A new analytical voice has appeared on Twitter. Here’s a little of what they shared yesterday:
just gonna come out and say it: vulnerable people are always the most susceptible to propaganda, misinformation, and conspiracy, especially in times of cultural anxiety, and if there is a way to help them out of these traps, targeted self-righteous vilification isn’t it
why do people believe in conspiracies? why do they follow cult personalities or seek contrarian opinions? because they’re vulnerable. they feel bullied or left behind or isolated or exploited or abused or inadequate and they’re looking answers, community, security, and identity
when you hold a fringe belief or become part of a tightly-knit outcast group, you feel like you have some secret, valuable information that the world needs. you feel important for knowing it. and anyone on the outside becomes a vague, intangible enemy, often referred to as “they”
the best way to reach vulnerable people who wholeheartedly believe they know the “truth” is by consistently sharing evidence-based information with the intent of helping, not disparaging. they already have a compelling story; they need to be told one that is better and more true
leading propagandists and conspiracy theorists need to be directly challenged, but many of their followers are just victims of circumstance who were exploited. they still have a chance to leave their group *if* they feel welcomed into a new group of those reaching out
when we hear people’s concerns over the current economic devastation, skepticism toward politicized media narratives, or any other signs of vulnerability, we need to listen and form solidarity with them before some charismatic propagandist or fringe group does
While you may or may not agree, this is certainly food for thought. Putting aside the lack of capital letters and the missing periods at the end of the tweets, it’s well argued. The same philosopher shared this:
friendly reminder in times of uncertainty and misinformation: anecdotes are not data. (good) data is carefully measured and collected information based on a range of subject-dependent factors, including, but not limited to, controlled variables, meta-analysis, and randomization
outliers attempting to counter global consensus around this pandemic with amateur reporting or unverified sourcing are not collecting data. breaking news stories that only relay initial findings of an event are not collecting data. we have to be careful in our media consumption
it can be difficult to know what to believe in a time when institutional trust is diminished and the gatekeepers of information have been dismantled, but it’s more crucial now than ever before to follow a range of credentialed sources for both breaking news and data collection
all we currently have are limited and evolving metrics that experts are deciphering and acting upon immediately to the best of their ability. this terrain leaves many openings for opportunists and charismatic manipulators to lead people astray by exploiting what they want to hear
breaking news and storytelling will always be spun with interpretive bias from different media perspectives, but data is a science that can’t be replaced by one-off anecdotes. try to remember this to avoid fear-based sensationalism or conspiracy theories taking over your mind
you can maintain independent, critical thinking toward institutions without dipping into fringe conspiracies that get jumpstarted by individual anecdotes being virally spread as data. it’s not easy, but it’s necessary to keep any semblance of responsible online information flow
we’re a frozen meat brand posting ads inevitably made to misdirect people and generate sales, so this is peak irony, but hey we live in a society so please make informed decisions to the best of your ability and don’t let anecdotes dictate your worldview ok
This is, of course, the wisdom of Steak-umm. Steak-umm makes thin-sliced frozen steaks. Not the healthiest of meals, but if you’re stuck inside and can’t shop for fresh meat every day, this might look good to you:
Does Steak-umm’s strategy make sense?
As you might guess, these tweets have generated quite a following. Steak-umm now has 103,700 followers. (Oscar Meyer has only 37,500, and they have the Weinermobile.) Their tweet about misinformation got 64,000 likes and 1,700 retweets.
I’ve suggested that brands that can’t sell in these times should try to help customers instead. By “help,” I was imagining something relevant to the brand, like recipes. I never imagined that a frozen food company, which can sell right now (buy it at your local supermarket, or on Instacart), would be gaining attention for political and media analysis.
I think the best way to consider Steak-umm’s actions is with Jay Baer’s Talk Triggers framework. Is the Steak-umm Twitter:
- Remarkable? Absolutely. It is something so unusual that people want to talk about it.
- Reasonable? Sure, it makes a small difference, it’s not outrageous.
- Repeatable? Yup. They can easily tweet a thread every day or two.
- Relevant? No. Political and media analysis has nothing to do with frozen steak.
As a result, the Steak-umm Twitter does not have a sustainable connection to the brand — at least not yet.
What Steak-umm has done is to generate a huge dollop of brand awareness. That means the next time you’re in a supermarket — or on a supermarket’s online site — you might be more likely to think about buying some.
(Frankly, writing this has made me hungry for a cheesesteak, and it’s 10:30 in the morning. And there is no packaged frozen meet in my freezer.)
If Stake-umm wants to add relevance to the remarkable, reasonable, repeatable program it has created, perhaps it should be printing wisdom on the boxes (like the quotes that appear on some tea bags). Or add philosophy links to its recipes. Or create a sponsored series of nonpartisan political discussions online.
Or, they could just keep posting food for thought. That would be fine, too.