Thursday, May 25th, 2023

How to stop inaccurate content from harming your brand

Graphic showing the effect of relevance on a statistic

34% of Generation Z have quit social media completely.

This stat is doing the rounds again and being used to justify everything from why mental health breaks are good for you to pitching content creation training. 

Small problem: it’s a bit out of date.

As far as I can tell, the origin of this “truth” is a March 2018 report by Hill Holliday / ORIGN using data gathered in 2017 from the United States. In the five years since, a lot has changed, not least the small matter of a pandemic. And of course the US is not “The World”.

I’ve observed a pressure to put out “insightful content” that causes old stats like this to go viral. It pops up in one content creator’s work, then others latch onto it without checking to see what was meant. The same thing happens with the debunked “This autistic kid tidied up the sales bins at Walmart” meme that circulates every few months. End result is a lot of misleading claims and dubious “advice” circulating built on shaky foundations.

For me, using out of date, unattributed stats raises questions about the authenticity and validity of the piece and its creator. It might get quick traction and engagement in the short-term, but long term is it harming the brand to put out something so easily invalidated? As important is whether using out dated information leaves you exposed to regulatory or legal risks. 

If you are using stats in your content, or have commissioned a creator, I suggest the following:

  • insist creators provide their sources. It should be a primary source – that is the original research or press release, not a repost or rephrasing from another blogger
  • include the sources in your content, either as hyperlinks or as footnotes
  • keep a copy of the source in your content file for when you’re challenged, and just in case it vanishes from the internet (as the report mentioned above seems to have done)

Perhaps above all is be honest with your content. If you start out with a half-truth you will damage your brand, no matter how many affirming “likes” you get.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.