The Secret Link Between Influence and Media Fragmentation

How to break through bubbles and make an impact in a fragmented media environment

There’s a fundamental connection between our fragmented information environment and the way influence works online. They may seem like separate dynamics, but they are actually profoundly linked. 

In order to get our message across effectively, we must understand the role that influence and community plays in creating and maintaining isolated information groups, thus perpetuating media fragmentation.

Social media and search have transformed the way information spreads through society, and not always for the better. 

We’ve all been talking about community fragmentation due to algorithmic media for a long time

Today we live with headlines about political fragmentation and polarisation, the rise of conspiracy theories, and disinformation campaigns that strive to capitalise on these fault lines. 

Every news source bursts with data, each push notification in our pockets adding a vibrating note to the ambiance of threat. 

People are increasingly worried about losing their freedoms as citizens (65%), climate change (75%) and most of all job losses (85%).

When faced with such threats to lives and livelihoods, fear is a natural reaction. And fear tends to move decision-making down the Maslowian hierarchy of needs. The lower down that hierarchy you’re operating, the more likely you are to tend towards more emotional, less rational decision-making.

With all these informational threats on our radar, it’s not surprising that social trust has collapsed. Research shows that as a result of our challenging information environment, distrust has become the default setting in society

Rally Round the Family

As a result of this pressure, people are trusting distant authority sources less, and the people close to them more. The mechanics of online platforms exacerbate this trend, showing us more content from people we are likely to agree with. 

The human reaction is understandable. In uncertain times, we connect more with our communities. We spend more time and attention on like-minded people united by shared interests, opinions and values, and we’re less likely to trust those who don’t share our interests, opinions and values. 

The importance of trust can’t be overstated here. We choose the people (and therefore the communities) we engage in, and that defines our media bubbles. 

In other words, who we trust defines the media bubbles we live in. 

The upshot of that is that our media bubbles are actually created and defined by influence.

How so? 

The Role of Influence

Online communities don’t create content by themselves. They’re platforms. Users create the content.

The activity of any online community is driven by its members. 

And we know that not all members of an online community tend to create content at equal volume. Some of those members are more active, more central, than others. Those are the influencers. They capture attention, they become rallying points for followers – and these followers become a community. In a sense, influencers become the focal points for online communities, and online communities are built up, and perpetuated, through the actions of the influencers at their core.

So here’s what we’re seeing: 

  1. Social trust is collapsing, people are worried about multiple perceived threats 
  2. Attention and time is naturally focusing on people who are close to us – in attitude and values if not in physical reality 
  3. This creates media bubbles, a fragmented media environment 
  4. But what actually happens in those media bubbles is defined by the users – i.e. content is created disproportionately by a few prolific creators at the core. 

Media bubbles are, in a very real sense, defined by the influencers at their core. 

In other words, influencers and media bubbles are linked as central features of an information environment dominated by algorithmic media. They are actually inseparable; you can’t have one without the other. 

This is why understanding influence is critical to penetrating media bubbles and earning trust. 

The Promise of Influence

This is the promise of influence. In a difficult information environment, mapping and understanding communities of interest isn’t just useful. 

It’s essential.

As communicators we must accurately map the communities we need to mobilise. We must find, understand, and work with people the community is focused on. In a world of rising distrust and hardening media bubbles, we can only ensure our message is trusted with a data-driven understanding of influence.

3 thoughts on “The Secret Link Between Influence and Media Fragmentation

  1. Bardzo interesujacy artykuł. Na czasie.

    Myślałam sobie o wybiórczości, wyłapywania co jest ważne dla każdej osoby.

    Dużo w tym psychologii.



    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Kochany Filipie,

    To jest moj bilet. Jul ter zatwierdzony.

    Ciesze się.




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