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The Echo Chamber and How It Affects Social Media (media)

April 20, 2009
Conversations heard and repeated

Conversations heard and repeated

The Echo Chamber. What the heck is that, and why might it be important to understand? Well, for one thing, it’s a large part of why certain trends and beliefs are adopted by so many people in so little time. According to Source Watch, a media echo chamber is a group of media outlets “that tend to parrot each other’s uncritical reports on the views of a single source, or that otherwise relies on unquestioning repetition of official source.”

In other words, it is essentially a situation in which information, ideas, attitudes/beliefs are magnified or reiterated via an “enclosed” space. For example, one transmitter of information will state a certain claim, which many people of similar minds and beliefs will hear and repeat, and then overhear and repeat again, until this information has spread exponentially across various different interests/groups of people.

So, what does this ultimately have to do with social media (other than the fact that that’s how the information is primarily spread)? Well, quite a bit actually, because here we are in our strategic social media class, and what is the constant theme that has prevailed during these first 3 weeks? If a business is going to engage in social media marketing, they have to adhere to 3 basic guidelines: be authentic, transparent, and active (both in listening and responding).

Ok, we’ve now heard that over and over (much like our own little echo chamber), but so what? What does that really mean not only for us, but for businesses who still haven’t quite figured it out? Just because we talk about the importance and potential of social media in terms of businesses and companies using it, does that mean that businesses and companies actually believe in it and care about what is being said? Do they really understand not only how it works, but how it doesn’t work? With recent case studies such as the #amazonfail, Target, and Motrin moms, is there still a severe lack of appreciation and/or interest in truly implementing proper social marketing tactics? I mean, it’s talked about and discussed all the time, but has talking about it so much really caused change in behavior AND attitudes about the subject?

Essentially, I’m wondering, does there come a point, in the land of social media, where the public discourse about any trend/situation/belief/story causes a decrease or lack of credibility? Can ‘information’ be passed around too much or become too mainstream that it eventually is disregarded as an unreliable rumor or misinformation? In researching this notion of the echo chamber, I found a post dealing with issues along the same lines. The author of the post, Kevin Palmer, discusses his discontent with, what he refers to as, “the echo chamber that is social media.” He asserts,

“As I have explored Twitter more I became fascinated that the same people are always mentioned as people that one should follow… when composing these lists are the people constructing them even looking past the obvious? Are they actually exploring and listening?  Or just repeating what has been told to them like a kid telling his friends the best team in a sport is the one his dad likes?”

This is exactly what I was thinking/wondering! Is this whole echo chamber phenomenon some kind of masked heard mentality? Does everyone who tweets about their beef with Target and Amazon truly feel empowered and interested enough to spread their animosity with the world, or are they just jumping on the social media ban wagon among the thought leaders of the industry? And in relation to businesses jumping on that same wagon, are they doing it to follow suite, or do they truly believe in the cause and potential of a new kind of 2-way B-2-C conversation?

I suppose at the end of the day, after some research for information and opinions about these topics, my only recommendation for businesses would be to stay away from social media unless you’re willing to do a little research and gain some insight about how and why it should be used.

I say this because if a business does not put 100% into their social media identity, it can only do more harm than good. Engaging with consumers via social marketing just isn’t one of those things a company can half ass without most likely eventually experiencing some form of repercussions at some point.While it may not ruin them as a company, it can certainly dilute their brand image and identity. Sound familiar (familiar)?

Julie East

*FYI the (repeated) words were meant to be a joke, playing off the echo idea…just in case that didn’t come across. Perhaps it was just a little lame…

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