Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Fake News – How to Spot It And What to Do About It

In 2017 fake news became a mainstream concern and many wondered if there is anything that can be done about it.

The first step is to acknowledge that we each have a role to play in its spread and rise to prominence. Then the next logical question is: What can we do about it?

The first thing is recognize fake news "in the wild." And if you think this is challenging you’re absolutely right.

A February, 2017 study in Britain found that only 4 percent of 1,684 UK adults surveyed could correctly identify whether six news stories were true or fake.

But take action we must, so:

11 Ways Spot Fake News

The now-suspended site abcnews.com.co
Does the story come from a strange URL? Sites with strange suffixes like ".co" or ".su," or that are hosted by third party platforms such as WordPress or sources such as ViralLiberty or National Report are trouble. For instance, several fake reports from abcnews.com.co went viral before being debunked. Did you note the ".com.co" at the end of that address?

Does everything match? The headline and the content, for example? A sure sign of something less-than-reliable is an image of an attractive woman (likely a stock image) and a headline that says something like " NY Homeowners Get a Huge Surprise.”

Is the story only on one website? If it is really a big or important story why is it only in one place? A quick Google search should find many other versions of a legitimate story.

Is it on a site known to be unreliable? There are plenty of places to find out if a site is likely to be spreading fake news. For example:
The fake Viral Liberty story
Is it a recent story, or an old one that has been re-purposed?  For example, the website Viral Liberty reported that as a result of Donald Trump’s election to the White House Ford would move its truck manufacturing from Mexico to U.S. But the move happened in 2015. Again, a Google search will likely turn up the earlier story.

Does the article cite primary sources? For example, in 2016 Coca-Cola allegedly recalled Dasani water bottles after a "clear parasite" was found in the water. But nowhere on the web was there a statement from Coca-Cola or Dasani about this.

This was never printed in People magazine
Are there traceable quotes in the story? People magazine has huge archives, but no trace of the alleged quote of Donald Trump stating that if he ran for office he’d run as a Republican because "they're the dumbest group of voters."

Although all over the web this image is, well, fake
Are supporting videos and photos verifiable? During the 2017 flooding in Houston Fox News host Jesse Watters fell for the fake shark photo doing the rounds on the web that reputedly showed a shark swimming on a flooded highway.

Does it support your existing point of view? If a story is odd, bizarre or surprising and yet supports something you’ve always suspected, beware of your own "confirmation bias." Again look for evidence that it really is true.

Has it been debunked by a reputable fact-checking organization? There are a lot of trustworthy fact-checking websites out there. A small sample:
Now that you’ve identified it as fake news what can you do about it?

5 Keys to Fighting Fake News

Have a "healthy amount of skepticism" and think, really think, before sharing a piece of news.
Considering all of the points above, am I ABSOLUTELY sure this story is true?

Be a little slower to share and re-tweet content. Especially do not share anything just based on the headline or a picture that caught your eye. Read what you want to share.

Report all fake news There are multiple ways to do this. Start with the source, if possible, and then report it on the platform where you found it. For example:
On Twitter (while on the post with the fake news) you’ll need to click the chevron in the corner or the three dots under a tweet, then chose "report tweet."
On Google you scroll to the bottom of the offending page and click on "Send feedback" where you’ll have the option of including a screenshot.

Call out fake news to whoever posted it You should be polite and message privately (if you can), but you need to do this. And if this doesn’t work…

Use the comments area under a post to state the truth. A best practice is to include a link – a link to a verifiable source to reinforce the point.

Now you know both how to spot fake news and how to fight it – happy hunting. The more each of us does the less fake news will make its way into our newsfeeds.


2017 Was the Year of Fake News – It’s Our Fault

The year 2017 is likely to be remembered as the year of fake news.

Politicians, one Tweeter-in-Chief for example, uttered the term "fake news" regularly. 

Social platforms, Facebook and Twitter in particular, were accused of making it easy for "fake news" to spread.

New organizations, major newspapers and national news networks all felt it important to cover the issue of "fake news" regularly.
Ben Franklin - founding father
of fake news

All of which might have left you wondering: How did we get here?

The real answer is that fake news has been around forever. Just ask Benjamin Franklin, who in 1782 made a fake issue of a Boston newspaper which carried a false, but widely circulated, story alleging the British had hired Native Americans to scalp colonists. The purpose of the propaganda was to drum up sympathy for the American Revolutionary cause.

                Almost forever, people have found it "useful" to plant fake news stories to advance a cause. It’s just that in our modern hyper-connected world it is so much easier to have the source of such things become blurred and have the fake news spread much more quickly.

