Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Dangers of Social Media

Heather Willard

Social media and the internet have created a new era of business-to-person interactions, especially for media companies. From immediate posting, to immediate fact-checking, the technology helps and creates issues for journalists and readers at the same time. Twitter has created issues such as tagging the wrong person, reporting the wrong numbers, misattributing quotes and misspelling anything and everything.

Tweeting is just like any other written form of communication:
easily traceable and important to think about.

Other social media have their own string of problems, such as Facebook, whose now popular live-streaming can be an invasion of privacy or can be a way to broadcast disturbing images as they happen.

Internet users can and will check reported issues from media or personal accounts as soon as they are published or report issues for themselves. While this can be a great source of stories for journalists, it can also be the origin of fraudulent sources or unfortunate confusion.

What starts as a tweet can fuel a hashtag, which BuzzFeed writes an article about, which then spurs the creation of an article in a newspaper or the Huffington Post, and many other organizations. This is fine with normal stories, such as when Kelly Oxford tweeted about the first time she had been sexually assaulted, and received thousands of responses, creating a story covered by dozens of media outlets.

But a false story fueling a media frenzy creates a story that spreads far faster than any correction can, and dozens of examples area available online. I even had a run-in with a false story this week when I tweeted about protestors outside the student center and the library on Ohio University’s campus and tagged the wrong Bobcat’s for Life group. Although I deleted the tweet, it did get some likes and retweets when I first tweeted it, and my corrective tweet got a lot less, since people thought they had already seen the tweet.

There are many ways people have decided to combat this- with a variety of social media principles for a variety of sources. The ones that I found to be most compelling were Coca-Cola’s, which are based on transparency, protection of privacy, responsibility and most important of all, having a bit of fun. But Coca-Cola’s principles go a bit further than expectations for their employees or company media accounts, but for those who are customers.

“You are an important ambassador for our Company’s brands, and you’re encouraged to promote them as long as you make sure you disclose that you are affiliated with the Company,” they wrote towards both authorized and unauthorized spokespeople.

Nanalew is an official spokesperson for Coca-Cola, and her social media presence reflects that.

It is of the utmost importance for social media accounts to be held to as high a standard as articles and press releases, if not higher, because that is how many customers interact with their brands and become involved in the world. While responding to that customer as soon as possible may feel paramount, take the time to check what is being said, just as when tweeting about events and people. Taking five seconds to look something over can heal a whole world of hurt that never even has to exist.

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