The social world as we know it is changing, rapidly. Social media has made it easier than ever to connect with people, news organisations and brands from different countries with different values, but it also gives people the opportunity to bend the truth.
Donald Trump and his assertion that negative news stories about him are “fake news” have brought this issue to the forefront of people's consciousness. Many have argued that “fake news” helped to get him elected, with conspiracy theories about his rivals going viral and soon being shared as fact on social media.
Since then users, governments and companies have been calling for social networks to do more to combat this trend. In Britain, GCHQ has called for social networks to accept their role in fostering “social responsibility” while the German government are looking to pass laws that will fine social networks that allow fake news to go unchecked. When done well, it can bring a live TV experience to life in the palm of your audience's hand. News stories being shared in the US will be fact-checked before they can be shared.
What does this skulduggery mean for brands in the social space and what do your audience expect as a result? In a word: authenticity. Audiences will no longer accept disingenuous claims or partnerships, no matter how cleverly they are presented.
But don't be too alarmed; truth has always been at the heart of great advertising and today, with so many great ways to communicate brand truths, there is no need to blur the lines. Everything from copy to imagery and live video to partnerships can help to create an authentic connection. Your content can and should excite, inspire and engage, but never confuse.
Live content is the shiny new toy of the social world. Everyone wants to play with it and for good reason; people watch live video for three times longer than they would a pre-recorded video. When done well, it can bring a live TV experience to life in the palm of your audience's hand. Not only that, but it puts them at the centre of the action, like a social backstage pass. You can bring your audience behindthe- scenes, give them a sneak peek, amplify an event or give them the opportunity to ask the burning questions they want answered. There is nowhere to hide with live content, what you see is what you get, and in today's sceptical world that authentic connection is gold.
Influencers are here to stay, but now more than ever you need to make sure that your chosen influencer has a genuine connection to your brand or campaign. People's “notions” filter has never been more finely tuned. So, if you have a humorous message, partner with someone genuinely funny, rather than the latest “gas lad” from Snapchat. If your message comes from the perspective of an expert, hire an expert in that field, rather than someone whose clout is for sale.
So lest “fake news” become “fake brands”, keep it simple and stick to the truth. More often than not, the truth is the easiest story to tell and in today's cynical world, it's vital.
Amy Sergison is Social Media & Content Manager at McCannBlue.
This article was previously published in IMJ.