Are You in a Marketing Echo Chamber?
We all know way too well about the social media ‘echo chambers’ we fall into. These echo chambers are based on a combination of the people we follow, the content we engage with, and the algorithms that use this information to continue showing us similar content. Thus an echo chamber is formed: we get the same information delivered over and over with limited exposure to content outside of our likes and interests.
This concept can be applied to the professional networks we place ourselves in – whether it’s peer-to-peer interactions, channel-based marketing, or learning and understanding new concepts. Here are a few ways you can determine if you’re in one of these professional marketing echo chambers, and how to get out.
But before we get started, what’s so bad about echo chambers?
Although the phrase ‘echo chamber’ has centered around politics and social over the past couple years, the concept applies to multiple areas. When we surround ourselves with ideas similar to our own, whether its cultural, geographical, or educational, we become more ingrained within our current beliefs. This can be masked as school spirit (my school is better than your school), nationalism (America is the best country in the world), or an affinity for a particular climate (I have to live in a place with four seasons).
The problem with echo chambers is that if only one idea is represented, it makes it more difficult to solve complex problems. (See this study from the American Psychological Association.) This includes not only finding the right answer, but also identifying those that are wrong. For example, we all saw the recent Heineken Light ad that has been dragged for it’s seemingly blatant racism. The question that is begged to be asked, what if a person of color was on the ad team? Would the ad still have gone to production?
For a great take on this, view The Daily Show’s bit “Ask-A-Black” via Facebook.
If we want to solve the complex problem that is marketing, we need to ensure our professional circle also includes outside information, whether it’s exposure to other disciplines, methodologies, or strategies.
Echo Chamber Indicator 1 – You only ingest content that reinforces your opinions.
These days there’s always a seminar or networking event related to a specific function of marketing. Whether it’s an association luncheon on ‘Brand Storytelling’, or a tweet about ‘The Pitfalls of Marketing Automation’, we are more inclined to engage with the content we already believe in. This is an echo chamber, and it makes us resistant to differing opinions when they arise.
To combat this, register for events and attend sessions that you don’t necessarily agree with, or haven’t had a chance to learn about yet. Of course, you’ll want to hone your skills in a specific area, but you can still spare 10% to listen to different ideas or strategies.
Additionally, sign up for a marketing-based newsletter that’s outside of your work scope. Here are some great newsletters and the content they focus on.
- Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik – Digital Marketing and Analytics
- DMA 3D – Direct Marketing and Analytics
- AMA Newsletter – Variety of Marketing Topics
- Co.Design – Design
- Neil Patel – Content Marketing
Again, you don’t have to be a creative director to enjoy Co.Design – but the subjects you read about will make it easier to TALK to your creative team, which leads us to…
Echo Chamber Indicator 2 – You don’t work with other departments.
Siloed departments are very common within marketing. It may be the way your organization is set up, OR stem from the fact you’re an SEM agency and your client uses a different agency for content, but neither of those are an excuse for a lack of collaboration. This siloed approach to marketing creates a potentially complicated user experience. When the SEM team only works internally to generate keywords, they fail to include the keywords that are in the current Direct Mail flyer. Or when the digital team makes a new ad, are the results shared back to the creative team?
Businesses try to solve this problem by having inter-disciplinary meetings every month or so (at least I’ve seen them done in agencies). But the ones I’ve seen are usually boiled down to brag fests that don’t necessarily foster teamwork.
A good way to help departments learn from and lean on each other is to stop setting goals by department. If the SEM team has a goal of 200,000 leads for the first quarter, and the email team has a goal of 40,000, they’re probably working against each other at some point, AND taking credit for the same leads. I’ve seen display teams arguing with website UX teams over who deserves credit for the 20% increase in leads over the past month. Was is the digital campaign? Or was is the newly designed form? Because neither of the teams connected prior to launch, they’ll never know the answer.
Setting holistic goals will help drive the teams to work together and (hopefully) foster the collaboration needed to succeed. If everyone’s butts are on the line for 250,000 leads, then it’s all hands on deck for that quarter. You should start seeing transparency with campaigns, budgets, and user experience. With this type of collaboration, a print ad can be sent with a dedicated SEM ad group and a custom landing page with a stream-lined conversion form. And ultimately a happy customer.
Echo Chamber Indicator 3 – You stop learning.
For those of us that started in marketing back in the day, we tend to cling to concepts that have always worked well. ‘TV works, but you can’t connect it directly to sales.’ or ‘Print is essential for awareness.’ These are not necessarily false, but they can’t live in isolation.
If you haven’t continued your marketing education by attending conferences, webinars, or reading new materials, you’re definitely in an echo chamber. Marketing is constantly changing, sometimes so fast it’s hard to keep up. And no, you don’t have to understand what block-chain is, or floodlight tagging, but you SHOULD understand the basic concepts. This will help your experience connect with newer strategies and technologies to provide an even better customer experience.
The same goes for newbies on the marketing scene. Don’t assume veteran advertisers are old school and therefore can’t learn and adapt. They have valuable experience to compliment your fresh perspective.
What happens when we free ourselves from the echo chamber?
Many marketers are struggling to improve their current response rates. But how can they do so without new ideas and fresh perspective? By challenging what we already know and working with others outside of our echo chambers, we set ourselves up for more success in solving complex problems – ie, how to get more customers.