The rise of new social media channels – including TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram Stories – has created more opportunities for brands to tap into what consumers are thinking, feeling, and doing, and made it easier than ever to “listen in” to anticipate and meet consumer needs. But there’s also a downside to this explosion in online discussions: misinformation.
According to a 2019 study from New Knowledge, 78% of consumers surveyed say that false narratives about a brand can ruin its reputation; meanwhile, 74% say they are more likely to do business with a brand that has a positive reputation. Is your brand prepared to protect itself from misinformation campaigns?
Misinformation vs. disinformation
The two terms are often used interchangeably, but there’s a serious difference between them.
Misinformation is false information shared by people who genuinely believe it to be true; the recently popular “flat earth theory” is a good example of this. Disinformation is false information that’s spread in order to deceive others.
In many cases, a piece of misinformation may begin as disinformation; once it’s shared by influencers and people with many followers, it can spread rapidly throughout society. (Consider how quickly and widely misinformation would spread when Donald Trump shared it on Twitter, for example.)
How misinformation impacts your brand
The dissemination of misinformation can have both devastating and positive impacts on brands; consider Constellation’s Corona beer brand, which was incorrectly associated with the coronavirus in 2020. Misinformation may have made consumers wary about buying Corona beer early in the pandemic, but it was a boon to hand sanitizer brands, which saw a 600% increase in hand sanitizer sales in 2020 due to the false belief that coronavirus spreads on surfaces.
Misinformation is likely to become a bigger problem as more of our interactions and shopping experiences move online. Today, a stunning 92% of consumers trust recommendations from a stranger more than content that comes directly from a brand. Whether these strangers have positive or negative things to say about your brand, there’s always a risk that they’re misinterpreting data or sharing incorrect information. At the very least, they all bring their own background, bias, and intentions to their recommendations.
Brands may actually contribute to misinformation themselves by failing to keep their digital presences up to date. A recent Yext, Inc. survey of marketing decision-makers revealed that respondents think only 35% of information found online about their brands is accurate.
Can misinformation be useful?
You may be tempted to think that your data platform should filter out misinformation, whether it comes directly from your brand or your brand advocates and detractors. After all, it’s not truthful, so why use it to make decisions, assess the competition, and surface insights?
There’s one major reason: If you know what’s being wrongly said about your brand, you can develop a strategy to address it—and possibly even avoid a serious crisis in brand identity. However, you need a full and complete picture of what’s being said about your brand in order to take any action, including any falsehoods. That requires the ability to detect misinformation in the first place, differentiate it from disinformation, trace it from its original source, and characterize the audience and impact.
Many data platforms are too shallow to provide this level of detail. Social listening tools, for example, can tell you what consumers are saying on social media, including any misinformation that’s being spread. But they can’t trace that misinformation to a separate source, like a key opinion leader’s industry forum post or a misinterpretation of a statistic in a research paper. And if untruths about your brand are popping up in any venue other than social media, you won’t find out about it.
Extracting the truth with Skai
A deep analysis of brand-related misinformation can inform marketing and brand strategies to correct the record. Skai is uniquely able to achieve this level of analysis by:
- Using proprietary rules, methods, and research to detect topics of misinformation, including tracking volume (how much), channels (where it’s found) and trends (when it’s found)
- Connecting and comparing thousands of data sources, including scientific sources (facts) and consumer discussions (both gossip and actual experiences in the form of reviews from reliable sources such as Amazon)
- Using keyword research to identify the subtle differences between misinformation and disinformation
- Tracing the cascade of misinformation from an original source
- Alerting you proactively about misinformation, so it can be addressed immediately
In the face of rampant misinformation, the best way to protect your brand’s long-term reputation is to identify what’s being said and develop strategies for dealing with it. Identifying opportunities for growth can also reveal ways to get a truthful message to more potential customers. Skai can help you do all that and more; contact us today to find out how.