People use social media for so much good. For example, they keep in touch with loved ones and develop new friendships. Businesses market and sell their products while strengthening their brand reputations and customer relationships.
Social media is also one of the best places to distribute and consume valuable information. But unfortunately, misinformation is disbursed and spread just as easily.
How Misinformation Spreads so Quickly on Social Media
Humans and technical aspects are responsible for misinformation spreading so easily on social media.
People engage most with content that supports their personal beliefs and values. So, even if what they’re reading is coming from a non-credible source, if it aligns with their views, they will engage with it.
And then comes the technical factor. When someone engages with a certain kind of content, it triggers the algorithm to show that person more content like that. So the more misinformation someone interacts with, the more of those kinds of sources they’ll see on their timeline.
An excellent example of how quickly misinformation can spread is in reference to health misinformation. The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, has given birth to varying responses, many of which were influenced by misinformation.
There were many personal and professional opinions on whether people should get the vaccine. In addition, there was a lot of conversation about whether employers should require vaccinations and provide benefits to those who refuse to get vaccinated.
We’ve all seen something on social media that supports a “yes” response and a “no” response, whether it’s coming from a credible source or not. Being so divided on an issue that can severely affect everyone’s health and well-being is dangerous.
That’s why it’s so important to weed out misinformation and compile a list of accurate sources we can all refer to and trust.
How To Ensure You Are Only Distributing Accurate Content
We won’t be able to stop the spread of misinformation without a serious effort from those who have the power to influence real change. Social media specialists are a part of that group.
Putting truth and integrity at the forefront of your content creation process can significantly impact the fight against misinformation — and so can being mindful of how and to whom you distribute that content.
Here’s how to ensure you’re only creating and sharing accurate and true content.
Thoroughly investigate your sources
This might be the most crucial step a social media specialist can take. Investigating your sources thoroughly will ensure you only distribute the most accurate information from the most credible sources.
You can spot a non-credible source by:
- Noting the source’s date;
- Studying the site’s design;
- Seeing if it promises something that simply can’t happen;
- Looking at how much inflammatory language it uses;
- Seeing if other credible sources are saying the same thing;
- Understanding the credibility differences among different extensions (i.e..gov, .com, .org, .edu).
If the above isn’t adding up, it’s probably not the most trustworthy source. For instance, you can spot health misinformation using a few techniques, such as looking for outlandish promises or cure-all remedies.
When you do in-depth research on your sources, you’re less likely to be fooled by fake sources, repost them on your social media, or use them in your content. Be selective about what information you spread. Utilize social listening tactics to keep your ear to the ground on how other people may be fooled. You may also learn about some popular, hard-to-detect misinformation this way.
Post with integrity at the forefront
People get away with posting misinformation all the time. When it goes viral, it gives these individuals even more confidence to continue posting because their content is getting so much attention.
However, eventually, their followers discover that the information they post is inaccurate and comes from non-credible sources. And they stop trusting the page and the person behind it. Rebuilding this reputation is nearly impossible for most.
Your reputation will stay solid, and you’ll develop a strong relationship with your audience if you simply post with integrity at the forefront. You’ll combat misinformation too.
So, advertise with integrity in mind. Steer clear of misleading claims and clickbait headlines. Only post helpful, valuable information that’s rooted in accuracy. Also, don’t ever try to sway your audience one way or another. Give them the facts and let them make their own decision instead.
Don’t encourage controversy
Posts promoting controversy tend to get a lot of engagement on social media. Either the post is so outlandish that people have to see what it’s about or they really believe it and want to learn more.
Many controversial posts are supported by fake news sources. But most people don’t dig that deep. They’re just there to consume the content. And as mentioned above, the more likes, shares, and comments a post gets, the more it’ll show up on people’s timelines.
So, avoid the urge to encourage controversy for the sake of engagement.
Not sharing misinformation and including non-credible sources in your content is only part of your responsibility. The other part is reporting misinformation and fake news when you come across it.
Most, if not all, social media platforms have established a way for their users to report misinformation. Favorite these pages for each of your social media platforms so that you can easily pull them up when it’s time to make a report.
Moving forward with transparency and truth
Just like you can use social media to spread accurate, truthful information, you can also use it to distribute misinformation. Choose your side wisely and use the tips above to ensure you’re always citing credible sources that you and your audience can trust.
Author: Adrian Johansen
Adrian Johansen is a writer and marketer in the Pacific Northwest. She sees life as an opportunity for learning, and loves to share knowledge with others. You can find more of her work here.