M2 Bespoke was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle over the New Year. How about that?

It’s obvious that this is bunkum, but did you believe us for a second?

We’ve all been guilty of taking an unlikely story at face value at some point, but in 2016 the sharing of fake stories was off the chart.

The US election, particularly its winner Donald Trump, and particularly the support for him on social media, pushed fake news to the forefront, the BBC explains.

While people have got into the habit of taking tabloid stories with a pinch of salt, online stories aren’t always subject to the same scrutiny.

In 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 major news outlets, Buzzfeed analysis found back in November.

People were fooled by the sheer number of shares and views the fake stories attracted, the analysis suggests.

The top fake election story in terms of Facebook engagement was ‘Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement’, which, in hindsight, is so obviously fake. However, it notched up nearly one million engagements three months before the election.

Writing for Forbes, marketing guru Jayson DeMers puts the fake news epidemic in the context of content marketing and details what we can learn from it.

1. Social shares yield authority

As far as Facebook and co are concerned, high numbers of shares equate to authority. Facebook, in particular, has come under fire for its algorithm, which prioritises “engagement” — even, it seems, if the story on the receiving end of the engagement is fabricated.

Some even went as far to suggest that Facebook aided the rise of Donald Trump, which Mark Zuckerberg dismissed as a “crazy” theory.

However, while Facebook is currently working on a plan to combat misinformation more robustly, including methods for stronger detection and verification, it just goes to show the power of social shares in terms of tricking both algorithms and users.

For brands, it’s obviously not best practice to try make up a story as a means to get social shares. However, it’s not untoward to create content that shocks your audience from time to time, as long as you back up any points with credible statistics. If you think the latest John Lewis ad is terrible, say it.

2. A good headline is sometimes all you need

Over half of all links shared on social networks aren’t actually clicked on at all – as per research by DeMers – implying the majority of article shares are based solely on the headline.

In some cases, then, a good headline is all you need to get your content some solid shares. The fake news endemic backed DeMers’ research up somewhat, with readers not always interested to see if the story was credible, instead taking the headline on its word.

Greater awareness about fake news post-election might now cause people to be more diligent about the content they’re consuming, but a good headline will always catch their eye. So, make your content more shareable by giving it a suitably impactful headline, every time.

3. Looks can give the impression of authority

You’ve got to give the fake news outlets their due, they certainly look legitimate, which is why so many people are lured in to thinking that their word is to be believed. DeMers calls it the “illusion of authority”.

Following the US election, the BBC has published a piece on how to spot fake news, underlining just how convincing these unscrupulous outlets are. What this tells us is that it pays to be convincing; to look like you know what you’re talking about, even if you don’t.

For brands, then, it’s crucial that their content is produced in a way that shouts credibility and professionalism. If, at a quick glance, your content exudes a lack of authority, your audience simply won’t give it a minute’s attention.

On the whole, the challenge for content marketers in 2017 is to put “better, more accurate content in circulation”, says DeMers. We have no choice, quite frankly. The fake news trend is likely to have caused consumers to be even pickier about the content they consume; only content of the highest quality will be deemed worthy of their time.

However, it gives us hope that we can still make waves with our content online if we keep on the right side of what makes fakes news popular.