Fake news zombies

Zombies Littering the Information Highway – Truth Still Matters

At the dawn of the Information Age, idealists probably assumed that increased access to digital data would boost knowledge in beneficial ways for society. Safe bet? Nope. Instead, the Information Highway is an endless traffic jam of falsehoods trying to block truth.

Visualize it like a zombie movie, a highway littered with crashed cars and mindless human bodies propelled by a virus and hell bent on destruction of others.

How did this happen? In a nutshell, when the internet became commercialized in the 1990s, traditional news organizations didn’t want to be left behind, so they offered their news for free. Non-traditional sources of news popped up online as well, some good, some not so much. Eventually, there was a flattening in which many consumers of information could not distinguish between falsity and truth.

For example, the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign season was chock full of fake news, i.e., the tale of an FBI agent investigating Hillary’s emails who killed himself after murdering his wife and being the source of leaks about the investigation. Perhaps you too saw this “Denver Guardian” news story being posted on Facebook. This absurdity led to a great headline by the very real Denver Post: “There is no such thing as the Denver Guardian, despite that Facebook post you saw.”

The fake news machines are still whirling out complete bullsh*t and fact checkers are having trouble keeping up. In Mexico and the United States, Facebook is attempting to ferret out the truth. The Washington Post (a very real news organization) reported that the social media giant is apparently struggling with this task: “The hardest part is where to draw the line between a legitimate political campaign and domestic information operations,” said Guy Rosen, a top security executive at Facebook.

Is it really that hard? How long would it take to disprove that the wife of then candidate and now President Obrador of Mexico is not really the grandchild of a Nazi.

Apparently, Twitter too thinks truth is really hard. “We have not figured this out, but I do think it would be dangerous for a company like ours … to be arbiters of truth,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in an interview on CNN this Sunday. Hmmm, so when Alex Jones says that the Sandy Hook school shooting never happened or some such, is it really that hard to figure out if the speaker/tweeter is lying?

Then again, Rudy Giuliani, formerly America’s Mayor and federal prosecutor who now represents President Trump tells us that “truth isn’t truth.” In an attempt to clarify, Giuliani later tweeted: “My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements.”

Yeah, no. Truth is about incontrovertible facts and evidence. If I tell you 4+5=9, and someone else asserts that the correct answer is 11, that person is either a liar or a dummy who cannot grasp arithmetic.

Unfortunately, the internet, TV and radio are full of malarkey these days and it’s coming from different directions. In addition to the Russian government’s actions in social media content aimed at sowing discord in the U.S. (see indictments) and its hacking of the Democratic National Committee (see these other indictments), now Facebook and Twitter have disclosed they are shutting down an Iranian disinformation campaign.

Still, both companies are grappling with a hydra-headed monster that is harming their appeal with investors. The companies have not only a financial motivation, but a fiduciary duty to enhance security and the value of the content they allow to be published.

But what about users? Where lies our responsibility as social media consumers? Yes, we advise each other about spreading dubious news or chide each other. We can have robust, civil debates about the truth we seek. We can share real news too, even if it’s bad news. And, if the news gets really bad, we need to stick together. The truth is out there and it needs to matter again.

–Katharine Fraser, Adroit Narratives

grammar

Why Good Writing Still Matters in the Digital Age

Digital content marketing displays for all to see what is good writing and what is plain terrible. To promote your business, which would you prefer?

There is even a trend of purposefully poor writing that is meant to be cute. This may have started when people needed to introduce the meaning of their memes. For example, they post to social media an image of a forlorn animal flopping on the ground or some such with the caption: My Monday Be Like. Or maybe, When You Start Mondaying. Whether you find these memes cute or annoying in your personal Facebook feed, ask yourself whether it is good for business. Depends on the business, right?

If you run a gym and want to encourage people to work out with you, a silly post about being tired but able to Zumba would be cute. If you are selling in the B2B arena, avoid memes. Really. Please don’t use memes in B2B. You are not living in an episode of “The Office.”

This casual, broken grammar vernacular is entering speech patterns and even being used on purpose in television ads.

