Linked to the development of digital technology, disinformation on the Internet also concerns the world of work. In this article, Capterra discusses the importance of monitoring corporate e-reputation in the face of fake news.

With the advent of digital, it is an ever faster and large-scale communication that is offered to Internet users. If the circulation of data on the Internet, and in particular through social networks , allows the dissemination of informative messages in real time and to the greatest number, it may also be a source of misinformation in the form of fake news. While almost half of French people say they get information through social networks according to a study by Coverd , the context of the pandemic has contributed to a new extent in the spread of false information. This trend has even led the WHO to create the specific term infodemic to qualify and prevent the emergence of this type of phenomenon.

If fake news affects many actors in society , it also does not spare the business sphere. What risks are they exposed to when confronted with fake news? What best practices can they apply to preserve their online reputation? Find out more in this Capterra article.

What is fake news?

An English term used to define false information circulating through modern media, fake news is a phenomenon that emerged long before the digitization of our society. With the appearance of the manuscript press, we are already seeing an emergence of the phenomenon, leading to announcements affecting the general public, such as the example of the erroneous announcement of the death of King Louis XIV in various media. Under the Ancien Régime, fake news even had a name, “falseness” to qualify the dissemination of this type of information.

Nowadays, the exchange of digital information may have given rise to a new kind of disinformation. While some content has no malicious intent, it can nonetheless lead to the general public taking it seriously. Others may, however, have the motive of harming the reputation or image of a third party. Fake news can therefore take many forms .

What forms can fake news take?

Among the different categories of fake news, we can cite the following:

1. Satirical content 

Parodic and non-malicious content, based on invented or even absurd events. If this content is primarily created for humorous purposes, its distribution may however escape the control of its original creators. We can cite here the example of the hoax of the Volkswagen brand , whose false name change had led the brand to apologize through its spokesperson.

2. Targeted disinformation content

This content is based here on the principle of virality, ie the resumption of an unfounded rumor on a large scale and quickly via the Internet and the media. Also known as fake news , this content targets groups that are particularly sensitive to this type of information, and may share these publications as credible. Nutella is one of the companies that have been victims of this phenomenon, the brand having had to deny a false rumor   that reported cases of salmonellosis listed in its products.

3. Manipulated content

This type of content uses deliberately truncated and modified information ( false images , or even deep fake) , with the aim of harming a third party. The Walmart company was recently confronted with such a situation, with the publication of a false press release using the identity of the brand, and announcing a partnership between the latter and the Litecoin cryptocurrency.

4. The so-called “Clickbait” content 

This is about articles using misleading titles about a real fact, aimed at encouraging a user to consult the content. Popularized under the term “clickbait” or “click traps” , this technique, used for unscrupulous advertising purposes, aims to arouse the curiosity of the reader without however providing or justifying the information announced.

The risks for the e-reputation of companies

While the pandemic context provides fertile ground for the dissemination of false information , companies are faced with issues related to the protection of their e-reputation. Defined as the combination of the image conveyed by a brand and Internet users, a company’s e-reputation can be impacted at different levels by uncontrolled information.

The cons of programmatic advertising

Used as an advertising activity, programmatic advertising is employed by companies to perform automated online promotion of their products and services. A company can thus define a target according to certain criteria, while programmatic ecosystems, such as Google, are responsible for disseminating information to a set of sites for which it manages the advertising space. The principle of programmatic advertising is based on an auction system, where the advertiser with the highest bid can see their content more widely distributed. However, the editorial framework in which its advertising is highlighted can sometimes escape its control: this is how brands have been able to see their advertising associated with disinformation sites.

Fake news can have a real economic impact

According to figures published by the University of Baltimore , global stock market losses linked to the impact of fake news amounted in 2019 to nearly 39 billion dollars (about 32.5 billion euros), when 17 billion dollars of losses for companies were attributable to financial disinformation (about 14.5 billion euros). While the World Economic Forum had already designated fake news as a major risk factor for the economy , French companies have seen their negative effects in practice. The Vinci group, specializing in construction and concessions, recorded a loss of 7 billion euros in 2016 following a false publication

announcing the dismissal of its financial director for fraud. As Anaig Nouvel , marketing director for Immodvisor , mentions “A bad e-reputation directly impacts a company’s turnover. For example, customer reviews make and break sales. But it also impacts employee morale, engagement and recruitment. A good e-reputation, on the contrary, is the source of virtuous economic development and generates commitment with the brand community (including partners, suppliers, etc.) and employees.”

