Trends: Speculation Loves Repetition

A lot of people follow trends, sometimes blindly, acting like surfers waiting for that next big swell to hop aboard and ride till the getting has been gotten. In the age of information sharing, the danger of trends is it’s tough to know where they came from or how reputable they are. Sometimes, the power of suggestion goes a long way toward making what is really a speculation a fact.

For example, if something is mis-quoted or taken way too literally (or universally), but is repeated by someone with influence, it will continue to be repeated. Possibly even further mis-quoted. The end result, the part that the masses end up hearing about, may end nothing more than an over-hyped and misinterpreted mess that ends up more or less true because everyone says it is.

In the marketing realm when it started being touted that written content was dead and videos were the kings of engagement, firms everywhere started focusing all their efforts into making awesome videos and treating written material as nothing but a necessary evil. Lo and behold, their videos outperformed their other content.

Look, there might be some legitimacy to engagement with videos since we’re in a generation of “now now now, faster faster” where no one wants to read. (And even that is subject to a lot of questionable repetition, since blogs and sites full of content continue to be read every day.)

However… in this example this trend could erroneously appear just as accurate for no real reason other than because you heard it you stopped giving a crap about one and tried really hard in the other. When enough people like you hypothetically do the same thing, it creates “proof” through repetition. The other flaw in that thinking is that it fails to address what kinds of subject matter we’re discussing. If it’s entertaining or even educational in the right setting, of course people would rather watch a video. There are definitely flaws to relying too heavily on video, though.

Another one on that vein I’ve started hearing crop up recently is that “blogs are dead”. Again. This time the reasoning is that Google has de-valued an article being shared on sites like Digg. That’s it. Because one method of sharing that content is supposedly no longer viable, the entire medium is apparently doomed. Not to mention that given what sites like Digg are actually for, whether they help your Google ranking or not is secondary. People that base their marketing strategies on stuff like this are throwing away opportunity.

I guess my advice would be to use a healthy degree of skepticism to any stats thrust in your face. After all, “A leads to a favorable B result under certain circumstances” often becomes “A leads to B”, which becomes “if you’re not doing A, you’re screwed.” Something inane and tied to specific circumstance can quickly become sensationalized and create fear or a false sense of urgency, rooted in just enough facts to work.

‘A’ is not the only way to get to ‘B’, and who says ‘B’ is the only outcome worth having anyway?

  2 comments for “Trends: Speculation Loves Repetition

  1. Matthew Parent
    January 18, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Speaking for myself I hate videos because it takes me a lot longer to get the information that I’m looking for. If I have something typed up I can quickly skim for what I’m looking for. Event if I read every word I can almost certainly do it faster than the speaker in the video can talk.

    As for the main point about blindly following trends. I’m dealing with that at work. It was decided to go with a technical approach to a problem because it’s the thing that everyone’s doing. As I dug into the details of the project it became clear that the tool chosen isn’t a good fit for our use case. It’s something recoverable but still a bit obvious they were just following a trend.

    • January 20, 2014 at 8:06 am

      Good point about skimming with videos. Any time I’ve ever jumped ahead when the intro seems to be dragging on it’s always too far, and then I seem to spend more time trying to get back to a point worth starting from.

      In some cases doing something because it seems popular or seems to be getting a lot of results for others is wise to do quickly. Other times, particularly for better known brands or those whose business is based on having a unique slant, the fact that everyone is doing something is precisely the reason to second guess it.

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