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Fake Information: The Feeding Frenzy Epidemic

The phrase, “fake it until you make it” used to inspire and motivate us. Now, upon hearing the word fake, we think of “fake news.” Today, however, we see fake social media profiles, fake reviews, and even fake emergency alerts. As we take all of this into consideration, sometimes we must rely on instinct to decipher the truth amongst the lies.

Blatantly false information may give us a good laugh, but it ultimately proves problematic. For instance, this epidemic of false data has caused problems with local search results. False information alters audience behaviors and can even compromise trust.

Meanwhile, online scams run rampant with fake users stealing identities and money. These scams impact businesses and potential customers who do not want to bear the burden of deciphering content to find the truth. Risks are: algorithms disrupting messages’ visibility, analytics, traffic views, and operations. Consider this – customers and businesses want clear, consistent messages, but fake information results in rising costs, low ROIs, and damaged reputations. Awareness and an understanding of false information can help businesses be vigilant, as well as leverage costs and manage doubts.

False Content to Watch Out For and Combat

Fake information continues to spread across the web. Let’s examine some content that helped turn this trend into a full-fledged epidemic.

Fake News

We often see this in the media when two stories contradict one another. It creates friction and doubt as broadcasted news will have different versions across media outlets. In essence, fake news is all about click bait because fake news attracts more attention and increases audience engagement. In fact, the more sensational and controversial, the more people tend to talk about it and believe it.

Many people believe in the phrase, “there is no such thing as bad publicity” because businesses can take advantage of any free attention they receive. This business practice should not be a long-term goal and prove destructive in the end. Sales, branding, and a company’s reputation get put on the line, and a user clicking on content does not guarantee a purchase. Digital marketing suffers as fake news runs rampant and consumers trust other, more traditional forms of advertising. However, posting on a platform featuring fake news makes you guilty by association. Consumers believe advertisers help fund these fake news sources when they pay for an advertising campaign.

Social Media’s Role in Fake News

While we hear about tech giants like Facebook and Twitter addressing fake news, the solution looks more straightforward than it is, even for Facebook. News media derives from different sources and features opinions, experiences, comedy, and political views; making it difficult to manage. Some content may have valid information with a few white lies. Does this classify it as entirely fake? As a society, when we lose trust, there is not much to gain.

When you decide to advertise, firmly state your company will not associate with fake news sources. Before paying for ads, demand accountability for dishonest content. Also, think about all of the advertising sources and filter out any controversial platforms. Make a sound decision with a media outlet you trust, research their marketing tactics, and reach out asking for detailed information. You can control and clarify your marketing decisions without committing to a long-term agreement. If it is unsuccessful, you can back out if you do not see substantial results.

Fake Listings

It may sound hard to believe, but fake listings with fake locations exist, especially on the local search landscape. This type of data scams authentic local businesses by stealing customers. Phony companies will offer lower prices; services performed by inexperienced workers, and demand the customer pay more when completed. This practice mainly affects businesses providing maintenance services. As one fake listing gets knocked off a local search, another promptly appears in its place.

If you find your company facing such issues, be sure to present concise evidence and legitimacy in all communications. Show pictures of your business, employees, logo, and signage. Speak to local consumers by referring to nearby landmarks and points of interest. When in need of a service, most consumers prefer local businesses because of an unspoken level of trust. Also, try to establish a strong presence on social media. Many referrals occur on Facebook, and this can develop your brand letting your business and services gain recognition. Lastly, perform searches for any local competitors and if you notice any fake listings with certainty, report them immediately.

Fake Ads

Do you find fake ads frustrating? Trust us; you’re not alone. Today the list of consumers losing trust in social media continues to grow at an alarming rate. Have you ever seen posts about a celebrity passing away from what looks like a legitimate media outlet? Stunned and curious, you click the “publication.” Your curiosity turns to disappointment when directed to a sales website. People on social media share these celebrity death stories without reading them and create a chain reaction that allows fake news to permeate across the web.

Another example involves giveaways or free offers; it seems too good to be true, but you still check it out. Who doesn’t love a good bargain? You carefully scan pictures, the web address, products, and click. Be careful because scammers run these ads and will steal your credit card information and charge your cards. Both of these fake ads can harm local businesses. Consumers lose trust not only with advertising in general but also companies displaying these ads. Pop-ups and banner ads appear on computers and smart phones despite anti-virus protection, sometimes blocking the actual website you intended to visit. Fake users acting as your business and committing illegal acts will damage your brand and reputation. So consciously remain aware of scams and report them immediately.

