Echo chambers. They’re everywhere. In news media, in politics, in various communities online.
Back when I had much more of a presence online in the nascent world of “social media marketing” I was very cognizant of that echo chamber, as were many others. What’s funny is that even back then, those inside the echo chamber echoed each other’s bitching about the echo chamber. (Echo chambers are extremely meta like that.)
In this post, I touched upon how I recently came back to the same online haunts I used to frequent and noticed how it was the same people, talking about the same stuff, all over again. Nothing had changed except the tools in the seven or so years I had been absent.
Wikipedia has some in-depth information about the nature of echo chambers online but here’s an excerpt:
The echo chamber effect occurs online due to a harmonious group of people amalgamating and developing tunnel vision. Participants in online discussions may find their opinions constantly echoed back to them, which reinforces their individual belief systems. However, individuals who participate in echo chambers often do so because they feel more confident that their opinions will be more readily accepted by others in the echo chamber.
The echo chamber I was immersed in was about marketing, and depending on platform, it was worse. When I first joined Twitter (2006) and especially a couple years after, somewhere around 90% of Twitter was marketers marketing to other marketers about marketing. It evolved, however, and now is much more segmented, though it appears more about politics these days. Continues Wikipedia:
Online social communities become fragmented when like-minded people group together and members hear arguments in one specific direction. In certain online platforms, such as Twitter, echo chambers are more likely to be found when the topic is more political in nature compared to topics that are seen as more neutral. Social networking communities are powerful reinforcers of rumors because people trust evidence supplied by their own social group, more than they do the news media.
But it’s not just marketing online, and it’s not just politics. It’s whatever one finds themselves immersed in. I’ve done a lot of work in the automotive sector online, and have noticed that even in automotive, it’s car blog talking about cars to other car blogs, reviewing the same cars. The same media companies, using different tools (blogs and YouTube seem to be the main ones), reviewing cars. Some are car news sites, covering the latest automotive news on the same brands about the same auto show or new model or whatever.
Many people within echo chambers bitch about the echo chamber, but nobody does anything about it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When you get out of the echo chamber, everything changes. You reach new audiences and unexpected markets, hence more potential business. Likewise, when you expose yourself to new ideas and different perspectives, it broadens your horizons and expands your creativity.
I was taught to never complain about something unless you’ve got a solution.
So how do you get out of an echo chamber?
Think of it like a bouncy ball. If you’ve ever thrown a bouncy ball around a stairwell, that thing is going to bounce every which way and keep on going. If you don’t get out of the way, you’ve got a good chance of a bouncy ball at high velocity hitting you right in the eye.
There’s really only one way out. You open the door and walk out. You can either leave the bouncy ball behind to continue bouncing off the walls of the echo chamber stairwell, at which time nothing will change, or you can take that bouncy ball idea with you and throw it at other people. Hitting unsuspecting people with your bouncy ball that had only been bouncing within one echo chamber is going to make an impact. You might hurt people, you might piss people off, but you’ll also be bringing something new to a new environment and introducing new people to new things.
Take auto reviews. Instead of posting them on YouTube and blogs, targeting them to the usual car people present your ideas to a different segment who may not have previously been interested in that particular car. Women make up 78.3% of the users on Pinterest. Though that platform is predominantly about recipes and fashion, guess what? Women buy cars, too. Obviously there are many other topics on Pinterest, including automobiles, but try appealing to that audience in a different way. For example, say you have Chevrolet dealership. You could feature a recipe for tailgating with this new Chevy Silverado truck, and you can get the recipe . . . on your auto blog, where you also reviewed that truck.
Here’s another example:
I am an avid fan of mixed martial arts (MMA). (It’s wonderful catharsis to watch other people kick the crap out of each other.) For the longest time, I only knew Joe Rogan as a color commentator for UFC. I knew he had a popular podcast, but I never listened to it. Once I finally did, I could see why it was so wildly successful — he’s not just a UFC commentator, he’s a comedian and heck of an interviewer of many diverse people on many diverse topics. But I had no idea the breadth of his résumé, nor his talent, since my only exposure to him was because I immersed myself solely in the echo chamber of UFC/MMA. Rogan, however, obviously understands the importance of expanding one’s interests and appeal to a broader, more diverse audience than those die-hard MMA fans like myself. That is why his podcast alone just signed a contract with Spotify for over $100 million.
So cross boundaries. Get out of your comfort zone. Open the doorway of your stairwell, let yourself and the bouncy ball out. You’ll be surprised at the results.
Have you found yourself immersed the cacophony of your own field’s echo chamber? Have you been able to get out, and if so, what were the results? I’d love to hear your stories.
Stacy Lukasavitz Steele is the multi-disciplined writer behind Text on Fire Communications™. Formerly known online as “that damned redhead,” this seasoned digital strategist and analyst has been setting fire to the interwebs for over 20 years in one capacity or another. She takes the English language much more seriously than she takes herself, but must warn you that the stereotypes about redheads are true. She is passionate about helping brands find their voice and delivering the right messages to the right people. If you’re a cool company looking for some hot copy, you’re in the right place. Drop her a line via the contact form.