Did you see the recent BBC documentary HyperNormalisation? In it, Adam Curtis explores how we as a community are facing a world that is becoming increasingly difficult to understand, explain and predict – all the while there is a “fake reality” happening around us.
As Sci-Fi-esque as it may sound, it is a disturbing story of how the world is allowing itself to be manipulated by various forces in sometimes subtle, unconscious ways. It makes us seem quite far from the enlightened, advanced society that we like to believe we are.
But aren’t we in fact all doing this ourselves, to our own reality, albeit on a micro scale?
If you’re reading this, you are most likely a “social animal” – you engage with other people and with various groups, brands and businesses on social media. But did you know that by absorbing information on social media you are in fact orchestrating the very information you see? The various algorithms at play in your Facebook or LinkedIn feed are far from straight-forward. There is a highly intelligent system which carefully selects content based on your demographics, your interests, affiliations, background, browsing history and much more.
You are in fact creating your own reality.
This selective reality is of course designed to help us. It’s meant to make our lives easier and more enjoyable as we see more of the kind of things we like and less of the things we don’t like.
So, what’s the problem with that?
- True or not, it’s true
One major issue is that many people are still under the impression that what they are seeing in social media is balanced and regulated. Juicy news stories often gain traction regardless of whether or not they are true – and by the time the story is validated or denied, it’s too late. Opinions are already formed. And what’s more, the original story often keeps making its rounds across the world.
- Restricted voice for brands
Another problem is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for people and businesses to reach anyone outside of their existing tribe of supporters. It’s no longer enough to be writing and sharing content while boosting it and advertising – because the intelligence behind the recipients’ newsfeed will automatically “censor” you if you’re not considered to be interesting enough to the reader.
- A skewed reality
Not only is this development making it difficult for brands to get their voice heard, it also means that the social audience is receiving a highly skewed version of perceived reality. In 2014, Mark Zuckerberg said about Facebook: “Our goal is to build the perfect personalised newspaper for every person in the world”. Out of thousands of news stories, only a small fraction makes it into our line of sight. And those stories will typically support beliefs and opinions we already have.
So how can we, as brands, outsmart this ever changing content selection process?
Short answer: We can’t.
We can, however, reduce our reliance on social media traction. We should still invest in the social platforms, but we need to become increasingly aware of the importance of our own media agenda. Websites, email lists, own forums and communications platforms – these will all need to play a much more crucial part of our strategy if we are to wriggle loose from the restrictive media display of the social channels.
The next challenge is of course to get traffic on these alternative channels, which may take time and patience.