“People in [the UK] have had enough of experts,” and for Michael Gove that’s why the cold response to the Leave campaign message amongst heavy-hitting economists is a reason to vote for Brexit. It’s easy to scoff, but in a landscape dominated by social media glitterati, the wisdom of crowds, and “post-truth” politicians, could Gove actually have a point?
Media consumption has changed dramatically in the last 5 years. Perhaps it’s time to re-consider our understanding of “the expert opinion” as well, particularly in light of the recent EU Referendum discussions and Hook Research’s own insight into the current media landscape in the UK.
What does it mean to be an expert in a post Brexit world?
“I’ve purposely been missing the television debates,” laments Remain-supporter Grace Meltzer in a recent Guardian piece exploring social media’s immense impact on the EU referendum. Scare tactics and sensational commentary from both camps have dominated the news, and this has led Meltzer to seek out other sources in search of a “sensible argument to remain.”
Meltzer’s attitude to non-traditional news sources reflects the way notions of expertise have changed for Millennials: news and opinion filtered through friends is growing in importance while 70% of consumers trust peer recommendations more than professional reviews. A recent piece of work that we completed for the Guardian similarly reaffirmed that Millennials are repeatedly turning to Facebook and Twitter to find the news that matters to them.
Furthermore, the large amount of often-conflicting opinions churned over on TV and online forums exacerbates this issue. As a senior source close to the Remain campaign pointed out to me in a recent chat, experts on any opinion are now ten-a-penny. In short, one person’s expert is another person’s idiot.
Given that, it makes sense that Meltzer turned to a new type of expert for her “sensible” commentary on Brexit. People like Nick Carter-Lando – a small business owner, Remain supporter, and self-proclaimed “massive political geek” whose personal message to friends has been shared (at the time of writing) over 62,000 times.
It’s time to think about Talking Human
When discussing controversial, emotive subjects – from Brexit to etiquette on social media – we will increasingly need to look beyond “traditional expertise” and examine what our peers are saying and sharing on their social media pages. To some extent, that mentality sits at the centre of our Talking Human approach to research: our core belief that having respectful and engaging conversations with respondents (no matter their ‘expertise’) can unlock passionate responses about the things – brands, products, ideas… – they care about.
So is our next valued “expert” more likely to be found among your mates down in the pub, instead of on the ten o’clock news? It might not be as far-fetched as you think…