SWAN of the Week, No. 124

Happy Friday!

This week I was in New York supporting a big client launch, LaDainian Tomlinson’s Arby’s Steakhouse. It was SO MUCH FUN. You can read all about it here, here and here.  

I’ve started reading a new book, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols. I’m only a few chapters in but it aligns really well with the last two books I wrote about here, Fantasyland and The Sociopath Next Door.

The book’s premise has been a helpful read for me personally on a week when voters in my local school district rejected a school bond referendum that was critically needed. Outside groups and a vocal minority in social media had a negative impact on the referendum by calling into question fundamentals — like the need for education, inclusivity and diversity all together. Some people took to social media to voice their opinions without doing the homework, reading the plans or listening to the experts. They pushed their opinions proudly, including the right to their owns truths about the issues without doing the homework.

It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s one I’m spending more time studying. Specifically, I see this behavior growing exponentially in the community management of brands today. Yes, there have always been angry and outspoken people on brands’ channels. But increasingly I’m observing that customers are always right, even when they are clearly wrong. Their opinions are true, even if the facts aren’t. And when their issue is solved, many prefer to remain angry.

These aren’t trolls, these are entire communities self-organizing around self-righteous anger. Local community Facebook Groups are among the worst breeding grounds for this type of behavior. You’ve probably seen it and thought it was isolated to a certain group or culture or age group. You’ve probably also seen people loving and equipping and elevating each other in some of these groups, too. But what I’m observing is a pervasive negative trending behavior that kind of bums me out, to be honest.

We used to say “Don’t Feed the Trolls.” But what if your entire community uses your brand’s social channels as a place to be angry, just for fun? It’s like a new sport or something.

Key quote from The Death of Expertise:  

“…[Today] we’re proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. It is a new Declaration of Independence: no longer do we hold these truths to be self-evident, we hold all truths to be self-evident, even the ones that aren’t true. All things are knowable and every opinion on any subject is as good as any other.”

It’s pretty heavy to think about but also timely to pay attention to and debate as we enter the next election year. Nichols wrote this book before the 2016 election, but the premise holds up. I’m looking forward to finishing the book and studying more of what makes us all tick (or ticks us off) as we enter 2020.

In lighter news, this week I’m  obsessed with the new Raconteurs video filmed, which was filmed at the House on the Rock in Wisconsin – one of the best collections of oddities and experiences in the Midwest. If this video doesn’t make you want to add it to your bucket list, I’m not sure we can be friends.

See you on the internet!


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