                One other thing that hasn’t changed is that fake news thrives because we are part of the problem:

6 Reasons Fake News is Our Fault
  • We are open to the idea that fantastical stuff is possible: – It’s why certain TV shows and supermarket tabloids such as the Weekly World News have always thrived.
  • We tend to shut out ideas and opinions we disagree with: It’s human nature to not be inclined to listen those who say things we already disagree with.
  • We allow "confirmation bias" to guide our decision making: This bias is where we gravitate to ideas that conform to what we already think. Which leads to …
  • We don’t take the time to verify what we share. You may recall the famous Internet meme that makes fun of this: "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity" – Abraham Lincoln.
  • We often see "others" – those whom we don’t know well – as two-dimensional (and social media encourages this). This makes it easier to demonize and disregard the views of others.
  • Real news and real journalists are a shrinking breed As news consumers we have been less and less willing to pay for our news by buying newspapers or watching TV news. Since nature (and news) abhors a vacuum – something has to fill the gap and that something can be news of spurious origins.

So, now we know why it might be our fault. But did you know that there are different types of fake news?

The infographic below is a starter guide – perhaps you can think of others….

What do you think? Are we to blame for the spread and general occurrence of fake news today?

Monday, September 11, 2017

10 SM Resources for Hospitality Customer Service

Why does social media matter for those in hospitality? A Google search for "hotel" turns up 3.1 billion (that’s billion with a b) results in 1.05 seconds. A similar search on "restaurant" turns up almost 1.9 billion in 1.56 seconds. And the top results will be for such places as Hotels.com, Expedia, Trivago, Kayak and Restaurants.com.

Social Media for Hospitality

For most users those top results will be all they need. But for others the search will be slightly more involved or the decision to click will take a few seconds longer. The difference? Loyalty to a brand or recollection of another person’s great experience.

What can help businesses in hospitality (hotels and restaurants, for example) earn those few seconds of extra consideration?

Social media – it is the very key for industries whose biggest driver is word-of-mouth marketing.

But how? And, perhaps more importantly, why? According to a 2015 article on Harvard Business Review:
  • "Consumers under 35 spend almost four hours per day on social media, and more of that time is being spent engaging with brands."
  •  "17% of people older than 55 prefer social media over the telephone for service."
And, of the four stages of the consumer decision-making process – need recognition, information search, evaluation and decision – social media increasingly plays a role in the first three….

So how should those in hospitality – particularly on the customer service side – use social media to attract, assist and retain loyal customers?

10 Social Media Resources for Hospitality Customer Service

The article 5 Social Customer Service Best Practices from Cision suggests restaurants and hotels graduate their social care customers to a more reliable communications platform such as SMS or email, get all employees on board with appropriate social responses and understand that customers expect a near-immediate response on social media.
  • Key takeaway: "Today, 39 percent of social media complainers who expect a reply want it to come within 60 minutes, yet the average response time from businesses is 5 hours,” says social media expert Jay Baer in the piece.
In Social Hospitality: How 8 Hotels Engage Guests On & Offline (from Sprout Social) author Jennifer Beese suggests that social media allows hoteliers to be an Invaluable resource beyond just providing accommodations, to be attentive during guests’ stays and a to extend the experience after the stay.
  • A key takeaway: "Knowing where your guests communicate online will help you provide a better customer service experience while enabling you to reach the right people at exactly the right time."
The grandly named The Complete Guide to Social Media for Restaurants & Bars (also from Sprout Social) gives advice on creating relevant posts (i.e. understanding the difference between engagement vs. promotional posting), how to find optimal times to post and what it takes to get your social efforts to a higher level.
  • A key takeaway: "If you’re not visibly active on social media, then you’re missing out on a large customer base."
The question and answer website Quora might be a great resource for those in hospitality according to Quora: How to Generate Leads for a Hotel says an article on the Social Media Explorer site. It suggests such strategies as being on social to provide solutions, searching social platforms for questions to answer and resisting being promotional in social posts.
  • A key takeaway: "A boutique hotel could easily muscle in on the big boys’ territory with well-thought out answers to travelers’ queries. In the process, you’ll build authority and possibly carve out a niche for your brand."
The eHotelier.com piece How the hospitality industry is embracing social media offers a series of "insider tips" for those in hospitality and their use of such platforms as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These include Facebook promotions and working with bloggers.
  • A key takeaway: "Ninety one per cent of retail brands use two or more social media channels, and the hospitality industry should be no different."
Conversocial, a website that looks at various aspects of social media and customer service, offers Customer Service for Travel, suggesting that hospitality brands standing out as leaders in social customer service are making major investments in this area, expanding their teams and marketing budgets. The piece offers tips on deepening connections to customers and making the right impression on social channels.
  • A key takeaway: "More than other customer service channels, social lends itself to creating memorable experiences for customers."
7. Customer service in its broadest sense means offering something of value on social to current and future customers. So the post 10 Examples of Great Social Media Content for Restaurants on the EnPlug Blog offers tips including the obvious "Share mouth-watering photos” and the not-so-obvious "Get your employees involved."
  •      A key takeaway: Show your customers that you’re on social for more than just pushing out promotions. Whether you’re answering questions, addressing concerns, saying thanks, or just responding with wit, your responses will go a long way."
Top social media management tools for hotels and the hospitality industry from TravelTripper.com offers a list of 10 social media management tools for the hospitality industry with explanations of features and pricing.
  • A key takeaway: "From streamlining content creation and posting to social listening and analytics integrations, social media tools come with a range of innovative features …."
Are there downsides to social media for hospitality businesses? Some would say negative reviews on sites such as Yelp, but RestaurantEngine.com – in How to Respond to Negative Restaurant Reviews – says "…not all negative reviews have lasting consequences…. It’s what you do with the review that sets you apart and defines your restaurant."
  • A key takeaway: "Not only are you fighting for the reviewer’s business, but you’re fighting for everyone else who reads the review."
And of course I’d be remiss to not mention all of the various infographics that boil down social customer service to its key elements. I’ve created a public Pinterest board called Social Customer Service that may prove useful to those in hospitality. The graphics range from how to use social to deal with negative comments to using social to build loyalty and trust with future and current customers.

