3 Easy Steps to Trust Your News.

Fake NewsAs values go, trust sits the highest on most of our moral dashboards. It has been this way for generations etched by the epitaph, “In God we trust.” Right from the get-go, our parents imprinted, “Trust me. You’re not going to want to eat that!” After a week or so with our heads in the toilet bowl, we get it. It only takes us one life lesson to understand how trust is earned. With religious attention, we carry this assurance forward into our daily lives. As we mature, we happily trust all that is earned – including how we get our news.

LikeThe migration to online news.

In 2013, traditional TV news continued to command the lion’s share of viewers at 60 per cent. Social media and newspapers followed in behind with just under 30 per cent and radio even further back at 19 per cent. Moving forward to 2016; viewer numbers continue to increase for social media as Americans now flock to the internet to get their news. Sites such as Buzzfeed, Mashable, Vice and The Verge have replaced more traditional news sources by homogenizing daily events into bite-sized stories. All relentlessly broadcasting through a multitude of social media news feeds and apps. But one in particular – Facebook – clicked its way to the forefront of fake news proliferation.

In May of this year, Pew Research in America reported that a whopping 44 per cent of adults get their daily news now from Facebook. This means, almost half of adult Americans have entrusted Facebook to be their main source for providing ‘credible’ news.

If the news is coming through Facebook, it has to be real. Right? Wrong.

This blind trust not only heralded Facebook into a firestorm of ethics, it eroded the credibility of traditional news reporting and its social media distribution. Facebook, the presumed vanguard of social media practices was no longer able to clean their own house.  All the while, millions of viewers continued to get their news from dubious journalists on shady websites. Money was to be made and opinions indelibly changed by countries such as Russia, Romania and the U.S. Each glorifying the hard graft of creating and spreading false news.

crystal ball

Swaying popular influence.

America was in the throws of a contentious election campaign. Mud was flying everywhere and here-say was abundant as two political parties battled it out for the public’s opinion. Hungry for votes, each engaged in unethical social media practices by developing fake news and memes authored by an army of clandestine journalists. Fake news was now funnelling fiction through Facebook to over 140 million users. By the end stretch of the presidential campaign, fake news was actively helping both political parties build formidable propaganda machines by spreading disinformation and swaying electoral opinion. Even a foreign power had supposedly invested considerable time and effort in spreading negative propaganda to levy support with their choice for president. In December of this year, the CIA officially recognized that Russian-hosted fake news sites were highly influential when determining America’s 45th president. Strategically sanctioned by their leader Vladimir Putin.

So how do we pull ourselves out of the quagmire of mistruths and propaganda and identify fake from real?

Two easy and practical steps can help you regain your trust in news.

BaitStep 1. Beware of click-bait. 

Click-bait is a term relating to links or websites that encourage you to read on. Once you click onto a site, the clicks become revenue generators for suspect web hosts and their authors. In almost all cases, the headlines are false or at the very least, misleading. One of the most notorious examples being, “He Found a Cure for Cancer with This Pill. Now Doctors Hate Him.”

If it seems ridiculous. Then it is!

PegsStep 2. Keep it clean.

One news site proclaiming to be the ‘truth,’ ran the headline, “CNN: ‘Drunk Hillary’ Beat Sh**t Out of Bill Clinton on Election Nite.” This headline is not only crass and illiterate but holds three glaring examples of bad journalism.

First, quoting another news competitor. This would never happen. When have you ever seen or heard of a media competitor mentioned on your favourite broadcast or news site? Unless, as in this case, where you want to deflect the chance of libel when calling Hillary a ‘drunk.’

Then there is the use of profanity. If and when a reputable news organization would need to include profanity, it would be prefaced with a disclaimer. And how about that spelling? Yes, Webster may differ from Oxford, but certainly not when aligning to journalistic writing standards as American Press or Canadian Press guidelines.

Guidelines and standards are the vanguards for quality and journalistic integrity.

News SiteStep 3. With integrity come standards.

With any credible news, the first part of developing a story is fact checking. Be it checking sources or proofing data, by executing this due diligence, your news integrity will gain the trust needed to be YOUR reliable source of information. In Canada, privately held news providers and their social media properties, are held to journalistic ethics by the standards of both the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council. As for public broadcasting, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Journalistic Standards and Practices, represent its ethical framework. All under the approval of the Canadian government’s own watchdog, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission.  In print, including many of their online properties, the Canadian Association of Journalists provides similar guidelines and standards. Collectively, these represent the standards of journalism you would expect for news gathering integrity. If you find some of your local news feeds are not following these guidelines, then call them out.  Hold them accountable.

Believe me, their advertisers would not want to be in the middle of a fake news scandal.

SkunkFake news stinks.

