors can travel fast on social media. The hyper-politicized climate can incense readers further, if a brand is aligned with a political movement they don’t agree with. (Ps. we recently analyzed the effect of hyper-partisan news on brands in our newest report).

It’s critical for brands to stay aware of the conversations happening on social media, and to prepare for any fake news claims. Through social media best practices and valuable content, companies can build a reputation that is harder to tarnish.

As readers get savvier and social media platforms work to fight fake news, building a genuine and savvy brand will keep you ready for any disreputable claims.

There are only a few spots left at our WhipSmart summit, where we’ll be chatting about misinformation with Jestin Coler, the “fake news king”, and other leaders in social publishing. Register today.

Current NewsWhip clients can reach out to their team contact for a discount. 


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