Something bothered me greatly this weekend, and it wasn’t just the UK weather!

My social media feeds and some of the traditional news outlets I visit were all running a story about a brilliant magician’s prank that had been captured at the back of a live Sky News report.

The unaware reporter was shown filming a segment outside parliament when a magician and his assistant could be spotted in the background. One of them got into a box and appeared to shrink and expand according to the magician’s will.

 

 

It’s a fun little video and a great example of how something can go viral. Only, there was no such Sky News report; it was a clever PR stunt for magicians Young and Strange in a bid to help them get publicity and land them a television show.

The Sun, Huffington Post, Metro, Lad Bible, and more didn’t check their facts and credited the story as a real incident.

That it had happened live on air, that the station was duped, and that someone would actually have enough time on their hands to hang around Westminster Green with lots of magician’s equipment waiting for a news reporter to happen along.

That so many outlets took it as fact and reported it to millions is very troubling indeed, and will hurt those brands’ credibility as well as misinform a global audience.

Your Turn! How can social clean up its act when it comes to things like this? Is it the network’s responsibility or the fault of content creators? Let me know in the comments section below.

The truth will out

Let’s step away from social for a moment and concentrate on search. You may remember a few months ago I wrote about how Google may assign rankings based on facts. There’s still that buzz around the world of search, and that truth-based content will be looked upon favourably be Google.

That’s for the future, though. Recently Google has begun to roll out its latest Panda algorithm update, Panda 4.2 which is expected to take months to fully release.

Google Panda is Google’s content algorithm, and has been battling against poor quality content and spam for a good few years now.

That Google is still concentrating on refreshing the algorithm and trying to denote the best rankings to the most accurate content creators is brilliant news for Google’s users, and shows the conundrum brands have when it comes to fitting social into the equation.

Killing creativity?

The problem here is that brands’ need to be first with good looking content in a bid to be seen as the first one to break the story. Not that there’s really any story to report here; it’s already popular on sites like Reddit and would likely be ignored if sent as a press release.

But so many brands are lifting this type of content from social sites and using it in a quest for likes and clicks. The practice is becoming endemic, with the same content being pushed to overkill and some brands declining to make their own creative submissions.

 

The PR Stunt That Shows Social Media Isn't Always Magic

 

So, what’s the problem? If it’s working for them then fantastic, right? To an extent, but this magician prank example is the tip of a very lazy iceberg.

Find something vaguely interesting or relatable on Reddit, broad in appeal, and stick it up on Facebook or Twitter.

A lot of brands have made a lot of money using that tactic, but this shows how dangerous it can be if they don’t check their facts and spread false information across the internet.

Your Turn: Can truth really be a representative factor for search or will the instant impact of social completely negate the whole thing? Let me know below!

Check, check, and check again

One school of thought is that this incident isn’t so bad because a lot of media organisations fell for it.

No; that makes it even worse that so many are letting standards slip and are just using others’ content on autopilot. And it’s not like the magician video was a perfect Sky replica. There were all sorts of little quirks that took some authenticity away from the situation.

It all comes down to trust. If you were following a brand you thought you could trust and were duped, would you still have that same amount of trust in them as you did before? Would you believe everything that was published?

It’s something that online brands need to be especially wary of. User trust is such a huge commodity to them that they simply can’t afford to be lazy when it comes to publishing content, whether their own or somebody else’s. Lose that trust and you instantly begin to lose people’s attention.

What’s more intriguing though is how episodes like this will be dealt with in the future if Google does indeed release a fact algorithm. Obviously those that publish an incorrect story and don’t update with corrections will get shoved down the rankings, but surely it couldn’t affect the instant impact of social?

 

The very nature of social media means that it has to be marshalled and managed in such a careful manner.

 

The very nature of social media means that it has to be marshalled and managed in such a careful manner. It’s a direct, one-to-one link with existing and potential customers, giving your brand a very human face.

So how do you avoid situations like these? It’s simple and comes down to strategising and being vigilant; create an original content strategy that makes the most of your creativity and the talents of the people at your brand’s disposal.

If you really need to pepper your own content with other things from the web then it can be an effective tactic in moderation. But be smart; credit and highlight the other person’s contribution and take your time in posting it.

Your business won’t fail if you don’t post something you find funny instantly on Facebook. If anything holding back a bit could very well stop your own brand becoming the story.

If you’d like to know more about social media marketing and how to get the most from your content for search purposes get in tocuh today!

(Images: Loyalmark, Peoplescapehr)