Since Trump’s calls of “fake news” and the numerous, high profile media stories that have exposed how hackers and shadowy agencies spread disinformation around online, the need to demonstrate that your content is factually accurate has become more important than ever. The impending UK election has already been significantly marred by the proliferation of false news stories and tweets, some of which were deliberately spread around by bots. As these stories continue to break, consumers become ever more cynical of information they are presented with online. The importance of trust, authority and reputation can never be understated and unless you plan to lose a lot respect very quickly, we suggest making fact checking part of your daily routine when creating or sharing content of any kind. Here’s a guide on how you can do that.
Check Your Sources Carefully
This is especially true if you’re making any kind of claim about health benefits, quality or materials. Unscrupulous businesses won’t think twice about making sweeping statements based on false information, but this can lead to legal problems and ultimately, a loss of customer confidence over time. Use reputable news sites and check to verify that any facts, figures or statistics are accurate by double checking across a variety of different sources. If something seems as if it’s been made up to make something sound appealing, it probably has. As a comedian once said, “statistics show, up to 75% percent of all figures are made up.” This is a perfect example of the kind of statement that people try to get away with as when you read it quickly, it does kind of make sense.
Clearly display references or links to information that you use for marketing
If you’re claiming that a certain product has been approved by the world health organisation, you must give evidence of this somewhere on your site. Even a quick link to an article that verifies this can be enough, but any statements that you make must be substantiated by evidence from a source that can be verified. Unfortunately, the online world can be a nefarious and shadowy place at times and as consumers begin to realise this, their ability trust the information that’s given to them begins to wane somewhat.
Mark parody pieces clearly
Trolling is evidently part of online life now but even in its most gentle form, it can still cause people confusion and upset. If you’re using a humorous tone in the style of something like “The Onion” or similarly satirical sites, make it clear that what you’re doing is supposed to be received in a light-hearted way, rather than being read at face value. A small asterisk at the bottom of the piece or a simple emoji can be enough to avoid any confusion. Remember that not everybody online has the same ability to understand irony, nuance or subtext, so don’t assume that your audience will “get it” just because you do.
Use Genuine Customer Reviews
We’ve discussed the value of allowing customers to offer feedback on your site in the past. When people know they’re reading genuine reviews, they’re more likely to believe the information they’re presented with. Rather than trying to convince them that your product is up to scratch, which will always be met with a degree of cynicism, allow your users to leave their own opinions. This way, you aren’t making any direct claims yourself and your potential clients can make their choice based on an independent source.
Tackle negative social media feedback head on
One of the most damaging things a customer can do to a business, is leave negative feedback in a place where it can be seen by potentially thousands of people every hour. Rather than shying away from this kind of conflict or trying to get into a public debate, remain professional, calm and focus on the facts. Ask the person with the complaint what you can do to make things better for them. They will appreciate the helpful tone and it will also demonstrate that you aren’t just a faceless company with no regard for the people you are selling to. Ideally, move conversations like this away from the public eye as soon as possible by inviting the person you are speaking to get in touch directly.
Dispute and refute any false claims made about your business in the press
This requires a fastidious approach to monitoring any mention of your brand, but it can be an important element of your overall marketing strategy, especially if you’re in a particularly competitive industry. Be aware of libel laws and if you feel as if something has been printed that unfairly represents your organisation, be prepared to contact the people responsible directly to reach an agreement. If this can’t be done, you may need to involve lawyers, though at a lower level, most businesses would prefer to avoid this to save wasting money on fees.
If it isn’t true, don’t say it
This sounds so simple but there are still hundreds of cases of false advertising that leave companies with a terrible reputation and a severely damaged bank balance, simply because they’ve tried to get away with “bending the truth” a little. Use a professional content writer to help you explain what you want to say without making any directly claims that could be construed to be false. The nature of digital marketing means that it isn’t always easy to be straight forward but it’s never a good idea to try and make things up in a bid to sell more products or subscriptions.
We predict that the need for fact checking and information verification will become ever more important throughout the next decade, so leading by example is the best approach to take. Even if it means missing out to some less ethical companies, you will generally reap the rewards in the long term if you make a point of avoiding anything factually incorrect.