A social media marketing lesson from that Guardian piece on Facebook politics
So this month the world started to change, potentially irreversibly. D.J. Trump, multi-billionaire, business mogul, reality TV star, and patriarch, will be sitting in the White House’s Oval Office by mid-January, taking up his position as the world’s most powerful man, AKA President of the United States.
It’s the kind of situation that could only really come about when an electorate really, desperately, truly wants some kind of change from the status quo. Trump is an outsider, a real divider, a guy that you either love or loathe, with no middle ground. In fact, according to vox pops in the run up to voting day, both he and his rival, Hilary Clinton, were the least popular presidential candidates in the history of presidential candidates. The majority wanted neither, but had to take one.
Supporters on both sides would probably contest this, which brings us to the subject of today’s blog post. The Guardian recently published a fascinating article, Bursting the Facebook Bubble, wherein they asked self-described liberals and conservatives in the U.S. to swap Facebook feeds for 48 hours. A pair of false accounts were set up, one right the other left wing, each following relevant news agencies and websites, then right wing voters were given the left wing feed, and vice versa.
The results were not particularly shocking. Whether pro-Trump or well-up-for-Clinton, people viewed the other side of Facebook, the opposing ideology they suddenly had access to, as horrific, dangerous and filled with hate. A small number said looking at their enemy’s rhetoric online had impacted how they would vote in the future, with even less admitting this exercise had made them consider their own standpoint on politics.
The fundamental reason why this test is relevant to us is because it’s a great example of the ‘echo chamber effect’. The jarring impact of suddenly seeing things from the other side of a coin proves that when we look through our own feed it’s usually reassures us we are already right.
Platforms like Facebook have allowed us to disengage from debate by surrounding ourselves with only those who share our viewpoint. And the same can be said for products, services, and businesses. It has long been the case that organic reach on Facebook is comparatively useless up against sponsored stories- this is how the platform makes a substantial amount of money. But less is said about the difficulties in winning over a new audience as a company, within the echo chamber context.
Cutting to the chase, perhaps a few minutes too late, organic dissemination of your campaign or message is becoming increasingly unreliable beyond the audience already captive, even on networks that don’t have such a terrible rate of organic reach, because of how social media algorithms work- what people are shown is based on already established interests, rather than new ones.
Relying on word of mouth only has a chance of working when you are content with those you’ve already won over, then. Once you’re looking at expanding that audience and growing the community you should probably be looking to, and calling in, expert advice in order to strategise, plan and implement a genuinely effective approach to modern online salesmanship.