Lessons from @jonnysun: Why content marketers need a journalism background

Emotions make content viral, not the content itself. Anger, awe, happiness, enlightenment and sadness create the urge to share with others. When content is written with the intention to “give you the feels”, facts can become secondary.

In comparison, journalism in its traditional form is designed to inform, yet the lines between the two fields of communication blur in the convoluted slush pile of tweets and soundbites packed nuts to butts on the internet. It’s our job as content marketers to stay on the latter half of the thinning media tightrope.

Fake information spreads like wildfire – take @Jonnysun’s twitter “scandal” last week.

Jonathan Sun, the biggest internet celebrity you’ve never heard of – also an MIT researcher – posted a fake fact about actors Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, online. To do this, he created a fake Google search image about the origins of their children’s names, Willow and Jaden Smith. The made up fact was nothing ‘amazing’ in itself, but what happened next was an eye-opener.

Nineteen thousand retweets and 25,000 favourites later, tweeters were bragging “they already knew ages ago” about this so-called fact, while others were enraged this ‘old’ news was making headlines.

When the jig was up, the experiment had the Twitterverse facepalming, while Sun was praised for confirming what we always suspected: the majority of people online do not fact check before sharing.

As content marketers, we market through shares – of thoughts, insights, knowledge and information. So if there’s something off about our information, there’s something off about our brand.

People are already skeptical, since it’s getting increasingly difficult to differentiate between paid content and well-researched original facts and quotes.

Here are some tips from a former journalist on how to do proper due diligence:

  1. Be hands on. If you’re talking about a product, instead of looking up a review of what someone else thought of it, download it or get your hands on it to form your own opinion.
  2. Pick up the phone. While it’s easier to copy and paste a quote from an article, a sure fire way not to misquote someone is to just ask them.
  3. Check statistics: When you see a stat in a post, look for the original research document that the article cited from. Most of the time they’ll have the actual link.
  4. Um, Google. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve caught a slip up, typo, or hoax just by Googling it.
  5. Read the news. Instead of just retweeting existing news, take the facts from a real news story and spin your own angle on it. This way you can’t possibly be wrong, since it’s your own opinion crafted from hard facts.

In a time when we’re always trying to hop on to what’s trending for engagement, it’s important to step back and say, “Really?” If authors don’t take the extra few minutes or an hour to check facts, readers will start to view content marketing as the new clickbait.

Knowing something intimate and relatable about a Hollywood couple made everyone go “awww” – and it sold. But while tugging at heartstrings racks up numbers and engagement, it’s authenticity that retains and converts.

Mutant’s content experts are all former journalists. If you’d like to chat with us about your content marketing needs, please get in touch with us at [email protected]