Social-ReputationJust because someone you trust on the Internet posted it, does not make it true. The Internet is fast becoming a source of false information, rumours and urban legends. Your job as a responsible business owner is not to help spread false information and fake stories. It does not look good on you or your company to be perceived as perpetuating an urban legend or myth.

Far too often we read a story that someone on our social media has told us about, and that story turns out not to be true. The stories that many people want to share with their friends, family and colleagues are those that hit us emotionally, but turn out to be fakes or hoaxes. When a small business owner likes or shares one of these false stories, their own credibility is taken to question by those who follow them.

When a story sounds too good (or too bad) to be true, hold off on liking or sharing it. Take some time to do your own research to see if credible news sources are reporting the same story. Google the name of the story and see if major news organizations are reporting the story. If a major news organization is reporting the story, it is better to quote them than an online blogger who is anonymous.

If a piece of news or an article you read on your social media sounds suspicious to you, you might want to check it against (the world’s largest urban legend depository). If you discover that Snopes has already debunked the story, you will look more like the hero for trying to stop the proliferation of it, rather than the lazy social media person who perpetuated the rumour by re-publicizing it.

When an urban legend or a false story is published and spreads through social media, you can be sure that the affected corporation will do its research to find the people and companies who helped perpetuate the false story – and the corporation may follow up with legal action.

Commenting, liking and sharing social media content of others can be good for your small business, but be careful what you share and like. Sharing and liking positive content of others is good, but one bad comment, share or like on a negative story or article (especially for a competitor) can ruin your business reputation and believability.

Commenting and sharing human interest or success stories can often be good for your social media identity. But be sure that the story is true and that topic is one that is not contrary to the ideals your followers and clients hold. Alienating your customers and followers will not only cost your small business its reputation, it could cost you business!

Above all, avoid social media interactions that place negative innuendo or claims against other corporations, especially if they are your competitors. If the claims or allegations of the posts you like or share turn out to be false, you are opening your small business to litigation and lawsuits that can eventually ruin it.