Practising these three simple steps in fake news prevention will put you back into the driver’s seat when getting your news.  Remember, trust is gained. Like a bad piece of meat, if smells off then throw it out. Why should your news be any different?

Fake news stinks!

Visit my blog: https://jbromcom.wordpress.com/

All photos courtesy of: https://pixabay.com


5 Reasons Why Social Media Rocks!

2014 was a banner year for social media. When crunching the numbers we see 8,200 tweets, 1,500 Instagrams, 1,600 Tumblr posts, 46,000 Google searches, contributing to over 24,000 GB of internet traffic – per SECOND. In one day alone, over 860 million people use their Facebook accounts to post, share, and interact with online content.

This planet is experiencing a mass social experiment like none before. No matter your age, gender, or economic background, you are part of a technological crusade of evangelical proportions. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

How we connect, select community, access information and share ‘till it hurts, remains as it was when homo erectus walked the earth. This is what we do, we do it well and we will continue to do it, for many more years.

To close out 2014 let us look at the top five key reasons why social media is, and will continue to be, a good thing.

#1: Social Media Helps You Make Friends.

Survey Says: The need to connect is hardwired into our species.

The plain fact is we need to be part of something bigger. How else can we brag, or complain without knowing our euphoria or pain is shared by those around us? In our relentless pursuit of being part of something bigger, we desperately seek to connect. Whether with complete strangers, or past acquaintances, we yearn to develop trust by exchanging emotional discourse with others. Our minds subconsciously repeat, ‘I like them and I want them to be part of my world.’

Introverted? Shy? No problem. Social media is here to make this connection for you. 

#2. Social Media Makes You Smart.

Survey Says: The size of our social networks is directly related to the size of our brain.

Behavioural scientists like Robin Dunbar confirm, we have big neo-cortexes. This is the part of our brain that processes higher functions. Such as sensory perception, motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought, and in humans beings, language. Being only two chromosomes apart from our simian ancestors (on which the finding is based) humans have the ability to grow our neo-cortexes with absolute ease by simply expanding our networks. All we need to do is add an extra Facebook friend, Twitter follower or LinkedIn group everyday and our brain naturally grows. How awesome is that!

Now I’m Feeling like @SmartyPants is not that bad of a Twitter handle after all.

#3. Social Media Can Change History.

Survey Says: Social media users will look to ‘real-time’ events in order to become part of the event.

Mashable’s 10 Historical Events Affected by Social Media lays out the bare truth. Social media has the capability to adjust historical outcomes. Take Super Storm Sandy, Arab Spring, even the tragic events in Sydney Australia this past week. How would these events have unfolded without social media’s participation?

Social media is the platform where news stories break – not TV. Equally, social media is commonly used in crisis communication. This is substantiated when law enforcement routinely call for social media blackouts during crisis. This allows authorities to converse in ‘real-time,’ therefore altering outcomes almost immediately. It seems not only do we have the ability to change history, we also want to be the FIRST.

Stamford University and Microsoft research confirms, when users search for ‘real-time’ events, hyper intensive topics as terror, often evolve so fast it creates a (virtual) ‘pile-on.’ Once the information is absorbed and shared, off we go to be the first to form another ‘pile.’ Humans now have the vehicle that allows us to be part of the much bigger cultural mainstream.

Social media allows us to change history and still retain a feeling of belonging. How great is that!

#4. Social Media Bites! (But in a good way)

Survey Says: The ‘Social Media Contageon’ is an epidemic of extraordinary force that infects everyone who dares to log on.

In the New York Times Insights study, Psychology of Sharing, sharing helps build self-actualization, esteem and connectedness. All the important elements of being social. The big difference today is; this gigantic concept called the Information Age is a game changer. Sharing is now on steroids. We share more, from more, with more, more often and more quickly than ever before. And the speed is breathtaking. If you thought the common flu virus was communicable, it holds nothing to a viral event on the internet – good or bad.

Actual pandemics have benefited from this capacity to share information through surveillance as the public clamour to follow the outbreak.

Social is infectious but satisfying. We have been bitten by speed, lured by trust and comforted by community. But what a great thing this new digital malady is. We can commiserate, cheer, applaud or cry – together; almost immediately.

We are able to share our sacred emotions within our own social community.

#5.  Social Media is Here to Stay

Survey Says: As we move into 2015, social media will offer bold new opportunities to all the counted millions of users.

Will it ever!

In business, social media will enable a multitude of businesses to strategize media convergence, utilize big data procurement, and monetize big revenues from e-commerce.

In society, social media will bring people together in growing numbers to grieve our soldiers or cheer on our national sports heroes.

However you use social media remember, it is loud, it is proud and it’s not going anywhere.

The presence and pace of social media can be summed up by Pete Townsend of The Who when quoted, “Keith Moon, God rest his soul, once drove his car through the glass doors of a hotel, driving all the way up to the reception desk, got out and asked for the key to his room.” Speed, tenacity and pure audacity is why social media rocks in 2014 and will in 2015!

