As the world switched from mostly in-person interactions to remote setups, the internet has provided many of us the tools to navigate the COVID-19 landscape. With social distancing and shelter-in-place requirements, individuals and businesses look for online solutions. Cloud computing, digital marketing services, online payments — the list of internet-based services that help us thrive is endless.
But with so much misinformation and disinformation online, carefully wading through data has never been more crucial. Between conspiracy theories presented as “facts” and outrageous claims in dishonest product advertisements, fake news has intensified in the last few months.
Just recently, the Oxford Internet Institute and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism examined 225 pieces of false or misleading COVID-19 data. The results revealed that 69 percent of total social media engagement consists of false COVID-19 information from prominent public figures, including politicians and celebrities.
These false pieces are more than just your typical hyperbolic clickbait and misleading headlines. With an ongoing pandemic, they can endanger and destroy lives. As the Director-General of the World Health Organization succinctly puts it, “We are not just fighting an epidemic, we’re fighting an infodemic.”
Impact of Misinformation on Digital Marketing
Marketing with fake news is a dangerous game. As people lose trust and confidence in the media, businesses face difficulties building relationships when misinformation is so prevalent. That is why your business needs to work with a trusted content creation services provider that values integrity and honesty.
Although Google frequently updates its algorithms to detect and penalize websites that practice black hat search engine optimization, social media content is another beast to tackle. By default, social media has given everyone a voice on the internet. But not all voices are created equal, and some are loudly spreading twisted facts and unsupported claims.
Another study from Carnegie Mellon University discovered that almost half of the Twitter accounts that are spreading COVID-19 information are bots. Even likes and comments are not safe; some come from so-called manipulators or false content producers. Unfortunately, these bots are drowning out human voices that aim to educate rather than sow distrust.
The truth is that it’s becoming even more difficult to tell fact from fiction. In May this year, Stanford University carried out a study which revealed that 82 percent of middle students couldn’t identify whether an article is a news story or sponsored content. Even more surprising is that these subjects come from an age group that is considered digital natives. So what does this mean for brands?
Marketing and advertising are all about convincing people to believe in your product or service. It’s about giving clients and customers a reason to trust in your company. But disinformation breeds distrust, and in today’s COVID-19 economic climate, trust is all too valuable to lose.
Fighting Back with Responsible, Honest Content and Marketing Tactics
To win the battle against misinformation in the digital age, it’s simple: tell the truth, especially in the content your audience consumes. Here are a few ways.
Be a better, more credible advertiser
Good advertising requires being honest about the products or services you’re offering. Customer satisfaction is linked with customer expectations, and by telling your audience exactly what they’re getting can achieve just that. Start by creating targeted ads that speak to the right audience. This builds trust, which can, later on, turn into leads. Work on that relationship between your brand and your market, and those leads will most likely be converted into actual sales.
Showcase your value through high-quality content
Think back to marketing basics and ask yourself: why should people choose your brand over any competitor? Go beyond focusing on the wow factor. Instead, give your customers something of value. It could be an honest answer to their problems or a unique resource they could use for improvement. Whatever it is, make sure that your digital ads and marketing materials can demonstrate it well.
Share genuine, user-generated ratings and testimonials
Don’t make the mistake of fabricating ratings or reviews. As shown in the recent fake package delivery scams known as “brushing.” These parcel delivery scams revealed how some businesses are becoming desperate for glowing reviews. Thousands of Americans received unsolicited parcels, only to find out that they were sent so sellers can get fake reviews.
As such, online reviews matter, but only when they’re real. Research has shown that 84 percent of shoppers trust online reviews as much as they would trust a friend’s recommendation. For potential customers to fall in love with your brand, let those who have tried your products or services speak about their experience.
The pandemic keeps people six feet apart, and people are engaging more on social media platforms today. As a brand with a product or service that aims to make its user’s life better, your business must ensure integrity and authenticity. By being part of the solution, you can improve your business value and brand reputation, especially during this uncertain time.