3 Myths of Digital influence

Dallas McMillan Marketing

As a digital strategist and website designer, every day I work with entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners to help them get results online.

When I start working with them, I always make it clear that what we are building is a long term vision, not a quick fix, and that they need to be very clear about where they are going and what they are creating.

This is vital because building a brand online involves many technical details and small decisions, and if you don’t have an over-arching vision of where you are going these can become overwhelming.

Most of my clients are busy people, running their team, or running own business or working a day job while launching a startup after-hours.

When you are busy, you need to delegate to get more done, but all to often I see people delegating critical decisions about their brand and their customer’s experience to under-qualified staff or outsourcers like receptionists, designers and virtual assistants.

Why do they delegate these decisions? Because they are out of their depth

  • They lack the basic digital literacy to understand the online world
  • They don’t have any clear strategy about where they want to go or how to get there.
  • They don’t have the time, energy or resources to implement things themselves.

Without these fundamentals in place, there is no way that they can build or run a successful digital brand or business.

Unfortunately learning these and doing these things properly is a lot of work, and people hate work. So what they do is engage in some magical thinking – and buy into what I call the 3 myths of digital influence.

The myth of online celebrity

In the last 10 years we’ve witnessed an amazing transformation in the cult of celebrity. People have always had heroes and celebrities, but the internet has dramatically democratised access to the tools for building personal and business brands.

Today there are teenagers with their own media empires and millions of loyal fans who watch them daily. There are retirees and single mums making millions online working from home in their pyjamas. There are people with millions of Instagram followers who travel the world taking photos and being paid handsomely for it.

All of this is true and real, but it isn’t necessarily repeatable, at least not without the right strategy and a lot of work. It’s useful to view these success stories as outliers – the equivalent of people who win Australian Idol (or the American or British Equivalent), such as Susan Boyle. What the cult of celebrity ignores is that for every winner who becomes famous, makes millions and lives the life of their dreams, there are hundreds of people labouring for years without reward, except personal satisfaction. In fact, the success stories share this story – they’ve succeeded at what they do because they love it and would do it without the money or fame.

It takes 20 years to make an overnight success – Eddie Cantor

Online marketing is the same – for every person making money blogging/building mobile apps/running webinars (notice that their main income stream is teaching people to make money blogging etc) there are hundreds of people putting in dozens of hours a month for zero cashflow. That would be illegal in any other job, but is commonplace in the online world.

In fact, even the apparent success stories – the people with hundreds of thousands of followers, successful blogs and thriving online businesses aren’t necessarily multi-millionaires. It’s a business – and one that requires their active involvement and ongoing commitment.

Unfortunately, people often model their online profile on the people with superficial success – the  Kim Kardashians and Paris Hiltons of the online world. They think that followers and celebrity = success. That might work if you are a trust fund baby but it doesn’t cut it for entrepreneurs or business owners.

You can’t pay the bills with retweets and Facebook likes.

The myth of the internet money machine

The second myth that leads people down this path is the online marketing industry. Every day there are literally hundreds of launches for new products that promise people they can build a website/online business/landing page/webinar/mobile app/membership site etc “with no coding or technical skills” “in a few easy mouse clicks” and be “up and running in minutes” and start making “tens of thousands of dollars tomorrow”.

Very often these products do work, but without a solid business model, they are only suited to marketing more get rich quick schemes, not running a real sustainable business.

Human nature means that these ads work and people keep buying more and more products, programs, apps and systems hoping to find the ultimate bright and shiny thing that actually works. Most of these programs and tools are never used, because people get excited by the next launch

The bright and shiny things are always brighter and shinier on the other side of the buy button

I’ve seen how this ends, and it isn’t pretty: Hacked websites, wasted money, embarrassing online mistakes, and months of frustration.

The myth of outsourcing everything (AKA, “Hire a VA”)

The third myth of digital influence is the myth of outsourcing everything. This myth can also be sumarised as “Hire a VA”.  All to often they have bought the inspirational message of the 4 hour work week, “laptop millionaire” or other motivational online marketing books, but they have skipped the essential first step: you need to know how to leverage the web before you can use it to build a brand or online business.

It’s important to realise that outsourcing is an amazing tool, the web is an amazing tool, but it’s totally reliant on you being able to drive it. If you can’t use a browser properly, you aren’t qualified to run an online business empire.

Without this step, people end up trying to build an online empire on the technical skills and business acumen of a 20 year old girl in the Philippines who is paid $5 per hour. Remarkably, the skill set and diligence of outsourcers means this works out much better than you might expect, but not nearly as good as what you need.

I’ve seen how this ends, and it isn’t pretty: Hacked websites, wasted money, embarrassing online mistakes, and months of frustration.

The “problem” is that professional website developers, marketers, designers, writers, and project managers can’t live on $5 per hour. They don’t want to build your online empire for a pittance. And they won’t build you the next Facebook for $50. They’re busy with real customers who run real businesses and sell real stuff to real people who value their professional skills, expeerience and insight.

Where the three myths of Digital Influence lead

What’s the result of buying into these three myths? It’s always seeking out the quick, easy win, and not knowing where you are going, and never getting anything done.

You can tell people have bought into these myths when they ask the following question without any background information.

“What’s a quick/fast/cheap/easy/free plugin/app/site/VA to do some technical task”

Now this might seem like a perfectly good question, but in almost every case, it’s the wrong question.

It’s the wrong question because the person asking it hasn’t told us what they are trying to achieve, what their technical skills are, what their current technology it needs to integrate with, or who has an example that they’d like to replicate.

And they don’t ask because they don’t know.

The aren’t qualified to ask the right questions.

There are two answers I know of to solve this problem.

1. Educate yourself.

You need to know this stuff if you want to build an online empire. CEOs of companies who have people take notes for them still know how to write. You need to understand the basics – not everything, but enough to know the right questions to ask and to recognise the correct answers when you hear them.

2. Hire somebody who does know.

Yes, this will be more expensive than getting it done of fiverr but the time and effort you save down the track will make it 100% worthwhile. You have a chance of building a real, sustainable business that will still be here in a years time (not discarded when the next bright shiny thing comes along).

A final word

This article probably sounds very negative, but it’s intent is positive.

You can (and need to!) build a successful digital brand and an online presence for your business. But it isn’t going to be cheap, fast and easy. It takes time, intention and effort.

If you’d like to educate yourself, I can’t think of a better place to start than my free email course on building your digital influence.


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