To engage with our followers and create a deeper level of trust in our brand we must verify our sources before posting any content. The definition of verification includes two variables. One, it is the comparison of two or more items, or the use of supplementary tests, to ensure the accuracy, correctness, or truth of the information. It is also an alternative form of acknowledgment.
Verification is important because almost anyone can post news content on social media sites. If all contributors were known and trusted, there wouldn’t be a need for verification. Social media can provide instant news faster than most of our traditional news outlets. This doesn’t mean that we are providing factual information to our readers. We must scrutinize all of our sources to create a greater level of trust.
The best guidelines to follow for verification are found on Storyful. They begin with a higher level of scrutiny and skepticism of the story and its source. Storyful believes that verification is the cornerstone of their work and they believe it has to be for all who share content on social media sites. First, they search for the original source. Second, examination takes place through data embedded within the images or video to find out more information. Third, identification of keywords and running them through search engines. Fourth, an examination of the contributor’s digital footprint takes place. They also check and corroborate the content. Storyful will look beyond the immediate and search for details in the story or image. The use of many fact-checking sites also enables them in establishing credibility to the story.
To be first or to be right, that is the question. It matters most in emergency and breaking news situations. If there is a rush to get the story out first, many inaccuracies take place and mistakes are made that cause harm to others. First doesn’t always mean right. Journalists are under pressure to get the story out before competing news agencies. In the rush, fact-checking sources and correct attribution are sometimes over looked. Errors could still take place but it will help in minimizing them.
Verification standards are essential to maintaining credibility for your readers. We should remain unbiased and not being involved with any social networks related to the advocacy of special interest stories we cover. Be professional, be transparent, check your sourcing and be accurate makes the difference to your followers.
Be careful of what you post or share. Re-posting false content could present you with legal problems. In some states, you can be sued for the dissemination of intimate information about a person, even if it is true, under the privacy tort of public disclosure. We must be cautionary when reporting highly offensive content or if it is not a legitimate public concern.
There are many great suggestions for the verification processes from organizations like Storyful, CNN, and Poynter. Other sources to utilize are government websites (.gov), educational sites (.edu) and organization websites (.org). It is best not to use .com sites for verification purposes. Reading the about section of the website identifies its contributors giving it more credibility.
When you share or re-tweet content this doesn’t mean you have done your homework. It is easy for most of us to be lazy at times. It can mean you agree with the original content of the post but doesn’t mean you have verified it before sharing it with your followers. They deserve to know the truth and will feel you are violating their trust if inaccuracies are found in the story you shared.
Absolution of the social media manager when providing incorrect information rarely happens. There may be times when sloppy reporting is done and facts are not checked thoroughly, and yes, sometimes sources lie for whatever reason, but this rarely provides a reasonable excuse to your readers. Transparency and admitting when mistakes have been made immediately to your readers may provide you with a level of absolution from them. Unfortunately, it will probably damage your credibility in the future for too many. Providing the correct source of attribution and proper links to your story will give the reader a chance to check out its validity and credibility.
The value of a verified social media account is the foundation to which we build our brand. The blue check-mark next to our account means it has been verified by the social media giants. This check-mark prevents fraud and protects the integrity of the person or company name being used. It creates authenticity and a bond of trust with our readers. You are likely to create a larger following, protect your brand, and it shows your readers they matter to you.