Social media rumors have been around as long as the Internet and hoaxes have spread from email to chat rooms and networking sites. With this quirk of social networking space, we can learn a lot from the mistakes of others. It’s only takes a second to click that share button but how do you know what you are reading and sharing is true? If you’re sharing a post that seems highly suspicious without at least checking Snopes.com or googleing it, you’re doing a disservice to your followers and yourself.
Businesses can learn a lot from common social media rumors and hoaxes today and the impact they have on the users of these networks. Are you spreading rumors or are you making sure you verify your facts and cite your sources before posting to your networks?
Let’s take a look at some of the most common social media rumors hitting networks today:
- Celebrity Deaths– We’ve all heard them; anyone on a social media network has seen the rumors of celebrity deaths. Justin Bieber has been one of the most common celebrity death hoax victims in history of the Internet. Other recent victims include Adam Sandler, Aretha Franklin, Charlie Sheen, Bill Cosby, Lindsay Lohan, Nick Jonas and Taylor Swift. You probably see a trend in famous celebrities or controversial celebrities being picked for death hoaxes. One theory behind this is the “haters” of the celebrity launch a viral campaign against them by claiming they have died and spreading the rumors throughout the Internet.
- Chain Mail– Chain mail is no longer reserved for our email inboxes. It spreads faster on social media than it ever did before. People just can’t help but hitting that “share” button or “retweet” button when they see something that interests them. Many chain mail rumors spread on social media promise you a reward of some sort and others claim that a child is missing or an animal is being abused. Most are proven false. These types of rumors tug at the heartstrings of the user, making them want to share to “make a difference” or to have a shot at winning something.
- Presidential Rumors– Nearly everyone wants to know something about the President. Presidential hoaxes have included Bill Cosby for President 2012, Presidential IQ hoaxes, That President Obama was in the “Whoomp There It Is” video, that Obama gave part of Arizona to Mexico and many more.
- Falsities about the Social Network– Facebook has been one of the most commonly affected by rumors about their platform. Who remembers the rumors spread about how Facebook would start charging members to use its platform? Members were told to spread the message that Facebook would no longer be free and it spread like wildfire.
- Social experiments– Some rumors are set in motion on purpose just to see what will happen. Take Washington Post sports reporter Mike Wise for example. Wise was suspended after he posted a false news story about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He claimed it was a social experiment to see how quickly a false rumor could spread throughout Twitter but it ended in a one-month suspension from his job and loss of respect of many followers who trusted him with their sports news.
All of these examples can teach us something about the power of social media. It’s not a plaything or a toy to be used however you wish, especially if you are in a position of leadership on the Web. If people come to your site or social profile in search of advice or information, they are trusting that information is true (with the exception being The Onion).
While businesses will continue to experiment with social media, these experiments should not come at the expense of the user or your reputation. Your audience is not meant to be guinea pigs to help you answer your questions about social media. Build trust in your audience and they will return again and again to see what you have to say.
Social media is a powerful tool; are you using it correctly? Stay tuned to Social Media Sun where we give you tips, tricks and try to separate the actions that will almost always bring positive results from actions that hold no guarantees, or even worse – actions that guarantee negative results. Do you pause when you read something that just doesn’t sound right? If so, do you try to debunk it, and alert others to a lie?