“Fake It Until You Make It” – The Pitfalls
Confidence is good. Blatantly lying about your abilities in return for client spend is immoral at best and will only lead to short-term success, says Lewis Murawski of Kahootz Media…
As a digital marketing agency owner myself, I am often targeted with ads from individuals, self-confessed legends of the world and suchlike telling me how I can earn a gazillion pounds a day from the comfort of my own swimming pool. It’s bloody annoying to see people, some of whom I have met in real life, lie and mislead general members of the public to follow their blueprint to success. If you want to access this top secret content it will cost you anything from $100-$10,000+!
I am writing this to tell you now, a large percentage of these people are not living the dream. Some are couch surfing and living on a minimal day to day budget. Nothing wrong with that you might say… Unless people are investing in their advice because they think they’re millionaires with numerous big deals coming in, that is! A picture can speak a thousand words… or a dozen mistruths.
I am going to explain how to best distinguish between the fakers and the doers in an online world bursting with content and mixed messages.
In this article I cover some common ‘fake it until you make it’ situations that are found in the digital marketing industry and how to identify the fake from the genuine to help your business and personal brand succeed.
Digital Marketing ‘Experts’
Be A Doer And Not A Talker…
With some of the most successful entrepreneurs ever born such as Richard Branson telling us the following “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” It is no wonder people are applying the fake it until you make it mentality to every day life and wooing clients by telling them yes to every single request. Richard’s mentality is to say yes and take risks, but they are always calculated and backed up by his knowledge and abilities. Richard also adds that he is a “doer and not a talker”. Eventually, you’ll have to back up your claims that you can deliver results so read between the lines and don’t say yes to things that you have no ability or intention of being able to complete.
Fake it Until You Make It: Self-Improvement Gurus
From the most famous self-improvement gurus including Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Robbins, to the lesser known online entrepreneurs that feel tell you to give up your job and follow their advice TODAY.
The self-improvement industry is growing considerably. People are generally keener than ever to learn how to craft an alternative lifestyle to the traditional 9-5 grind. However, the way in which they want to learn this is changing. They are fed up with paying for information and it having no tangible positive effect on their life. In fact, they know it could have a negative impact and make them even more confused about the recipe to their personal success story.
Consumers are desperately trying to understand who are the genuine experts of the industry, and those that rely on the power of attraction (looks, charm or both) to woo sign ups to their get rich quick scheme.
Anyone can purchase courses from the majority of gurus claiming to change peoples’ lives. The trouble with that is, only a small percentage of people are actually capable of putting it into action. Regardless of how golden the information provided is, only a tiny percentage of people are capable of achieving the same success (if it is even real in the first place). As brutal as it sounds – not everyone is cut out to work for themselves, run a digital marketing agency, or coping with being 10,000 miles away from their family for extended periods while sat on a beach. As someone who has genuinely spent 6 months on a beach before I can tell you honestly – it’s not as good as you might think. It beats sitting in an unhappy office environment for sure, but the challenges are different. Challenges such as self-discipline – work still has to be completed, building business relationships (many of the people you need to network with are in their offices and not on beaches in Asia) and battling boredom. Newsflash: Sitting on a beach all the time is boring.
Above: Neil Patel – a leading online marketer
Building a personal brand so that you can sell your own courses doesn’t have to mean flash cars, expensive watches and glamorous locations. It’s aspirational for many in today’s society to see financial success and some get lured into thinking they can achieve it overnight. However, being authentic is key to building a long-term and sustainable personal brand. Take Neil Patel as an example in the digital marketing world. Arguably the most linked to SEO / digital marketing professional in the world. He dresses casually, and posts nearly all his video on a plain coloured background. No lambos, and no 360 view of a penthouse apartment in Monaco. Just very easy to digest and useful content. Whatever your views of Neil (he is often accused of rehashing other peoples’ content) he ranks consistently for all manner of digital marketing subjects and has one of the largest audiences around.
Before even considering investing in any self-improvement courses or seminars ask yourself the following…
Are you ready to work, often at unsociable times, to achieve your goals?
Do you have the mental toughness to slog it out in the long-run?
Can you face rejection head on and turn it into a positive?
Do you have a source of income that will supplement your learning / side hustle?
What aspect of this course will help you achieve your goals?
Is there a mentor that can help you reach your goals rather than a self-improvement course?
Could this money and time be spent more effectively elsewhere?
Fake it Until You Make It: Social Media Influencer Scams
I wondered if scam was too strong a word for this section. However, it is the perfect word for describing what some so-called ‘influencers’ are doing to rid unknowing people of their hard-earned cash.
For those that may not be aware, an influencer is an individual with the potential to influence your target consumer and market to buy something or take other action. Influencers usually have a following in a specific niche. This could be fitness, lifestyle, food, or any manner of subjects. Influencers range from micro-influencers, with small but targeted followings, to celebrity style influencers (think Ronaldo, Kim Kardashian etc) with more general audiences.