Bonus: If you’re looking for some thought leaders in the area of social media and hospitality you might check out The Top 16 Leaders in Hospitality to Follow on Twitter from Capterra.
                Is social media here to stay as a fact of life for customer service in social media? For sure. Will it evolve and grow as a series of customer service channels? Absolutely. What do you think?

Related posts:

Friday, October 14, 2016

Tracking the presidential election with social media

With just weeks until the 2016 Elections in the U.S. it is clear that this cycle has become the social media-driven elections.

No matter who you support, who you despise or who you wish would just "be quiet" there is an endless supply of Twitter tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram images and YouTube videos to variously inform, annoy or enrage. How to make sense of it all? 

First, decide if social media can help you stay informed. If the answer is "no" you can just stop here. But if the answer is "yes" then here are a few suggestions: 

Follow a popular hashtag or hashtags: Some popular hashtags this election season include #election2016, #debates, #debates2016, #trump, #clinton, #donaldtrump, #hillary, #vote, #nevertrump, #hillaryemails
Explore some new hashtags: There’s an exhaustive list of hashtags (Warning: some are NSFW) on the Top-Hashtags.com website.
Create a Twitter list: This is simply a way organizing the Twitter "firehose" so that it is more manageable. In other words by viewing a list you are only seeing the tweets of the people you place on that list and not all of the people you follow on Twitter. (For more how to create a list see Using Twitter lists from Twitter). Who should be on your list? A good place to start is adding the Twitter accounts of the candidates, their proxies and their official campaigns. After that add people you think are informative and helpful.

Like the pages of all the major candidates: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson
Like the pages of the political parties: Green, Libertarian, Independents, Democrat and Republican. • Use the filtering functions of Socialfixer to exclude certain kinds of posts. Although this article from ZDNet talks about using Socialfixer eliminating all political debate from your Facebook feed, the same principles can be applied to cut down on certain types of content in your feed. See How to filter politically sanctimonious Facebook posts from your news feed
• Use the USA Today/Facebook Barometer to gauge which candidates are doing better or worse based on Facebook activity (likes, shares, mentions).

• Follow the Instagram accounts of … Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein
• Subscribe to the YouTube accounts of … Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump 

I hope this is an useful primer. Please feel free to post other social media tips around the elections in the comments.

Related posts:
Fact-checking the presidential election - from social media claims to debate points
Social Media and Politics Makes for Odd Bedfellows

Updated: Fact-checking the presidential election - from social media claims to debate points

Updated to include Google's addition of a "Fact Check" category in Google News search results. See "Update" at the end of this post.

This 2016 election season in the United States has been like no other for a couple of reasons. 

It has two leading presidential candidates comfortable using social media with hordes of rabid followers tearing up the social media channels with claims real and, well, a lot less so.
Fact or Not? Fact-checking and social media
The live candidate debates have frequently degenerated into name calling and claims that are hard to believe.

What is an interested citizen to do?

Thankfully the other trend this season has been the wide range of sites offering fact-checking on what is being said by all sides. 

Here is a starter list (it could never be truly comprehensive). The links lead to a site's political coverage where many, if no most, offer live fact-checking during major debates:

Big name media outlets on the right:
Wall Street Journal

Big name media outlets on the left:
New York Daily News
The Huffington Post

Mainstream media outlets:
USA Today
ABC News
CBS News
NBC News
PBS Newshour
The New York Times
The Washington Post 
The Los Angeles Times

Fact-checking organizations:

Foreign news media:

Hip media outlets:  

Partisan advocacy organizations:
ThinkProgress  (Liberal-leaning)
NewsBusters  (Conservative-leaning)
Breitbart (Conservative-leaning)

So, whether you're fact-checking a candidate debate or another's social media post, know that you have almost no end of sources tom verify what is being said.

Google has added Fact Check as a tag to search results involving major news stories. It says it is doing this to help searchers on the web identify stories that have a fact-checking in them. Google in a web post said:"We’re excited to see the growth of the Fact Check community and to shine a light on its efforts to divine fact from fiction, wisdom from spin."

Related posts:
Tracking the presidential election with social media
Social Media and Politics Makes for Odd Bedfellows