Loss of customer confidence in company messaging

Yext’s annual report, “Searching for Trust”, reported on the various issues surrounding the relationship of French people to communication surrounding brands. In the context of fake news, nearly 52% of them thought that brands were responsible for false information, and 51% said they did not trust the veracity of information put online by a company. Several factors can explain the mistrust of Internet users:

  • The multitude of information communicated online does not facilitate the visibility and credibility of the information provided by companies. 71% of participants said they felt overwhelmed by the abundance of information available online.
  • A context of mistrust towards institutions and organizations can invite Internet users to be more aware of unverified content. France was thus ranked as one of the countries where the population had the least confidence in institutions (NGOs, companies, government and media).

For companies, ensuring the consistency and visibility of their message is therefore essential, as Catherine Cervoni , press, media and influence relations advisor attests : “ There is no miracle: “you are what you post”. This is as true for a company as it is for an individual. A company has every interest in defining an editorial line for its social networks. Beyond the communication that concerns its product/service/business universe, this will allow it to choose the territories it wishes to invest in correspondence with its values.”

Advice for SMEs to manage e-reputation

To combat the problem of disinformation, measures have been taken by state bodies, but also by certain players in online communication. The French government, for example, has adopted a law against the manipulation of information , while platforms such as Youtube, used as a channel for the distribution of unverified information, are taking measures to optimize the moderation of their content .

If the evolution of this framework can help companies to fight against disinformation, certain good practices can allow them to optimize the management of their e-reputation and anticipate risks. As Fabienne Billat , Advisor in influence communication and digital strategy, points out : “ If a crisis occurs, it is a sign that the company is not mature on this subject of reputation, and more generally on its digital communication. . It is upstream that a crisis is brewing. With several anticipation scenarios, which allow it to put in place the necessary resources to avoid it, or to absorb it quickly.” Below are some tips on how SMEs can manage their online reputation.

Constantly monitor your online reputation

Monitoring the status of your e-reputation can be an essential tool to help you analyze areas for improvement. One of the first steps is to identify the channels mentioning your business, and thus identify in the type of messages in which your brand is mentioned. Certain tools, specifically dedicated to e-reputation monitoring , can help you optimize this process.

As Anaig Nouvel also recommends:

  • “Tip 2: Communicate: create “positive” content and ensure its influence (targeting, virality, etc.)
  • Tip 3: Respond to all the opinions of Internet users present on the web: forum, social network comments, customer reviews, etc. Never leave a comment unanswered let alone when they are negative.
  • Tip 4: Be proactive and solicit the opinions of all your customers so that the satisfied ones express themselves. Do not let the dissatisfied, who are often those who leave unsolicited reviews, make the reputation of your company.”

Perform an audit on your e-reputation

Monitoring your online presence can help you answer important questions: who talks about your business online? what type of content is delivered? What is the status of your e-reputation compared to your competitors? Once the information related to your e-reputation has been listed, an audit can allow you to focus on the areas for improvement to be prioritized. The latter can help you, for example, to create risk reports to improve your e-reputation, and can be carried out using software designed to generate them .

Define an appropriate e-reputation strategy

Having data about your online presence can help improve your online reputation strategy. Reports based on your monitoring and your audits are likely to help you mobilize your efforts. Depending on your personalized analyses, you will be able to define the essential criteria of your e-reputation strategy, such as the adoption of tools to help you manage your presence on social networks , to target points of dissatisfaction of your customers in their opinions , or to identify the points likely to impact your referencing.

Fabienne Billat also indicates : “Monitoring should not only concern its reputation, it must extend to strategic information on its fields, thus demonstrating the value and the interest that it can provide.”

Against disinformation, trust remains to be privileged

If an e-reputation strategy is essential to preserve your company’s image and anticipate any crisis communication, maintaining a relationship of trust between your company and all the players involved in its e-reputation is a key factor. Ambassadors of your company, your employees and partners are valuable allies to help you preserve your brand image

Catherine Cervoni continues: “At a time when people are increasingly sensitive to brand ethics and the digital tsunami is triggering uncontrollable pack phenomena, it is better to be vigilant and explain the issues of e-reputation. to the company’s first ambassadors: its own employees. ”

Identifying the sensitivity of your employees to your corporate culture and its values ​​is an avenue to explore, using solutions such as employee engagement software . The practice of surveys to estimate the degree of satisfaction of your partners and customers can also be considered, helping you for example to integrate this criterion as a KPI to be monitored among your business objectives.

Proper maintenance of your e-reputation must therefore require work at each level of the company, whether it concerns its internal or external relations, to help you better manage the information concerning you.

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