Influencer scams come in different shapes and sizes but involve taking people’s money or goods in return for promotion that is either exaggerated, faked or non existent. The problem exists mainly on social media platforms. Fake followers, comments and likes are relatively easy to come by and artificially inflate the appearance of reach and influence. So, if someone charges X amount per 10,000 followers promotion and they have 10,000 genuine followers but 90,000 paid for followers – you are paying 9x over the odds for what you think you are getting. It is estimated that fake followers in influencer marketing will cost $1.3 billion+ this year. There’s a few ways to understand whether someone’s following and influence is genuine but the best way is to identify the influencer yourself in the first place. Understand who they are, what they stand for and the power of the messages they are delivering. And, as a general rule, treat influencers that reach out to you or your business with extra caution. Are they really that passionate about your brand they would reach out to you directly asking for money or goods to promote them? And, if they are that genuine, perhaps they’d consider helping you out for free initially!
“The moment people discover the Lamborghini is rented or borrowed and that you didn’t really buy 500 Bitcoin in 2008 is the moment you have lost all credibility”
There are other scams to look out for including cloned profiles, whereby imposters clone the profile of a successful account and then look to get free merchandise or payment in return for promotion (which doesn’t materialise). You could be targeted via email or on social media and the fake profile could be quite difficult to distinguish from the real version. Verified ‘ticks’ on certain social media profiles help decipher the genuine accounts from the fake, but this isn’t really applicable for influencers that aren’t celebrities or those that don’t have huge followings.
Solution: Social listening and reaching out to specific individuals that you have identified as having a genuine influence on your niche is the best solution to avoiding influencer scams. It doesn’t matter whether the individual has 1,000 or 1million followers. Ultimately, it is their influence on your target market that happens and the genuine interaction their content receives. Build up a relationship with influencers in your market and you could eventually receive the power of their services at a much lower cost than if you reached out to them cold.
Fake it Until You Make It: Digital Marketing ‘Experts’
In the early days we fell for this. We hired some freelancers that told us they were the solutions to all of our problems and some even had impressive resumes. One (expensive) developer destroyed a website beyond recognition in a short space of time without testing their code beforehand and made irreparable damage to FTP files. We’ve received plagiarised content from freelanced copywriters and designers and everything between. Lessons learnt. Now we have far better ways of detecting the fake it until you make it brigade and have built a trusted network of service providers. Ever hired someone that sub contracts jobs to others’ with far less skills without telling you? Yes, that happens too.
The Facebook Group Professionals
We are members of numerous Facebook groups that help us keep in touch with the latest methods of digital marketing and troubleshooting of any issues that arise with Facebook Ads, SEO and suchlike. A common theme in these groups are people that clearly have a knack for selling asking questions such as ‘I have just signed XYZ client on a 6month retainer – how do I run ads for XYZ?’. Or… ‘We have made changes to a new client’s website and the rankings have fallen off a cliff.’ Some of the questions are even more basic. One such example was this question, where someone reached out to the community to ask why he was actually charging in a specific way. ‘My client has asked why we are charging a monthly ad management cost AND a percentage of ad spend cost – what do I say?’. This is someone, receiving money from a client that doesn’t even know what or why they are charging for. It is VERY common in digital marketing…
In the same groups, often small business owners, who are attempting to run their own ads or managing other aspects of their marketing will ask questions. They are quickly inundated with ‘experts’ asking them to PM them. Desperately seeking a solution to their problem they provide admin access to certain accounts to people they have never met, spoken to or verified elsewhere online. If you are the person looking for help don’t do this – it’s like handing a complete stranger keys to your house without realising they will ransack it or never hand your keys back. Look for the answers you are searching for directly on YouTube or hire a professional digital marketing agency.
It’s not just individuals up to these tricks though… Digital marketing agencies that should know a lot better do it, too.
Digital Marketing Agencies That Buy Awards
For a ‘donation’ many agencies land themselves a seat at prestigious awards dinners. Strange it may seem that they may scoop an award or two as well. Subsequent press that they are ‘leader in search marketing’ or other similar awards make the general public believe they are the industry leaders.
Artificially Inflated Client List
On many digital marketing agency websites you will see a testimonials or client list section. Don’t just look for a Coca Cola or HSBC Bank logo. Look for genuine testimonials with names attached to them. Speak to the people in question for further reassurance. It is common for big corporations to outsource tasks to a wide variety of agencies. We’ve designed landing pages for some big companies but don’t class them as clients if it’s a small one-off task and don’t have permission to do so.
Google Digital Marketing Certificates
The courses themselves are fine – but there’s no policing as to who actually gets the certificates. Plus, you can have ‘employees’ that are Google accredited that actually end up doing zero work for the client.
Guaranteed Page One Google Rankings In Months
Although this may be music to your ears – the truth is, if you’re looking to rank for competitive keywords expect 6months-12months and beyond to be your timeframe for high traffic / high converting search terms. The older your web domain the better. A new web domain will take a longer time to build content, links and overall trust.
How to Find a Good Digital Marketing Agency:
Check testimonials for authenticity and the level of work completed
Don’t go ‘all in’ from day one with anyone (including us)
Take some industry awards with a pinch of salt – they may have been paid for
Communicate directly and ask key questions that can’t be answered generically (eg, have you ever worked with anyone in the XYZ niche – what was your biggest success / failure).
Lewis Murawski, Director – Kahootz Media – link to LinkedIn Profile