Fake Invoices

How many times have you applied for something online and typed your name instead of signing with a pen? Have you ever read entire terms of an agreement or do you scroll down and click agree? Fake contracts can be easily concocted through emails as electronically signed or as phone calls capturing a voice authorization. Despite the Do Not Call List, the “IRS” still calls claiming you haven’t paid taxes. Callers will state you owe them money or you will receive an email that says that your fifth cousin from Nigeria passed away. Easy to identify, one would think, yet local businesses may be too busy and will pay money instead of attention. The payments go to directly to a scam artist.

To remedy this, be sure to train your entire staff to watch out for fake charges by carefully looking at both physical and digital invoices, and monitoring phone calls. You can report any suspicious calls on the Do Not Call List website. People do fall for these acts; you do not want to be one of them.

Fake Reviews

Have you ever written a negative review because someone close to you asked? Giving a one or two-star review affects businesses’ by driving future customers away. A growing trend is faking positive reviews to drive business. The practice of altering reviews positively is not fair. To discredit competitors who are not involved in review tactics is even more harmful. Amazon has had many issues with both fake negative and positive reviews. Money is exchanged to provide or erase a review. Giveaways are still an option on Amazon and a tool to manipulate ratings. Despite reviews featuring “Verified Purchase” in green, the problems remain unsolved.

To attain honest reviews, ask. By reaching out, many customers will gladly leave a review to help you expand your business or grow your brand. When we purchase, we filter our results and would not filter a one-star product to purchase. Most of us want to buy four or five-star product, and we trust that the reviews are real.

Phantom Audiences

Ever wonder why you have to check a box stating you are not a robot or all the pictures that have cars? In a matter of seconds, hackers will cripple your entire website. They will disable your analytics, and you lose sight of your audience. You may even question if you have one. Bots don’t just attack your ability to view visitors’ behaviors; they can create a fake audience. Ads will get clicked, and this can be costly if you have PPC (pay per click) advertising. The audience may consist by bots running throughout your site or real people hired to keep clicking. So what’s the solution? Simple – avoid any digital marketing would not be a wise solution. Google, a highly trusted source, offers advertising to monetize websites. Google Ads can oversee your site and is a free form of protection against bots.

Fake URLs

Have you ever typed a URL to quickly into a search bar and ended on a website you had no intentions of visiting? You’re speaking to the choir! Sometimes we assume we know the address and type it in confidently, but are proven wrong. Sometimes forgetting the dot in .com takes us to another live website. We all make mistakes when we type on our computers or phone and end up in what we think is familiar terrain. Many of these websites are advertising platforms. The owner of the site harmlessly profits on mistakes our fingers make. An aggressive URL owner will strive for a different result. The risk posed may be malware infections or a phishing attempt to gather personal information.

With local businesses, competitors may take things to the next level and use a variation of your web address to direct your traffic to them. If your URL ends in .NET, they may find the owner of the .com and purchase it, quickly scooping up your customers.

Final Thoughts That Aren’t Fake

Scam artists make a career out of conning people. They have been around long before the Internet and will not stop. They get smarter and adjust with current trends and behaviors. Like a business, they adapt to change. They are chameleons. You can call it having trust issues but find no apology in being guarded. The more you respect the privacy of your customers and the more regard you hold for your reputation, the more successful you will be. When subscribing to a service or deciding to advertise, demand clear evidence that you are entering a legitimate relationship. Refuse to participate or pay for any sites tied to false information. Do not fake it until you make it. As Mark Twain stated, “To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” Ignore getting caught up playing games with your business. Have the confidence to remain aware and vigilant against any fraudulent acts that affect or attack your business. Take your time and do your research. Honesty always prevails in the end along with success.

If you find yourself plagued with fake information, want a better understanding, or want to stay ahead of other local businesses and need help getting started, we can help! Contact the true experts at Premiere Creative or give us a call at (973) 346-8100! We can help you true up your business’ information and develop new and honest ways to strengthen your digital presence.