In discussions with a colleague recently we were astounded by some of the claims made by businesses and just how many people (often small business owners) respond to such claims. What we observed was that many people seem to be blinded by offerings and big claims and they don’t actually do any homework to see if there is substance behind such offerings. Sometimes a big claim is justifable, but many times it is merely advertising manipulation, designed to tap into the fears of business owners. Scare tactic marketing has been used for years. FOMO (fear of missing out) creates anxiety and can absolutely be devasting for many businesses owners. Shiny object syndrome and FOMO go hand in hand and can be a reason that businesses fail.
I read an article on Shiny objects by Leevi Romanik on Entrepreneurs Journey and the opening paragraphs resonated with my own observations. He says that
“A business built on flimsy foundations will soon crumble”. How do you know if this might be you? Leevi goes on “.. if your business is built on tactics and not strategies, the newest “push button” software, a “loophole” to exploit Google or Facebook or any dodgy marketing tactic that misleads people, then AKA, a shiny object.. . You can read the article here.
As Leevi says, “The great thing about the Internet is that it allows easy and quick set up of a business with relatively low start up costs. The downside is you now have people with no idea of marketing or business trying to make money”.
To be honest (sorry Leevi), the post has a few too many links for my liking and starts to feel a bit of a sale, but the information is valid. As someone who works in the social media industry I can state that the industry is rife with claims. Let’s be honest, if you are a tiny business selling products which are not particularly unique, it is unlikely you will get the reach of a huge industry name. If one size fits all then everyone would have it. If someone is telling you that you only need to do this one thing then I would be hesitant about it. If they tell you they can do it overnight or in just a few days – well I’d be wanting them to give more information because you rarely build a community overnight (and if you do something quickly then the quality may not be there either). The reality for small businesses is that you build, with a fluid and responsive strategy over a period of a few years. Sometimes it is much quicker – for example if the product or offering has huge value, is innovative, has the backing of known experts or pushes emotional buttons like nostaglia. In these cases you can have a community practically appear overnight. (The danger of growing a community quickly is ensuring you can sustain it, but that’s for another article).
In my industry I have noted that there are many who have success with one page on facebook or just like using social and think that makes them a marketer. I’ve been in business for years and have a lot of experience which I put to use in my work, yet I have only found my way to social media as my business over the past 4 years and I honestly say, there is always something new to learn. I find although there are general steps to take, each client needs to be looked at as an individual. In fact iRespectOnline was born out of the experiences I had early on being side tracked with Shiny objects and promises of ways to make my business happen which turned out to have no substance. I certainly was not immune myself. There was so much false information and lack of ethics in the online marketing world that I wanted to try and change that.
We are blessed to have some amazing influencers who share their expertise generously and lots of amazing marketers who invest a lot of time and money into ensuring they keep up to date, so it’s not hard to do a search on names and see if they come up associated with the industry they purport to be (whatever it is , not just social media, Shiny Objects are offered by all kinds of industry – coaching, sales, get rich). I always advise having a look at who is behind the offer and Linkedin is a great place to get a professional “snapshot” of the person.
So how do you recognise the Shiny Objects?
Well usually they blind you with the look of riches, fame, success by showing you all the trappings.. but often these are only props. They may use big claims such as being the number 1 of something, the top this,a “guru” blah blah but if that is the case there will be a lot of information to prove it. I always think – unless they have won an award, if you are successful you don’t need to say that, others will say it for you. Richard Branson doesn’t put “no 1 entrepreneur” in his bio! In my experience, some people however do have a lot of information about them yet are still somewhat superficial. Unfortunately it is harder to expose them and they often are masters of the Bright Shiny Object offering. One way of checking them out is to see if they are offering lots of good accessible information, or whether they mostly self promote and always have a “sale” going on. Someone for example who I implicitly trust and offers solid and affordable business advice (and I admit I do know her personally just for transparency) is Donna Moritz of Socially Sorted. She is a thought leader, she has published articles for many leading online business publications, she is sought out for her knowledge in visual marketing, but she gives and gives to her community.
Another thing to look for is do they claim expertise in lots of things and then create offerings for each thing? For example, I have written a book but it doesn’t make me an expert in publishing. Sure I have some great general information and insights to share but it’s not my main field. Be wary of those offering expensive courses because they did something and “you can too”. It’s like the get rich quick schemes. Just be alert and do your background checks. If they are associated with known specialists, influencers and experts in their field, and produce in depth information about their field of expertise its a good thing. Shiny objects can lead you away from your objectives, and not to them. You need to really look at what your business goals and strategies are, and decide if what you are looking at actually will help you, or is tapping into other emotional goals which will lead you astray.
Here is my advice “your time is precious and you never get time back” so the time you spend making sure something is right is a better use of that time than investing in a program, course or product that takes you away from your business if it is not right for your business.
So what can you do?
Here are a few tips to help keep you on track:
1. Spending time on a little bit of research is a good thing
2. There will always be something new, invest first in a great business strategy that will be a blueprint to guide your choices.
3. Some new things are brilliant – don’t disregard everything as bright and shiny .. but go back to No 1.. research!
4. Don’t be pressured into a decision. If you are not sure its something that will build your business or help you grow personally, then its ok.. there will be other opportunities, other products, other courses. It’s ok to sleep on it!
I hope this helps other business owners to stay on track, particularly in the online space. Building a team of trusted professionals to help you in your business is something I think is of extreme value. Do your research and keep those sunnies within reach!
I would love you to share your “bright shiny object” experiences with others as we can all learn from each others experiences.
This post was first published by Fiona Lucas on Linkedin July 2015
Fiona Lucas is the founder of iRespectOnline. She is passionate about helping small businesses to grow, thrive and build reputation online. Fiona is an ethical marketer providing bespoke online marketing strategies to enable businesses to leverage social media for growth. Underpinning everything she does, as Australia’s first online reputation evangelist she is passionate about driving social change towards a more respectful online environment.
She was named in Mamamia’s Top 50 women to watch online 2013, Finalist Geelong Small Business Awards 2017 – Social Media Influencer and is a virtual community manager for Social Media Marketing World. Fiona presents on digital futures, cybersafety and digital marketing.
Fiona is the author of Futureproof Your Kids – a parents guide to the social media playground.