Erroneous and inaccurate information have the potential to hurt any business or organization by reducing revenue, decreasing customers and even affecting stock prices.
Trolls, profiteers and foreign flags are a triple reputation threat for companies, as bot technology can be used to proliferate the detrimental information. The additional social shares and comments can create a cascade reaction, making a false post go viral across multiple platforms.
Businesses should update public relations (PR) strategies and employ technology to scour the web to identify false and negative information and thereby mitigate the potential impact. They should also have plans in place to counter attacks utilizing communication methodology and litigation if necessary.
The threat is large and unpredictable
The false information appears to be legitimate information on initial reading, and the enemy creating the articles counts on people making the material go viral.
The Pew Research Center recently survey a small sample of approximately 2,000 people and found that 50 percent think that “fake” news is a major problem with social media. Ironically, erroneous Tweets and re-tweets are 70 percent more likely than real stories to be shared, and it takes the true information around six times as long to reach 1,500 recipients.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) summarized a large study on the infiltration rates and level of erroneous stories, which was published in Science magazine in March 2018. The study, focusing on an analysis of Twitter, found that while bots are responsible for some of the spread of misinformation, the bots did not have different post rates when the story was true versus false.
Researchers then determined that human emotion and discussion may be the reason why the fake items were spread. The study also found that from 2006-2017 approximately 3 million people “spread 126,000 rumors” through digital channels.
Businesses should have plans in place that tracks and monitors postings that disturb brand reputation. Bots use artificial intelligence (AI) to imitate the natural communication method used by humans. Businesses and organizations can utilize AI technology to scour and precipitate identification using the best software solutions and practices.
Learn to identify misinformation
Trolls are individuals or groups with the goal of hurting specific corporations or products due to personal reasons. The discontent person might be a former employee, work for a competitor or disagree with the politics of an organization. The total cost of fighting brand slams is rarely publicly known. The lost revenue and damage to brand reputation can cause irreversible damage.
One recent example is an anonymous group on 4Chan that created a campaign offering a 40% discount for undocumented immigrants at Starbucks, naming it “Dreamer’s Day” and utilizing the hashtag #borderfreecoffee. The idea was to hurt Starbucks’ brand reputation and to enable US immigration agents to catch illegal immigrants.
Profiteering offers a short sale heaven for scammers but is a nightmare for business and market value. The goal of these attacks are to directly affect public confidence in stock prices and aim to either kill merger deals, raise stock price for day trader profit or lower value to attack the organization.
Twitter was targeted with a story that claimed there was an impending $31 billion takeover, causing stock prices to increase 8%. The profiteer created such a compelling false story that CNBC aired the story, potentially escalating the market reaction.
There has also been much discussion regarding Russia’s targeting of the United States’ social media using fake stories to cause havoc, in-fighting and potentially affect elections. There have not been any foreign flags discovered to date utilizing fake news against corporations, but the potential risk does exist.
Protect brand reputation
Social media sites are implementing measures to make “fake” news more difficult to post and easier to identify, but that may not be enough. Organizations should incorporate technology to search and identify inaccurate articles. The “bad guys” are using bots, so software to counter these attacks should be used to quickly and effectively enable organizational readiness.
External consulting experts can assist with identification of needs, suggest appropriate solutions and work with the existing framework of business so the implementation matches company vision and daily activities. This assists in ensuring the threats can be identified so that damage is mitigated.
Reputation management also must be part of the modern PR toolkit. After an issue is identified, media strategy specialists should create the plan to counter the negative information. This could include doing nothing, creating a comprehensive counter plan and possibly even litigation if the information warrants.
There also is the daunting task of ensuring that stakeholders, employees and customers know about the issue, but not information that is unnecessary to share. Just because a story is found, it does not mean that there are steps that need to happen except for monitoring.
The strategy used in countering the malicious attack should then be monitored including brand management and potential lost revenue and lowered sales. There is a certain fluidity needed for a positive outcome.
Depending on the level of services a business needs to protect or repair its brand reputation, an individual or team of consultants may be necessary. Tech-savvy third-party partners like Terrace® Consulting, Inc. offer the experience and solutions for a strong defense to protect a business’ brand.
Contact the experts at Terrace Consulting, Inc. by either phone, email or form to discuss brand management and prevent false information from impacting your business’ or organization’s reputation.