In closing, with all rational thinking comes the other argument on social’s place in society.

5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing Your Brain Right Now.


Are we ‘Lost in (Social) Space?’


Do We All Have a Social Destination?

French sociologist Henri Lefebvre, believed human interaction could be coined much the same as a simple Sunday walk. Wherever you went, your journey would be wholly dependant on the many ‘social realities’ that intercede your path. Mr. Lefebvre was convinced ‘social realities’ were everywhere. This included the idea of urban planning, the form of architecture, the conversation of language and even the appreciation of art. His research supported how either consciously, or unconsciously, we allow these ‘social realities’ to influence and guide our course of being.

Short of it, when building community we are influenced by various social circumstances whether natural, man-made or intellectual.

Our simple Sunday walk is anything but.

‘Social Realities’ Help Define Our ‘Social Space.’

Lefebvre’s thinking takes on a new reality within today’s ‘social space’ – the internet. As Lefebvre states, “‘social space’ is a… part of an interaction between subjects and their surroundings.”

Granted, these traditional ‘surroundings’ have shifted from parks and buildings, to today’s digital ‘social realities’ as Facebook and Google+; as this primal need to belong has no qualms making the jump to cyber space.

University of Colorado’s Associate Professor, Harsha Gangadharbatla, supports this belief as published in the Journal of Interactive Advertising’s, Facebook Me: Collective Self-Esteem, Need to Belong, and Internet Self-Efficacy as Predictors of the iGeneration’s Attitudes towards Social Networking Sites. Under the subhead of Belonging, Mr. Gangadharbatla mirrors Baumeister & Leary’s assessment that the need to belong is based on, ‘Fundamental human motivation that is something all human being possess… To form and maintain the least minimum quantity of lasting, positive and significant interpersonal relationships.’ He goes on to say, “Social networking sites offer a space in which people can address this need to belong by using services provided by the sites that enable conversations and information gathering, along with the possibility of gaining social approval, expressing opinions, and influencing others.”

This does make perfect sense. As social networking sites as Facebook, Google+ are more representative of today’s ‘social realities,’ the ability to arrive at our ‘social space’ is more accessible and immediate. It’s a heck of a lot easier to click and scroll than walk and run.

Is There a ‘Social Space’ For All?

Has mankind achieved its true ‘social space?’ Has this shift to a cyber landscape affected how we continue our need to belong? Does the immensity of our ‘social space’ impede the ability to share, or does it simply speed it up? Is it true that just as we achieve this magnificent ability to connect, others are still unable to complete this basic human need?

Research says, connecting online provides inclusion (circle of friends), affection (loved by these friends – hopefully), and control (over these friends) or the relinquishing there of. These are basic human behaviours for most of us, but what about other human beings that lie outside or reject these basic needs.

Let’s look at diversities. Do they embrace social media to enrich their community and feelings of belonging?

Rebecca Sawyer from the University of Rhode Island offers some thinking in her paper, ‘The Impact of New Social Media on Intercultural Adaption.’ Here she extols the thinking of Devan Rosen of Ithica College and University of Buffalo’s Derek Lackaff where these new media thinkers say, ‘people from individualistic cultures focus on meeting new people rather than maintaining their already existing cultures.’

Sounds about right; being new to a country, you will search for a way to connect that supersedes language and culture. You desperately want to belong in your new country or rejection is soon to come. At the same time, you are able to keep contact with your traditional or existing community.

Digging deeper into social anthropology, Rosen & Lackaff’s findings say, ‘Research shows that people from different cultural backgrounds and gender roles behave and communicate in systematically different ways. Findings suggest that participants who identify with more individualistic backgrounds, tend to self-promote and are better connected and more satisfied with their social lives.’

This is pleasing to hear knowing that social media has allowed new citizens to breakaway from more traditional methods of forming community, so they can be more readily accepted and trusted to belong in their new country.

As social media philosopher Brian Solis mentions, ‘…in short, belonging to a group feels good. It provides support and reinforcement, a strong identity, and a sense that we are part of something…’

Social media marketer Sarah Lee, builds on similar theories in her TedxKalamazoo lecture.

Do All Humans Have the Ability to Belong?

Unfortunately, no.

The result of connecting and sharing within a public, social, personal or intimate space provides only envy and jealousy and ultimately loneliness for some who seek inclusion and cognition. New Yorker Magazine piece by Maria Konnikova, cites various academic studies underscoring how most of us want to belong in a ‘social space’ but provides a directly opposite result. For some, gravitating to this new ‘social space’ has caused only alienation and despair; absolutely no sense of belonging and community.

Allow Social Media To Guide You There.

