The Dangers of Echo Chambers and Walled Gardens for Marketers

Andrew Schulkind  |  December 14, 2017

Go where your customers are.

If that’s not one of the Top Ten pieces of marketing advice ever, I can’t imagine what is.

And yet …

A few months ago, Facebook made a move to promote its private groups. You can read about one reporter’s experience in joining dozens of these groups in this New York Times article.

A development like this might be viewed as great news if you’re a B2C marketer and are excited to get, say, your beekeeping gear in front of avid backyard beekeepers. And certainly, it adheres to the “go where your customers are” dogma. But there’s a danger here, too.

Setting aside Facebook’s limited value for most B2B marketers, and without getting into the dangerous waters of politics, this seems to me to be another example of our retreat into a culture of echo chambers and gated communities.

Yes, we want to be where our customers are. There’s no other way to reach them.

And yes, we want to speak their language.

But we can do that and still maintain a place in the larger (marketing) world, a world where we might hear some different perspectives. Perspectives about our products and services, perspectives about our own industries, and perspectives about the industries we serve.

Examining ideas we haven’t considered will nearly always strengthen our own ideas as marketers, even if we reject the new ideas as inappropriate for our needs.

So before you devote all of your energy to creating a walled garden of your own, seek out ways you can lead a conversation without excluding other voices. In other words, don’t worry about controlling the message. Focus instead on listening for what your prospects will tell you about their needs and concerns.

If you aren’t pushing beyond the the limits of your own echo chamber you’re not getting the information you need to stay relevant to your target audience because they certainly aren’t limiting themselves to just your walled garden.

In other words, if you aren’t being challenged, your message is growing stale. You’re staying in place while your audience – and your competitors, in all probability – are evolving.

Listen to your prospects, view your market more broadly and, even as you target your message tightly, listen far and wide. You marketing is much more effective when it addresses the needs and concerns of your target audience.