We all do it. We don’t want to admit that we do it, but it’s inevitable when you start digging into a negative story. Social algorithms are designed to reward this type of behavior after all because it increases engagement and gets you to stay on their platform for a longer period of time. It’s so prevalent that we even have a name for it now: doomscrolling.
Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back. – Merriam Webster
How did we get here? (Well, asides from the obvious). It’s actually fairly straightforward: Social networks view your time on their platforms as their currency. Your attention is their key metric. After all, they’re competing for a finite amount of your time – from gaming, movies, streaming to television, you can only fit so much into a day.
So, what do these social platforms do? They double down on content that makes you want to stay on their platforms. Each click gives a micro-insight into how your behave and will be reinforced by the next piece of content you are shown. This can take a bad day and turn it to a horrible one (or have the opposite effect – see when your favorite team has a big win).
But…how can we actually use this to our advantage as marketers? And should we? (Which is the better ethical question).
It’s a fairly difficult question, but like most marketing problems it involves using pre-existing behaviors to provide an off-ramp from the constant churn.
You have two basic options to consider in order to breakthrough for attention: Inside & Outside.
What do I mean by that?
Inside is utilizing the algorithm to work your content into the general flow of discourse/feed but subvert the expectations of the person by providing some very different, alternative content wrapped up in a “same” bow. You’re in essence working to use the algorithm to trip itself up. As good as machines are these days, they still aren’t quite as smart as us humans.
Outside is classic interruption marketing, what us advertisers have been doing for the last 100+ years. However, it’s become a more viable option due to extreme bubbles that more and more people find themselves in. After all, in order to breakthrough you just might need to interrupt the conversation.
So how do you approach success? We may see an increase in marketers differentiating their content by political/feed bubble more than demographics. (We will also see far more r/fellowkids moments because of this). Will this reinforce the state of political discourse? Probably – but I also don’t see a viable way to market products unless you stay apolitical (which I assume a lot more brands will do).