Does fake news have any effect on recruitment?

Rumours have been around since the start of time, but in today’s connected world anyone can publish content, fake or not, that can be read by millions worldwide in a matter of minutes.
Social media makes it impossible to avoid fake news and the simple truth is: facts don’t matter.
People very easily get tricked, especially as they already have information overload in the internet era.
People today don’t think twice before circulating misinformation across the world, it will eventually disappear but often not before the damage it intended to cause has happened.
We have become more and more aware of the real impact of fake news over the last two years since it entered the world of politics.
Fake news became a wide spread discussion point throughout the last US presidential election, the Brexit referendum and the recent UK general election and many people believe that the results were shaped by social media.
In the last US presidential election Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent $81m on Facebook advertising alone; in the last UK general election the Labour parties much better than expected results have been largely credited to its social-media campaign.
For some observers, social media has become too much of an influential factor in political decision making, they fear it impacts on transparency, accuracy and most of all truth and it’s easy to see why.
During the final three months of the US presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from all 19 major news outlets combined.
And these fake news stories fooled American adults about 75% of the time.
The problem of the power of fake news has become such that in 2017 Germany passed a new law allowing social media companies to be fined up to €50m (£43m) if they persistently fail to remove illegal content including illegal hate speech and other postings within 24 hours after receiving a notification or complaint and to block other offensive content within seven days.
It is not just about spreading false information; fake news causes very real problems as in 2013 when the Associated Press’ (AP) Twitter account was hacked and a tweet confirming two explosions in the White House which injured then President Obama was released.In a matter of minutes, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by more than 143 points
wiping out in excess of $130billion of stock value.
In 2017, in another example of the damage fake news can do, a post claiming that the CEO of cryptocurrency company Ethereum had died in a car accident resulted in a fall of about $4billion off the company’s stock value and led to some analysts quickly speculating over the future of the now leaderless company.
Similarly, a post on Reddit reported the death of a McDonald’s executive in compromising circumstances. McDonald’s were very quick to handle the situation and indeed confirmed that the executive didn’t actually exist, however it still impacted the company’s stock value by around $2billion.
But using fake news to influence stock and share prices is only one way your business can be damaged, sadly there are many other ways a business can be hurt.
A business can spend millions on carefully crafting their image and brand but in the age of social media it can be damaged in seconds through fake news.
When one user of a messaging board discussed issuing fake news about Starbucks that “Could cripple their business a bit” it became a reality with tweets advertising “Dreamer Day”, in which the coffee chain would supposedly give out free frappuccinos to undocumented migrants in the US, spread at lightning speed online and made Starbucks have to race to deny the event and reply to individuals on Twitter that it was “completely false” and that people had been “completely misinformed”.
So fake news can clearly impact a business, but does it really have an any effect on recruitment?
The explosion of fake news is impacting society and how we behave in every way and the workplace, HR and how we recruit is no different. Fake news such as the Starbucks incident can do exactly what the user wants, they cripple the business and have an impact on how the brand is perceived. Any damage to a brand’s reputation can affect how a business attracts the best new talent, especially through the passive labour market and engages and retains current employees.
It isn’t just reputational damage from outside the workplace that companies need to manage either. Besides fake news doing the rounds in the outside world the likelihood is that rumours and half-truths are circulating internally which can cause conflict, internal unrest, distraction and impact a businesses’’ engagement with current and potential clients and employees.
Ultimately, what your employees talk about reflects the kind of work culture your business offers, and you can be sure that what they are saying they are sharing online.In the always connected world of social media many employees barely have a divide
between their work and personal lives.
Indeed the latest research shows that 50% of employees post messages, pictures or videos about their employer on social media often or from time-to-time.
The research also highlights that fake news has the potential to do real damage if spread by an employee as today employees are a businesses true brand advocates.
The figures show that the average employee engaging on social media has 10 times more followers than any corporate network and 90 percent of their social audience is new to the brand they are talking about.
Plus, brand messages are shared 24 times more when distributed by employees, versus the same messages shared via official brand social channels.
Fake news has created a need for transparency and people see employees as authentic, credible and trustworthy and therefore they have real influence to cause effect or change behaviour.
In this new era people are paying more attention to corporate messages delivered from those in their social networks which provides businesses with a great opportunity to utilise this to help maintain and increasing brand awareness.
There is a clear opportunity for those in HR and recruitment to accept that employees are already talking about where they work and what they do on social media but turn it into an advantage by giving them information and stories.
An employee brand advocacy program allows every employee to be a brand ambassador by engaging and empowering them with trusted and safe information and they, in turn, will empower and help your brand by engaging and sharing the information to their network.
Companies such as Sky and Unilever are leading the way in employee advocacy programmes with Sky’s #LifeatSky uniting colleagues from across the company in celebrating its culture, experiences and activities and has resulted in an improved recruitment process, driving 100 hires and 10,000 applications through harnessing its employees on social media.
In another successful example Unilever’s employee advocacy programme means colleagues are sharing 14x more frequently, there are 5x more job views and 4x more engagement with content.
Ultimately, fake news can affect recruitment and employees can be an employer’s best advocate or its worst opponent in the war against fake news.

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