Social media is meant to be reflections of the world around us – but too often, they offer a distorted view of reality. Most people – and marketers – exist in social media echo chambers, surrounded by people who share their views and agree with their opinions.
These bubbles are a result of how we use social media. We tend to follow people and businesses we like and block or unfollow those we don’t. Social media algorithms also play a huge role in filtering out dissenting views – your news feed appears based on what you have clicked or liked in the past, which means you get a curated view of what’s happening with your friends or followers, without knowing what you’re missing.
Being surrounded by people who share your views is comfortable and reassuring – you never have to question your beliefs or face the fact that you might be wrong about something. But that comfy bubble can also be limiting.
If you never hear negative feedback or see the other side of issues, you can lose empathy for people with different beliefs, overestimate the dominance of your opinions, and miss opportunities to connect with people outside your group. This is true whether you’re an individual with 37 Facebook friends or a business with 100,000 followers.
Marketing types tend to have fairly liberal views. This isn’t wrong, but it means they may miss out on perspectives from people with more conservative beliefs. If you’re surrounded by other people on your side of the political spectrum, you can start to believe that your perspective is the mainstream, accepted view – when it may be a controversial position in other parts of the world. Think gay marriage, vaccinations, or climate change – these are all issues that seem obvious to some but are still contentious to others.
If you’re a business interacting with customers through social media, having a limited perspective means you never know how many people you’re missing with your messaging. You could be putting off potential customers or missing insight into your brand because you don’t see critical comments or opposing opinions.
This isn’t always a bad thing – if you’re sharing a deeply-held belief, losing customers on the other side of the issue may be a risk you’re willing to take. One pertinent example – many businesses have shared support for the Black Lives Matter protests in the last few weeks. Although this type of post is likely to attract some criticism and alienate some potential customers, if you really support the movement, you’re unlikely to mind losing business from people who disagree.
Seeing a range of views on social media can help you broaden your own perspective and put yourself in another’s shoes. Empathy with your potential audience helps you reach them on a deeper level – you need to understand your customers before you can communicate effectively.
But, because of the way social media works, bursting your bubble can be tricky. You don’t know what you don’t know, because your newsfeed can filter out some content before you even see it.
Take back a bit of control by changing the way you interact on social media. Rather than deleting or blocking when someone has an opposing view, make the effort to engage respectfully. Of course, if people are abusive or offensive, you can disengage, but don’t shut down before the debate even starts. Make an effort to follow a range of reputable news sources and organisations, not just those that align with your beliefs.
Even if you make an effort to expand your online horizons, it can be difficult to understand the nuances of certain issues and perspectives. That’s where we come in. Zavy’s Radar tool offers a unique view of the opinions and emotions driving audiences in Australia and New Zealand. It collects and analyses online conversation around hot-button issues and turns it into searchable, digestible content. Rather than scrolling through your feed and looking for different opinions, you get a simple, clear breakdown of the range of opinions on each topic. Search a topic, brand, or person to find out how the online conversation is slanted – and you might be surprised.
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