July 12, 2017 By FTI Consulting
One of the great paradoxes of the information age is that everybody is stuck arguing over what’s fake and what’s real, despite access to countless reputable information sources proving it one way or the other. In our ongoing examination of this phenomena, consider the case of viral sensation Jayden K. Smith.
Viral posts from everyone’s uncle on Facebook warn about the nefarious hacker Mr. Smith, who will allegedly execute unknown-but-terrible hacker attacks on anyone who accepts his friend request. There is no such person or threat, and this is merely the latest in a series of hoax warnings with no real threat behind it. Which begs the question: who benefits from this informational terrorism, and how?
The motives behind the Smith phenomena are unclear, but the case follows the pattern of other fake news infections. Above all, the primary driver behind the spread of junk information is emotional manipulation. In the case of Jayden K. Smith, fear drives people to share the warning, as is also the case with many warnings around overseas conflict and domestic civil rights groups. Anger is a strong driver of politically-driven hyperbole, as any AM radio commentator or internet pundit would attest.
So what can we take away from this and similar incidents? If something on Facebook triggers a strong negative emotion, it’s probably a good idea to take a few breaths and step away from the computer before you spread onward any unverified, emotionally-manipulative information.
One of the great tragedies of the social and digital media age is the giant, diffuse content graveyard that exists online. Every day publishers, corporations, NGOs, videographers and artists, amongst others, are producing digital content that is engaging, emotive and inspiring but isn’t getting nearly the engagement it deserves. Why? Most often the reason is simple: not enough attention was paid to distribution so the content didn’t find its way in front of any eyeballs. This is a trap recently fallen into by UBS.
The bank partnered with media behemoths Vice and Vanity Fair to beef up its content-production arm, Unlimited, but even bringing on these content consiglieres didn’t result in the kind of engagement UBS had expected. This prompted the bank to concede that it missed the trick of more direct, channel-based marketing. This is a good lesson for companies producing content online and one reason why we put so much time into finding audiences and establishing a comprehensive footprint for clients online. Our clients produce interesting and engaging content. They deserve to have it seen.
One great thing about the widespread adoption of social media is the access to data. We can now find numbers to back up any story or strategy. For example, CNBC suggested that Netflix’s success has stemmed from higher social media conversation volumes about its shows compared with cable peers. It might also be said that the Kardashians are the ideal influencers for any brand because of their collective audience of almost HALF A BILLION FOLLOWERS on Instagram alone. But this doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to the quality of our audiences and engagements.
Enter micro-influencers. “Micro-influencer” is a term for individuals who don’t necessarily have millions of followers but can help to lend authority to and build visibility for a brand. For consumer brands like Adidas, these can be early-adopters of products to drive hype. For a more technical industry, like financial services, this could be cryptocurrency or ETF bloggers with concentrated but engaged followings. When conducting influencer mapping and engagement, it’s always worth thinking about who can get you in front of the audience you actually want to reach, not just the largest one possible.
Meanwhile, in Australia…
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