ACCIDENTAL LANGUAGE DESTRUCTION

Separately, we’re all seeing language destruction in news articles, even those published by historically well-regarded newspaper companies. I recently saw a post to Facebook by the Washington Post that was grammatically incoherent and the commenters shredded the institution for this lapse. Having worked in news as a reporter and editor, I can attest that everyone makes mistakes.grammar

But, what we are seeing now in terms of mistakes is their prevalence rather than an anomaly. For example, today I read this phrase in a news story – “She has since changed coarse…” – and wondered if the writer and/or editor would even realize the mistake. In my estimation, this is occurring as news staffs at many organizations have shrunk due to budgetary considerations.

ABBREVIATIONS, ACRONYMS and OH NOs

Twitter’s 140-character limit seems to drive people into a fear of writing too long, so they write too short with weird little abbreviations. If you have to rely on the device of stringing together sets of capital letters, I suggest you try rephrasing that sentiment. Some acronyms and abbreviations are very well known, with many going back to the days of the telegraph, but try to avoid using more than two in a Tweet.

Finally, here’s an abbreviation often seen in Twitter that really needs to go:

“Please RT!”

Cheers,

Katharine Fraser, consultant, content creator and owner of Adroit Narratives, LLC

How to Decide Which Social Media Marketing is Right for Your Business

When it comes to deciding how to go about starting social media marketing for your business, start by determining what aligns with what you sell. For example, if you own a restaurant, you ought to be on Yelp and Facebook because that is where diners seek information on local eateries. Moreover, before you pick which social media suits your business, find the medium that matches your strengths. It also is a matter of which media you will enjoy using. Are you a raconteur? Then maybe podcasts are the way to go for your storytelling. Do you like video? Would filming what you do make sense to convey to customers and prospects what the value is in your product or service? For example, I recently came across on Twitter a link to a YouTube video of a bathroom remodel. The craftsmanship and diligence on display was absolutely mesmerizing. Seeing how much knowledge and skill went into preparing the shower installation, I would certainly understand if the job quote from this contractor came with a significant price tag. I would certainly see the value. I would also trust the contractor because his video showed exactly what happens behind the scenes, behind the tile and under the shower. See if you are comfortable in front of the camera. Just try it on your phone to test the waters. If not yourself, is there something about your process you could put on video? Video, obviously, has become a constant in digital marketing for a good reason: it is compelling to viewers.

Good Writing Matters

Same goes with still images. The greatest blog in the world might go unnoticed if it isn’t accompanied by a picture – even something as simple as a photo of the author. Are you or someone on your team a strong writer? Which social media call for good writing? All of them really, but clean, tight, illustrative and professional writing is especially important on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Even Pinterest requires strong writing for catchy, inspirational or informative captions for the images that people pin. The eye-catching and addictive Pinterest is popular with women who craft, cook and shop, but it has other useful applications, such as organizing and sharing business guidelines, study guides and consumer instructions. Are there product guides you could easily share with Pinterest that would be helpful to customers and prospects?

Map Out Your Social Media Campaign

Plan what you want to get across in social media marketing and at what time. If your business has seasonal cycles, this is simple. Decide who from the business is going to contribute to creating content and give them a schedule with firm deadlines. There is a saying that nothing would get done if not for the last minute. If people don’t have a deadline, they will not perform. Set a schedule, period, no, ifs ands or buts.

Don’t Tell the Whole Story

There are a few reasons not to make your content the be-all, end-all of your subject matter. First of all, you don’t want to give away the farm. Instead, you are giving people a reason in their shopping decision-making process to proceed further with your business. Besides, the be-all, end-all is simply too long for social media and blogs. Set out to write 500 words. This is approachable for your reader and easier for your time management.

Social Media is a Two-Way Street

Digital marketing is not an add-on or an elective anymore – it’s a basic necessity in validating your business. It’s like the lottery, you need to be in it to win it. No one will find you if you are not putting yourself out there. Social media, blogs and websites provide validation for your business. If a word-of-mouth referral is given by a happy customer for your wonderful business, then what will that prospect find online about you? An old website? A social media account with no activity? You want to be engaged to show you are active and give customers a strong sense they get what you are about. You should also set aside time to follow others, including competitors, in your sphere of influence. Social media is a source of news about your business space. Where did a competitor open a new location? What products are customers seeking? Be in the social media loop to be part of new trends and growth for your business.