Now that humans have a better understanding of what to look for when charting our ‘social space,’ we can truly embrace and enjoy our journey. We have the ability to navigate the internet’s many ‘social realities’ towards building and experiencing our need to belong, and the community it brings.

There is no reason to be ‘Lost in Space’ when finding your online place. In the words of Dr. Zackary Smith speaking to his robot, “Now come along with me, you ludicrous lump, there’s much to be done.”

Yes there certainly is.

John K. Bromley

Can Social HR Help Today’s Workforce?

Photo Courtesy of Martins Bruneniecks

Photo Courtesy of Martins Bruneniecks

Management labour over what – if any – social media can do for them when engaging employees.

Disengagement breeds absenteeism. A fact most managers are aware of and the numbers speak for themselves. In 2012 Statistics Canada pegs the average Canadian worker was away from work for the equivalent of almost two weeks in a year. Fiscal translation: 9.3 days lost representing 2.4% of gross annual payroll, or $16.6 billion for Canadian employers.

Lakshmi Ramarajan from the Toronto Rotman School of Management identified,

‘lack of respect, ideas not being valued, lack of control and the absence of any feedback, the top contributors to burnout and disengagement.’

So how de we get employees back to work?

What about observing their behaviour? I’m not talking about charting coffee breaks and lunchtimes, but really taking the time to see into our staff. Many managers including myself, firmly believe by understanding employee behaviour we are directly enabling better engagement, respect and loyalty. Clearly, if we are to be successful managers, we need to know what makes our staff tick. We owe it to them, our company and to ourselves. So how do we do this without months, if not years, of polling, surveys and interviews?

Enter social media.

This new and constantly changing medium is a natural fit for internal communications to bolster contribution, feedback, value and the ever-important engagement. And of course the most important of all – human behaviours and the rhythms they create. Social media is built on the mining, extracting and fostering of various behaviours and their coveted traits. Why would we not leverage these tools inside our workplace?

Take the behemoth of social interaction, Facebook. CNN’s Doug Gross laid it out succinctly in his article, ‘5 Ways Facebook Changed us, for better, for worse.’ Facebook promotes and fosters good things as sharing, and bad things, as ‘over-sharing.’ If that is even possible in today’s accelerated world of online exchange. Facebook has the inherent ability to adjust and modify behaviour. A leading study at the University of Michigan details how our ‘seemingly’ harmless news feeds have the ability to promote both goodness and wickedness. In one second social media can envision instantaneous moon swings just by looking at images from our Facebook pages.

Are Mood Swings a Good Thing When Deciphering Behaviours?

I believe it is. If we recognize these ’emotional pendulums’ can act as enablers towards understanding how our staff communicate – why not? This is especially warranted where a good portion of workplaces today contain a generous mix of Gen X, Y and millennial employees.

Forbes Magazine’s Jeannie Meister reports in 2014, The Year Social HR Matters how digital immigrants have now caught up to digital natives. A statement aligned to Microsoft data where they polled 9,000 workers in 32 countries and found millennial employees will make up 50% of the 2020 workplace and distinctly see the business value of using technology on the job.

O.K. so this needs to happen. But how?

Everyone Loves to Play Games!

Barbara Swenson at All Business Experts takes it to a whole new level in extolling the virtue of ‘gamification.’ Organizations as LiveHelpNow will gamify your workplace to attain employee engagement quite literally by playing video games. This methodology is supported with further research done by officevibe where 70% of Forbes Global 2000 uses gamification to boost engagement, retention and revenues.

Seems like a no-brainer. What better way of harnessing these behaviour traits than by having our staff actively involved in social media. Whether it is simply bringing their own device to game on breaks, or logging into Facebook, you have a captive audience ready and willing to feed your corporate needs.

Not So Fast. What About Security and Reputation?

Guaranteed the perpetual vanguards of corporate safety and character – IT and legal, are aghast when they hear your new designs for internal communications and staff engagement. After all, they are being paid to look out for malevolent, salacious and damaging events as social engineering, viruses, reputation, liability, privacy and proprietary ownership. Those are pretty heavy words in any context for most companies. Issues needing very discernible and strategic attention.

Dan Pontefract of Huff Post Business reports on the 2014 Proskauer survey:

  • Only 17% of organizations have provisions that protect them against misuse of social media by ex-employees
  • 36% of employers actively block access to such sites, compared to 29% in 2012
  • 43% of businesses permit all of their employees to access social media sites, a fall of 10%

More use for sure but conversely a more rigid and restrictive communication culture.

Queue the social media policies.

So what gives? How much rope do we give our employees when it comes to their keen desire to engage with their personal friends, communities, groups, brands, etc., while at work? At the same time, how can we not use social media to infuse a culture of active employee engagement.

Not any easy solution, but if we don’t embrace social media in the workplace, we may loose everything, including our best and brightest employees.

John K. Bromley