January 27, 2021

How Steak-umm Became The Tweeting Voice Of Reason In A Pandemic

By Mike Masnick
Many, many years ago I wrote about the importance of recognizing that content is advertising and advertising is content. A key point I was making was that these were not redundant. Good advertising should be good content to make people happy to see it. But also, any kind of good content can be good advertising for something else. I was reminded of this last week after seeing the Twitter account of Steak-umm suddenly become one of the best Twitter accounts to follow during the pandemic. To be honest, my last experience with Steam-umm, the frozen meat company, probably goes back to watching a commercial like this in 1982:

Those commercials were on all the time when I was a kid, but I don’t think I ever got to experience the actual joy (?!?) of eating a Steak-umm. And for that we can blame my parents. However, perhaps I’ll now give Steak-umm a shot, since watching its Twitter account actually become “the voice of reason in a pandemic.”

It started on April 6th with a pretty damn good tweet thread about not falling for anecdotal reports, and looking for thoughtful, detailed studies:

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

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 7, 2020

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

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 7, 2020

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

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 7, 2020

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

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 7, 2020

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

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 7, 2020

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

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 7, 2020

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

steak-umm bless

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 7, 2020

I mean, even that self-aware final tweet is kind of pitch perfect for this kind of thing. Apparently the person behind all this is Nathan Allebach, who runs a communications shop that manages Steak-umm’s feed and decided he’d had enough of all the misinformation he was seeing. According to an interview he gave Fast Company:

“It was more just a cumulative effect of me having a job to spend every moment on social, seeing a constant flow of information, and a lot of it wasn’t good information,” says Nathan Allebach of the agency Allebach Communications, who has been the human behind Steak-Umm’s social media since 2015. Despite the thread being posted at 10 p.m., Allebach says it wasn’t prompted by a specific moment or piece of news. “I know we’re in this state of panic, and heightened cultural anxiety, so people aren’t at their best all the time, thinking about where they’re getting their information.”

He’s since followed it up with a few other somewhat philosophical threads on all of this — including opining on the nature of its own tweets going viral:

people think it’s bizarre, ironic, and funny when a frozen meat company points out the importance of critical thinking, but chances are the same message would never “go viral” if it was from a person. our society values entertainment over truth and that’s a huge problem

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 8, 2020

Then there was another long thread on the difference between “experts” and “communicators” allowing factual information to be “spun.”

one major roadblock in getting credible information to the masses is the divide between experts and communicators. most experts aren’t communicators and most communicators aren’t experts. this often results in research being spun with a narrative by the time it reaches the public

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 9, 2020

And then another long thread about why people believe in conspiracy theories and how to respond to those believers:

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

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 10, 2020

It is fantastic content — whether or not it sells any frozen meat. And even Steak-umm seems to recognize this:

we are just a frozen meat brand tweeting into the void hoping to provoke thought, inspire unity, and relay useful information. we are not an expert in anything or some beef god. we are a company with a bottom line being run by people. stay safe and be good to each other out there

— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 10, 2020

As is pretty much always the case, what’s amazing about this and what’s catching people’s attention is not just the fact that a frozen sliced meat company is tweeting about these things, but that it’s doing so earnestly, even while clearly recognizing the absurdity of it being the sudden tweeting fountain of wisdom. But that’s actually really important. In a time when cynicism, irony, and just everyday sarcasm seem to be the way plenty of people are dealing with this new incredibly uncertain age, having a bit of calm (if slightly tongue-in-cheek) earnestness is truly welcome. And if it helps sell more frozen meat, why, that would probably be a nice side benefit for the company.

Source:: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200410/17213944276/how-steak-umm-became-tweeting-voice-reason-pandemic.shtml