Maybe you were scanning the internet this weekend and came across a story that was, to say the least, surprising. The headline leaped off of the screen in large, capital letters saying that Facebook would shut down March 15. Why? The story went on to suggest that Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was tired of the publicity and wanted to return to his old life.
It’s the kind of story that, regardless of where the rumor started, catches people and makes them want to Tweet, re-Tweet and post links to the articles. When you are running a company as big and influential as Facebook, the rumors start to spread faster. It’s like watching a fire started in dry brush as the flames quickly spread from one dry twig to the next. You have to be careful out there in the internet world. It’s like deciding to take up smoking while standing in a dried-out forest.
Of course, one look at where the story originated probably could have provided a clue as to the truth of the matter. The story started on the website for the Weekly World News. Yes, the same tabloid newspaper you can see near the checkout lines at the grocery store or local convenience store. The same publication that made B at Boy famous and regularly finds new predictions from Nostradamus and prints stories of aliens visiting politicians around the world was at it again.
Of course, the rumor is just that. It’s a silly rumor. Facebook just got new funding that totals nearly half-a-billion dollars. They have no reason to shut down. Even if Mark Zuckerberg wanted to go back to his old life, he could easily do so by simply leaving Facebook and Facebook would go on dominating the social media world just fine.
But that’s how things are in the world of instant access , social media, and digital news. Things happen instantly. One word on one Twitter wall that someone takes the wrong way and, suddenly, you are looking at your own internet-rumor forest fire and suddenly you are running around trying to stomp out the flames. Of course, that’s why monitoring your share of voice and setting up systems to monitor what other people might be saying about you across the internet spectrum is so important.
Even the social media giants have to deal with this. Facebook and the other social networking sites battle their own rumors constantly, many of which are being spread by their own social networking sites! The snake is often eating its own tail.
So, the lessons are two-fold. First, even in the world of social media, you shouldn’t believe every rumor and thing you see right away. Second, be careful what you do say and try to think about how statements you make on Facebook, Twitter and blogs will be perceived by customers, potential customers, clients and vendors.
And, of course, the underlying lesson of all of this is to remember that you don’t have to try and navigate the rapids alone. There are those out there who can help you, guide you and get you through the torrents.