Living in a bubble might be OK if you owned the bubble. But what if Big Brother owns the bubble? And what if someone else has control over the air you breath or the information and content that feeds your brain – in this bubble?
We have been living in the age of filter bubbles since the beginning of the Internet, or at least since Google and Amazon leaped onto the scene. Content is being presented to us every day and everywhere based on our similarities (as determined by our digital Big Brother). It happens without our explicit consent, and possibly to our detriment. The algorithms used by these curators of content are nefarious filter bubbles that restrict our exposure to anything outside of what they determine is our comfort zone. And the consequences are that our points of views, our “friends,” sources of information, and our views of content are narrowing, all being reinforced rather than broadened.
But as brands, bands or businesses with customers or fans, there are greater challenges. Online giants have herded all of your customers and fans into their online bullpens, filter bubbles, and are feeding them only what serves their business purposes – not you, your customers or fans.
Google, Facebook and Amazon have all created the bubbles we live in. Google narrows the results of our searches based on what we have found interesting before. They make assumptions about what will be interesting to us, based on others “like us.” Of course you have noticed the auto completion when you begin to type in your search term? Little by little the content and information served to us becomes smaller and smaller by virtue of these famous algorithms. We only get what other people found interesting, and often it has nothing to do with what we want or what is good for us.
You can read all about filter bubbles here in a transcript of a talk by Eli Pariser, who made this term popular in a Ted talk a few years ago. I was mesmerized. He is also the same guy who founded Upworthy. You can see the connection.
With Facebook I rarely see posts from “friends” who have very different political views from me. I know they are there, but I just don’t see them anymore. I don’t know what I’m missing because of my 500 friends I only see posts from a dozen or so each day. And we all know about the experiment Facebook did in 2012 to test the emotional state of users when they omitted certain posts from the newsfeed of 700,000 users. Their creepy experiment let some users see only posts with positive emotions and others with negative ones. Who knows what else they are doing with their algorithms, but they can be dangerous.
Perhaps more benign is how Amazon makes recommendations about books and other products based on what other users have chosen. We all find that useful, don’t we? It makes choosing a book or product so much easier. But what we don’t realize is how much we really don’t get to see. Their algorithms filter out all of the great books by little known authors, upcoming musicians and revolutionary products.
You can read more about algorithms in a post by Fred Wilson. It is an interesting post, and the comments even more interesting.
So back to what this all means for brands, bands or businesses. I’m all for revolution. I’d love to see you get your inner 60s rebel on. But there are more practical solutions. You need to own the bubble. You need to own the bubble. To give your customers and fans an unfiltered, unplugged view of who you are you need to have direct access. You can’t let others be the filter through which you are seen. Facebook, Youtube, Google, iTunes, Amazon, or any of the digital bubbles, control the air, content and brain food your customers and fans get. Their filters and algorithms are also cutting off your air supply, your ability to share the love and monetize your base. Only your own private social network, your own bubble, will allow you to commune with your customers and fans.