How Content Marketers Can Break Their Echo Chamber


How Content Marketers Can Break Their Echo Chamber

Beatrice Whelan, Global Content Manager, Sage

Are you fed up seeing the same old content repeated over and over again on social media? 

Guess what, your target audience is too. The echo chamber is killing your content marketing, reducing its impact and leaving you open to serious disruption. 

What is an echo chamber and why is it harming my content? 

Echo chambers, the social media and content bubbles that are polarizing society are impacting the effectiveness of your content. Echo chambers are caused by publishing and social media platforms using algorithms to identify what content we like and to show us more of it so we stick around, engage and consume more content. This provides a positive user experience, allowing us to move nicely from one Netflix binge to the next. The negative is that it only shows us content that appeals to our existing taste, opinions and political leanings so we don’t get exposed to content that challenges us or explores new points of view.

As many brands act like publishers, content marketers also feed the echo chamber, publishing and promoting content that their audience rewards with likes, clicks and traffic. The problem is that this can exclude potential and emerging audiences and result in less authentic conversations. Over time the likes, clicks and traffic decline, and it leaves your brand open to disruption by other publishers who are willing to have honest conversations and publish content that breaks the status quo. In the context of content overload, brands that break the echo chamber will have greater and longer term success with their content marketing. Here are some ways you can break the echo chamber in your content marketing.

1. Break the echo chamber in your editorial strategy

As a content marketer you likely have an editorial strategy that guides your content creation. This is possibly based on the topics you target for organic search, what you want your brand to be known for, and the products you sell. This is all good providing you don’t fall victim to the echo chamber. If you keep publishing about the same topic, it allows your brand to build credibility and ownership for that topic, but it can also have a negative effect where you run out of runway and have very little new or insightful to say. In this context it can be beneficial to reach beyond your own-able space or at least tilt from it.

I’m not suggesting a brand that sells watches should start to publish content about swimming pools, but it is possible to create content that is relevant and ownable and allows you to expand beyond your content echo chamber. A good example is Dove. They broke the echo chamber of ideal beauty standards when they created the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Not only did this allow Dove to have cut-through with their content, achieve stand-out and appeal to their audience, it also disrupted the entire beauty industry.

2. Break the content chamber by looking for emerging trends

Look for emerging trends and what your audience is searching for and talking about on social media now,not six months ago. Even then it is easy to get drawn into emerging echo chambers. Insight from BuzzSumo shows that new topic areas get rapidly saturated with content. As topics become popular, there is often an explosion in published content which saturates the topic area — an extreme example is Bitcoin which became a very popular topic at the end of 2017. By December 2017, there were over 40,000 articles a week being published about Bitcoin. Many brands got sucked into the Bitcoin content echo chamber and saw little impact for their efforts. Those that did see impact were brands like, which was publishing content about Bitcoin prior to the upsurge. They were in a strong position to gain traffic and social shares as interest in Bitcoin increased.

As Buzzsumo highlighted, the important advice is to try to tap into changing audience interests and leverage trending topics. We learn from that the key is to build authority early, rather than being a “me too” late entrant. At that stage you’re only contributing to the echo chamber. We’re probably in a GDPR echo chamber right now. Are you adding value or just adding to the noise? 

Bitcoin interest over time measured by Google Searches. Publishers who seized the trend early contributed value and got value, publishers that got there too late just contributed to the echo chamber and got little value in return. 

Also, look at conversations taking place on the margins of your core audience. What are the topics are the people talking about or could influence your audience? Most importantly, look at the negatives; negative comments on your blog, negative mentions related to your brand and your editorial topics on social media. These are where the opportunities lie for you to expand beyond your echo chamber in your editorial strategy.

3. Break the echo chamber with a new point of view

No one wants to go renegade on their brand and publish content that goes against your core values, but you can strengthen your position on a topic by
showing your brand values a multi-faceted opinion base. This gives your brand depth and encourages people of diverse backgrounds and opinions to want to work for you and with you.

It can also really benefit your brand to publish a new viewpoint to say here is something we hadn’t considered, here is something we’ve learned, this is how we’ve grown as a company and a brand. This can get your brand a lot of positive attention and generate a lot of conversation on social media providing you don’t flip flop on a topic and don’t try to be controversial with a view to getting lots of comments. 

If you’re reluctant to take a step outside of your echo chamber publish off domain, on a platform like Medium or invite a guest contributor with a different opinion to publish on your blog. Moz did this very well with the YouMoz Blog, a blog created by readers of the Moz blog. 

Anyone can post, and the best submissions are promoted to the main Moz Blog. While YouMoz is no longer taking submissions, it is a great example of a brand opening their publishing platform while maintaining quality and consistency with a variety of contributors.

If you’re still cautious the best way to break the echo chamber is to just ask questions. Instead of presenting the answers in your content, ask questions and invite your customers to contribute and give their views. Other opportunities to break the echo chamber come when you’re re-branding or changing your brand personality. This gives you a unique opportunity to present a new view.

4. Break the echo chamber in your e-newsletter and blog platform 

The easiest way to break the echo chamber in your newsletter is to include content from other sources along with your own. The best way to grow newsletter subscribers and keep them is to provide great content. While this content will often come from your blog, you should use your newsletter to curate great content from a range of sources.This will allow your subscribers to depend on your newsletter as a source they can trust, not just the content you want to promote to build traffic to your website. Include content that partners well with your own. If your content is the main course, then break the echo chamber with the appetizer or dessert.

5. Break the echo chamber with your social advocates

Many brands invest in growing their employees, customers and partners as social advocates to share the content they produce. While this provides a huge benefit and increases the reach of your content, the risk is that this constant amplification of what the brand is saying about itself results in a content marketing echo chamber.

This can come across as overly promotional and boring not to mention that the brand starts to believe its own hype rather than focus on authentic audience feedback that can quite often get drowned out by the sheer size of the echo chamber. The solution is to give your advocates permission to not talk about your brand, instead ask your employees and partners to talk about their customers, and ask your customers to talk about their challenges and successes.

One good example is Sage. Only 27% of the content they give to their employee advocates for sharing is Sage content, the rest is content sourced from other brands and publishers.

This allows their advocates to share well beyond the Sage sphere. Sage also uses the @SageOfficial Instagram account to break the echo chamber by not publishing any content about Sage there. Instead their #HumansofBusiness content strategy allows Sage to focus on the triumphs of their customers.

There you have it, five ways that you can smash through your content echo chamber and avoid the infinite loop of the same content. Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, but expecting different results. Try something different, break the echo chamber, and you might just get something back instead of the sound of your own content.

This article first appeared in VTQ Magazine. 
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About Beatrice Whelan

Created the award-winning and widely referenced Humans of Business strategy and playbook.

Managed the Sage collaboration with one of the world’s first B2B Pop Up Content Studio interviewing 75 companies to produce 225 videos in 5 days.

Delivered the social media strategy for Sage Summit events in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 event had 15,000 attendees and over 1 billion social media impressions. 

Managed the Sage Facebook page consolidation, merging 43 Facebook pages to one global page with 12 market pages and over 450,000 fans.

Lead project manager for Sage Advice, a global business blog and content hub, launched in the UK, US, FR, ES and DE.

Management of a globally co-ordinated social media
editorial calendar, collaborating with social media
leads across 18 international markets.