TThe aspiring entrepreneur wanting to start a business needs to be well-informed. The problem is, as we know from the recent presidential election in the USA and the Brexit campaign in the UK, rogue news abounds.
Knowing what’s what in an age of fake news...
The internet is an amazing resource but comes with its own challenges- chief among which is that there is no editorial standard or filter to weed out the bogus from the real.
Take self-help coach and ubiquitous YouTube advertiser Tai Lopez for example. This self-professed get rich guru creates tons of online advertising videos which he pumps out with abandon. Believed by many to be a scam, Tai talks about the importance of Knowledge and reading books. Sounds plausible right? The problems start when he goes on to show his mansion which is allegedly not his (some say it’s rented) and gets worse when you you read reviews of disgruntled subscribers who have paid for his 67 steps “course” on how to get rich.
Passing off a luxurious home and fleet of supercars as your own is surely “fake” by any definition. Or consider the obvious contradiction between Tai constantly proclaiming knowledge as being the key to success and then repeatedly talking about his Lamborghinis. h3h3Productions has made a great video exposing Tai’s snake-oil approach to internet marketing. Check it out for yourself: The Tai Lopez conspiracy
Most Teens can’t tell the difference between fake and real news.
A study by Stanford University of just under 8000 teens revealed that a staggering 82% can’t tell the difference between real facts and the fake news they read online. See the Wall Street Journal article “Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake”. Gone are the days when you had to provide footnotes or references for your sources when writing an article. These days the creation of uncorroborated “facts” is easy. In an age where everyone is looking for new content it’s all too easy to latch on to untruths. These youngsters are the consumers of tomorrow and yet how does one convince them of a product's worth or credibility when their own critical faculties are poorly developed?
How is fake news relevant to entrepreneurs?
How many blog articles have you read where the author claims to make thousands from there instagram business of blog and how they will gladly shared their secret for a few bucks. One always wonders whether the taxman would agree with these claims. Make no mistake about it, fake news affects all our lives. Whether it’s the Trump administration banning the BCC from Whitehouse press briefings (ironically under the guise of keeping fake news at bay) or pro-Brexit campaigners making spurious claims about how much money the UK will save from leaving Europe- these lies affect the decisions we make as a society.
In an age where politicians are largely loathed and considered by many to be dishonest, the lesson is surely that as business people we have to grapple with how we are perceived. How will we convince an increasingly indiscriminate viewer that our business, product, or service offering is for real and that it represents value?
When you start a business one of the hardest things to achieve is to convince potential customers of your integrity. People don’t typically part with their hard earned cash unless they trust you and how exactly does one earn their trust when truth becomes such an opaque concept?
A lesson learnt
It’s hard not to admire the pluck of people like Tai Lopez for spreading their special form of marketing. One feels a kind of grudging respect for a guy who has spent millions promoting videos of himself standing in front of piles of books, lines of sports cars and apparently someone else’s mansion. Some reports even claim that his call for wannabe entrepreneurs to read a book a day is something Tai personally achieves by getting his staff to read the books for him. What to believe?
There’s money to be made in promulgating fake news but the real lesson is that one has to sharpen one's critical faculties. We all need to be more sceptical and as business people we will have to work harder to get our messages across.
So if you are intent on starting a business and really want to give it your best crack think about how you will convince your audience of your authenticity. How will you back up your arguments so that people will buy from you with confidence? In a world where the mantra ”Believe nothing” seems the best possible advice how are you going to get your audience to believe in you?