22 September 2011 8 Comments

How to validate Social Media news

Author: yinkaolaito

Yinka Olaito is happy,excited and passionate Communications & Media specialist, Trainer and speaker. Yinka Olaito helps Profits and Non-profits with effective communication and positioning for premium service delivery and returns. Yinka Olaito also has special interest in Development Communication and has consulted for noted UN Agencies. Yinka Olaito is the CCO of Michael Sage Consulting(Communication/digital media), African Child Education Right Initiatives(NGO) and Content Director, Africa Development Talk( online Platform for discussion on Policy, Governance, development across Africa) and Africa Foundation for Young Media Professionals


For those who monitor online and regular media news in our environment, they would have heard the rumour of the acclaimed video of a female student that was sexually molested by some of her school’s mates. As we know this platform is not known for gossip. It is meant to educate, inform as well as share lessons brand custodians can learn from any information. This accounts for why we are examining this issue. The changes we are going through in communications platforms require that we are adequately informed and prepared for tomorrow. Brand custodians need to be actively involved in online monitoring. Without this, many brands will’ go down’ or possibly remain irrelevant in no distance time without warnings.Social Media News, online rumour management, online news Monitoring, Online reputation management

The validity of this story has not been ascertained. While many agencies’ officials-Private and public-involved or indicted had come out to deny the story, none of these agencies’ officials were able to convince the public with enough evidence on which they based their conclusions. One also wonders while it took these officials such a long time before they  knew such negative story was been spread online about their institutions/brands. The story had gone round for over  a week-thanks to offline words of mouths, regular media coverage-before any of the brands’ custodians involved even got to know. Meanwhile the story had circulated all around the web for over a week before it received offline attention. Now here are the lessons communicators can learn from this incidence:

Consider Social Media as important: Many brand communicators in our environment still see social media platform as a place to socialize and not as a veritable tool in brand communication. This accounts for carefree attitude to listening or monitoring online conversation around their brands. One wonders why this negative perception or erroneous believe still reigns in this age. When a brand considers Social Media as vital, it will show in its preparedness in terms of hiring trained social media expert, equipping the internal audience, setting up a social media policy etc.

Constantly monitor Conversation around your brand online: You may not know a news story is going on around the brand until you listen and monitor online communication platforms. There are available free tools as well as paid software to do this. Ignoring this advice will definitely affect your brand’s reputation. Imagine, the story was allowed to fly around for over two weeks before any official response was made. For those who do not know, Google Alert, SocialMentions are free listening/monitoring tools. They may not be 100% effective but they are good way to start.

Track the source: When a brand listens or monitors conversations around its brand, it is easier to track any source of negative news. It is also easy for the brand to know how best to handle the challenge within few hours. This will ensure the situation does not go out of control.

Do/Conduct thorough investigation before making pronouncement: Many of the brand communicators went ahead to the regular media without verifiable evidence that was strong enough to convince the public of proper investigations and outcomes. May be that accounted for why their responses did not enjoy ‘believability’. What we think this will amount to is self delusion. As we all know, this case has little similarity with Anthony Weiner’s case. Mr. Anthony Weiner initially denied he was responsible for the photo exchange that landed him in trouble. He claimed his account was hacked. Internet Security experts were called in to take over the case. Today we all knew the outcome. The guy who uploaded the video did state he is looking for any Women Right Organization who could take up the case. We all know the guy has Youtube account. Under proper investigation the IP address he used can be traced etc. Brands need to prepare for such crisis so as to properly address the issue. Let us not also forget similar video had been circulated two years ago. The said video showed two senior married officials of a frontline telecommunications firm in Africa. These officials were married to different spouses. The video captured them while having extra Marital affairs in a holiday beach. The said company did nothing aside the fact that we later heard the two officials involved were sacked.

Use right Media: After validating the source, the brandshould  now have facts and must  developed its communication strategy. It is essential to use right media in communicating corporate decisions. In the above case, most of the representatives/spokespersons went ahead to debunk the rumour on regular media. Unknown to them, the whole world kept waiting for their response online. While it may not be a bad idea to use multi-channels in communicating the brand’s position, using same communication channel where the news started from will not be a bad idea.

Am I missing something? Please share your brand’s opinion or experience.

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