The reality is this: You really can’t fault people scrolling through news feeds for thinking of social media as a worthless use of time or – even worse – a source of consistently unreliable information and well of negativity. With #fakenews spreading like butter on a hot skillet, it’s hard not to be leery of just about everything on social media.
But before you get discouraged and wave off social media, consider this: Just this year, Facebook altered its algorithms to spot spam and false news stories. It also updated its mission statement to be more reflective of recent changes in news dissemination. Even Snapchat earlier this year outlined restrictions to publishers on its Discover platform.
So why, if platforms are taking earnest measures to flag or remove false content, do we still blame the platforms themselves for the proliferation of #fakenews? The answer here could be a personal problem.
Blame the player, not the game
It’s not a new opinion that social media platforms aren’t really the problem in today’s culture. The accepted issue is with users in our willingness to accept at face value whatever targeted, agreeable or easily digestible information is available.
While myopic media consumption and knee-jerk reactions from social media users are certainly part of it, I believe that the larger problem here is in the general reluctance to fully embrace social media as the serious part of a ‘news diet.’
You might be saying to yourself, “I’m sharing links on my feed daily! How am I not embracing social media?” or “Who has a ‘media diet?’”
Make no mistake – everyone has a media diet – from the rabid Recode reader to the executive who swears by a regimen of a cold shower with CNN, breakfast with the Wall Street Journal and commute with American Banker, we all form habits in the way we digest news. The question is: how do you incorporate social media into those habits?
Start with authenticity
You want to know one of the most important social media recommendations for brands? Be authentic.
This advice is universal and for consumers, it doesn’t just apply in producing content, but in the ability to spot authenticity, too.
Everyone by now hopefully knows to actually click on articles shared by connections, whether it be friends, family members or complete strangers. Measuring the validity of shared pieces is important and a fundamental step to taking social media seriously.
With that in mind, below are two components to incorporating social media into your news diet. Follow these, and they may just help you stay sane and take advantage of the real-time updates and collective voice in which only social platforms excel:
1) Follow a diversified collection of accounts
In order to remain objective and avoid some of the false news baiting that users toss out into the ether, follow a wide range of accounts, including those with opinions that may stray from your own.
Don’t worry about monitoring that tetchy politician who relentlessly props his wild platform. Instead, just keep an open mind and set an internal expectation that you will come across opinions that may not align with yours. Ignore that ‘mute’ button and don’t ‘unfollow’ them, if you can help it. Who knows? They may be able to provide insights one day that you would otherwise have not received had you bid them a digital adieu.
2) Engage in conversation
Another step is to take advantage of social media in the way that traditional media cannot compete… conversate with people directly in-app!
If you agree with someone (and even if you do not), engage them in a conversation on the topic. Don’t be withdrawn. The rules here are to avoid being aggressive or stubborn and to stay wary of other parties entering the chatter to be inflammatory or stir things up. If you can keep a level head and discuss things appropriately, you may actually be able to leave the conversation with new ideas or having taught the other parties something.
While some of the news about social media platforms is true, and companies and individuals need to work on setting up protocols to monitor for false content, the fact remains that the power behind social media lies in the hands of users.
Are you choosing to incorporate social media into your news diet?