In highs school you were taught that Research Paper Rule #1 was “credible websites end in .org, .edu, and .net.” While there can be some debate on that topic seeing as major news sources such as CNN and MSNBC have websites ending in .com, there is still something to be said about which websites are and are not reliable. In recent years, it seems that people have developed the opinion expressed by the women in this State Farm commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmx4twCK3_I. I think we can all tell by the end of the clip that the theory “they can’t put anything on the internet that’s not true” isn’t accurate.
Facebook and Twitter are two of the most widely used unreliable sources. If other people are saying it, it must be true—right? Wrong. A great example of this is the post about Starbucks that has been circulating Facebook for the last month or so. The Facebook post shows an email from a United States Marine detailing an experience with Starbucks in which they were asked to supply coffee to the troops and Starbucks wrote back and said no, we don’t support the war or the troops. The post then asks people to stop supporting Starbucks. The post, though untrue, got Facebook users fired up. Read more about this situation here: http://news.starbucks.com/about+starbucks/myths+facts/militarydonations.htm
Another instance where a social media site led us astray was when Joe Paterno was very sick. A very popular and widely viewed Penn State Twitter account posted about Paterno’s death and everyone started posting RIP Joe Paterno in response. It wasn’t until Paterno’s own son tweeted that his father was still alive that people stopped believing the tweets.
These situations can cause major PR nightmares. Starbucks’ PR team had quite the task ahead of them with this rumor. This would prove particularly hard because many people today don’t do their own research. In the case of the incorrect tweets about Joe Paterno, it reflects poorly on the Penn State twitter and must’ve been incredibly stressful for his family.
So, the moral of the story is: don’t believe what you see and hear on Facebook and Twitter. If you do see something on a social networking site please do some research before you repost it and fuel the fire. Times are changing and social media is playing a bigger and bigger role in our everyday lives, but that doesn’t mean we have to believe everything it tells us.
This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member London Faust