What is the cost of fake news to your brand?
Fake news is polluting online conversation, via social media, news, and websites. It is distorting the views of users about real events, people, and organizations, and inspiring hating and defamatory speech. It is creating increasingly polarizing debates that can damage trust between individuals, organizations, and society as a whole.
And your brand is not immune to it. In fact, brands are at the forefront of the battle against disinformation (a general word to qualify all types of information disorders).
Companies already spend $9.54 billion per year on reputation management to prevent or repair the impact of disinformation in their communication. This cost can manifest itself in many ways :
- Inadvertently advertising in disreputable channels like extremist and conspiracy blogs and losing the trust of your consumers.
- Being the victim of disinformation campaigns on social media from ill-intended competitors and actors.
- Having to counter-communicate on existing damaging conversations and repair the reputation damage.
Ready to proactively defend yourself from disinformation waves? Let’s dive into the specifics.
Which channels should you monitor for fake news?
The best defense is always a good offense. And that also applies to the fight against disinformation. The more proactive your preventive measures are, the less likely you’ll have to pay for the damage. Supervising and monitoring every coming source of information is key to that. There are several types of communication channels to watch for :
Social media is the number one vector of brand disinformation. Because they make it so easy to share, comment, and recommend information, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… are biased toward spreading untrue and misleading posts about companies. Facing increasing pressures from advertisers and regulatory institutions, they are making efforts to moderate and prevent disinformation propagation. But this is often not enough.
That’s what happened to the US-based company Wayfair. Conspiracy theorists spread claims online that furniture names listed on Wayfair’s website were referring to missing or kidnapped girls. They conveyed these statements on many Instagram posts and Facebook groups. They gained enough engagement to provoke a public backlash against the company and damage its reputation.
This disinformation wave is not restricted to social platforms. From blogs, news outlets, and forums, the whole internet can be a starting point for harmful communication campaigns. Just look at how anonymous and conspiracy group conversations entertained empty shelves rumors and panic buying during the Covid-19 pandemic.
To further amplify their message, these fake news superspreaders can create and deploy spamming bots on many channels. For example, there is evidence that the Chinese government was the instigator of a disinformation campaign that undermined Australian mining company, Lynas, in 2022.
It hired the online influence agency Dragonbridge to point out adverse health effects of its mining operations, such as cancer risks and gene mutation. It used a network of thousands of inauthentic accounts across numerous social media platforms, websites, and forums to promote this narrative.
The place you advertise can also play a major impact on your brand’s reputation. Advertising platforms like Google, Facebook, or Twitter don't let you decide which content your ads will run on. Your promotional messages might as well appear alongside misleading social media posts or within conspiracy-themed websites, harming your brand's reputation, without having prior notice of it.
And one thing is for sure, this isn't a rare occurrence. In fact, top brands unknowingly invested up to $2.6 billion in misinformation websites in 2021. It is exacerbated by the higher performance of ads running in disinformation channels and networks.
According to the Tech Transparency project, one example of that is Facebook which still runs sponsored posts on searches related to hateful and conspiracy groups. Corporate Ads could be displayed for queries like “Klux Klux Klan” or “American Defense Skinheads”. They also appear among posts like the ones of The Libs of TikTok, a community that spread false information about LGBTQ and gender identity.
Monitoring brand disinformation online: 5 steps to follow
As brand safety threats come from all directions, how to get a global and real-time vision of every possible threat? For a brand manager, this is not an easy task. But there are some best practices that can help you detect, analyze and signal brand disinformation:
#1 Listening to brand conversation
You need to keep an ear out for everything that is said about your brand. There is already social listening software that tracks every brand-related mention, hashtag, and post. These will help you get a pulse of the discussion around your company, and thus proactively detect false rumors and hateful groups.
You can especially rely on customer sentiment analytics to check for alarming conversations. The more heated the feelings, the more likely wrong and harmful things can be said about your brands. You never know, this could be the start of a defamatory information wave!
#2 Choosing wisely your advertising platform
To protect your brand’s reputation, the choice of an advertising platform with a strong and reactive moderation policy is becoming more and more important. Whether Facebook, Twitter, Google, TikTok, or other less reputable platforms, each is more or less likely to associate your ads with hateful and false content.
So you might look first at the quality and performance of their moderation measures. Social monitoring tools can help you make an informed advertising decision, as they assess the presence of hateful and harmful speech within each platform.
#3 Proactively involving your audience
In this battle, what better allies do you have than your most loyal customers? They are the ones that are keeping the conversation alive in social media and web communities.
So you might communicate with them regularly about false information regarding your brand. You might also rely on well-connected influencers to put the facts straight and turn the conversation around.
#4 Monitoring media coverage
Media might also create and sustain conversations around your companies. Some of these might convey unfounded claims about your brands because of genuine reporting errors or via politically-biased opinion pieces. And that’s especially the case for news outlets that have low journalistic standards.
There are media monitoring tools that can help you track and analyze brand-related news on TV, press, radio, or online outlets, and detect worrying statements. To go deeper, you can even use media intelligence tools that give a comprehensive view of your audience on every channel and help you analyze your own communication campaign outreach.
With one caveat, their disinformation detection capabilities are still limited.
#5 Leveraging fact-checking capabilities
Now, how can you even detect and debunk fake news that is spreading online?
Fact-checking tools are key weapons in this matter, as they help you which piece of information is right and which is false. They can confront each news against verified and reliable sources and references.
In their more advanced form, they can warn you about disinformation waves related to your brand.
Buster.AI: add fact-checking capabilities to your monitoring tool
Buster.AI augments your existing monitoring tools with fact-checking capabilities. Based on deep-learning algorithm, Buster.AI can understand sentences, connect them to trusted sources and assess the claim’s reliability
By adding Buster.AI API to your social or media monitoring system, you can determine a reliability score for every post and textual content related to your brand or community.
The app allows you to connect submitted texts to related sources supporting or refuting the claim. You can then determine a match score between the claim and verified sources. These capabilities also work with groups of text documents and rely on predefined sources.
With Buster.AI, you can thus monitor in real-time the flow of your brand conversation, and proactively detect fake news that could harm your company. Contact us to better protect your brand.