30 November 2022 |

How to not become a redundant echo chamber

By Tracey Wallace

Dear Tracey,

Excited about this newsletter—I have to say, that’s the quickest I’ve signed up for something I saw on an Instagram ad, so you’ve already caught my interest as far as marketing!

The biggest struggle my organization faces is creating authentic content that resonates with our audience without each post becoming a redundant echo chamber.

–– Bethany 

Oh, the content echo chamber. It’s a loud, loud place to be––and honestly, more and more of these chambers are popping up everywhere as opinion media seems to take precedence over reporting in general. 

But alas, I won’t go down that rabbit hole because there is a good solution for this problem in content marketing––and it starts with how you create your content. 

It has long been one of my content marketing tenants to include at least 3 examples of brands (ideally customers!) doing the exact thing that any of my content suggests someone should do. I used to call it “fake news” if my writers weren’t able to do this––but really, it’s just poor advice. If something is a good idea, it is likely you’ll be able to find a few examples of brands already doing it, and can include that in your content. 

In fact, at BigCommerce, I took this theory so far as to alter the way we launched products. I began to require that for every new product, we have at least 3 customers willing to go on the record saying the product was great, that they loved it, that they were willing to talk to press. 

We’d interview those folks and include their insights in our launch blogs, case studies, and of course, our PR team would use the brands for pitching. To achieve this, our internal teams had to launch a beta program for customers to test our products. And y’all, this shift had massive implications across our organization. 

Prior to this, we’d launch products and get beat up over social media or in blog comments. It was clear that a lot of our products weren’t ready for the limelight, and unfortunately, our marketing team got the brunt of it. It was hard for our team to know what a good product looked like before going live. AFter all, we were marketing to ecommerce marketers, but we, ourselves, were B2B marketers. We simply didn’t know what we didn’t know—and we didn’t have anyone to ask. 

But this new requirement changed that. It took us out of that internal company echo chamber and brought us face-to-face with real users who we had to impress enough to put their own name behind something. 

Once we got out of that echo chamber, everything changed. Folks now loved our new products, and were immediately excited about trying them based on the caliber of the brands who said they’d already loved them. Even better, folks were stoked to sign up for our beta program because it gave them the fastest way to access new tools and give immediate product feedback that the company was actively ready to put into play. 

Now, the media was covering our launches too––because the brands themselves were willing to talk about how cool the new feature was and what it ultimately solved. 

We drove far more traffic to our site, far more conversions, and grew overall trust in our process, product and retention in the meantime.

All of this because we stepped out of the echo chamber and into the real world. What a difference it can make! 

It was this same idea––getting out of the echo chamber––that encouraged me to start a monthly questionnaire sent to our partners, customers who were interested, and any influencers who were interested (I called this list “Our friendlies”). This questionnaire was 10 questions long, and asked for everyone’s #1 tip of piece of advice on a given topic––one that we’d be covering in content in the next month or two. 

Soon, this meant that BigCommerce (and now Klaviyo, where we still do this!) was including 3 or more insights or pieces of advice on any given topic on our blog. This immediately took us out of our echo chamber. Now, if we couldn’t find 3 or more quotes to add to a piece to support the arguments being made, well, then the argument we were making probably wasn’t all that realistic, relevant, or accurate. 

Better yet, this model also got us a ton of distribution. People love to see their name and their insights being used to back up claims in content that they didn’t have to put much effort into. So, social sharing and backlinking of our content immediately increased in volume––simply because we left that echo chamber. 

But let’s take this up a notch, because a monthly questionnaire in 2014 was revolutionary, but today––a ton of companies do it. Since 2014, “SEO content” has become a thing, which I define as content written simply for the algorithm. But writing for the algorithm only is another type of echo chamber. Google can only show you what people have searched for, but they can’t show you the point-of-view to be taken, or even how that industry or topic is currently changing. 

No, people know that. And as AI content becomes more prominent, even it will look backward, not forward, to write content. 

But all of that is such an echo chamber. Content should add value to the conversation at hand. It should take a stance. It should add new information and new takes to an existing topic, and I personally think that the doing of such is what Google’s SEO algorithm will rank higher and higher in the future (since they’ve come out so strongly against AI content, which I honestly think has a place, but alas). 

So, how do you get those new takes? Well, let me tell you, it isn’t just through a monthly questionnaire. No, those questionnaires can’t uncover nuance. They can’t identify in someone’s voice how hard something may have been, nor can they dive deeper into that pain to help a writer (and later an article) articulate the reality of a tip, a tactic, a strategy, etc. 

This is why I now work with my teams to interview at least two people for nearly every single article we put out. (Three to five interviews are our goal, but we’ll settle for two if that’s all we can find). And by interview, I mean for real get on the phone and talk to people. This new requirement on my end has forced me to use more in-house writers than external ones (They just know our product and our POV better, and can more easily repurpose interviews for case studies and other content assets), but you don’t have to. 

What you do need in order to do this are strong interviewers, and a lot of B2B content marketers won’t do this work for you. That’s an issue. Find former journalists or folks who have an MFA degree. I’ve found both to be incredible writers, incredible and curious interviewers, and folks who are actively looking for work! 

When I was at MarketerHire, this was the only way we published content. At Klaviyo, we’ve already begun this but will really be swinging hard on it in 2023 (at larger companies, it can be harder to even get the permissions to ask customers to participate. Don’t worry, we’ve figured it out!). But, at MarketerHire, y’all, the content was soooooo good––and it was all because of the folks we interviewed, and the amazing takes they had on what was happening. 

Here are some of my favorite pieces that show the power of stepping outside an echo chamber to add new voices and perspectives to a topic:

So, to wrap all of this up, there are two things to do here:

  • Build a monthly questionnaire (You can do this in Google Surveys) and send it out to friendlies to capture external insight on upcoming blogs where you might not have time to do interviews. 
  • Build the interviewing of 2-5 folks into your content process to build more relevant, interesting content that has a point of view––and isn’t just published for the sake of publishing. 

And find yourself out of the echo chamber, real fast!