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People love to say that the most successful entrepreneurs have “failed their way to the top.” And this old adage certainly holds some truth. But wise business leaders know that learning from the mistakes of those around them can be just as enlightening and far less costly.
For example, it’s been an intense year for Facebook. The company has been under fire for tolerating the spread of false news stories, allowing foreign powers to try to sway U.S. elections and mishandling the personal data of its users. A much-discussed investigation by the New York Times added other charges to the list, including the hiring of a PR firm to attack the social network’s competitors.
From political coverage to ongoing investigations, the lessons that the 2018 news cycle has offered abound for entrepreneurs. Here are just a few:
1. Shiny object syndrome is real.
People have short attention spans, and they’re eagerly looking for what’s next. Consider the September hearings that followed Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. This event was of no small importance, and it deserved the attention it received. Of course, an anonymous opinion piece from a senior member of the Trump administration that was published in the Times ended up taking over the news cycle for a while and drawing focus away from the hearing.
It’s the same in business. Stale messaging will fall on deaf ears, so businesses need to update their messages constantly. New information will resonate better with an audience that’s eagerly searching for the next big thing.
2. Most people live in an echo chamber.
Americans spend over 30 percent of their online time browsing social media platforms, according to the Global Web Index. These are sites designed to show users content they agree with and to create an echo chamber or "filter bubble" that reinforces their existing beliefs.
As a result, people assume that everyone agrees with them, or at least that the dissenters are a small minority.
When it comes to business, there are a couple of ways to handle this fragmented reality. Company leaders can either avoid opinionated messages or pick a side and recognize that their decision will attract some people while alienating others.
3. Your secrets will come back to haunt you.
Two years after an attack created a breach in Uber’s information security systems and compromised the personal information of 57 million users around the world, the ride-sharing company is still paying the price. The $1.2 million in fines levied by regulatory bodies in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands was in part the result of the company trying to cover up the breach.
A study from the Association of National Advertisers revealed murky media-buying practices that have recently come into the limelight. An example: agencies marking up ad inventory even when they receive rebates for bulk spending.
The lesson here is about being an honorable partner with your clients because doing anything else is just bad business. Plus, if you get caught, the result could be devastating to your reputation and, ultimately, to your bottom line.
4. Don’t bet your future on just one thing.
In just one year, the cost of advertising on Facebook skyrocketed, so a lot of businesses that had been relying strictly on the social media platform for growth are in a quandary. Research from AdStage found that the cost per thousand impressions increased by 171 percent in the first half of 2017 — a change that is likely well outside the budget for many, many smaller companies, which will now have to look elsewhere.
A diversified business is a resilient one. When it comes to advertising, businesses should incorporate different channels such as Facebook ads, email marketing, content marketing and more rather than relying on just one strategy.
The same is true for clients. If a business is built on meeting the needs of a single huge client, that business is completely at the mercy of its client’s whims.
Some lessons need to be learned first-hand, but a really smart entrepreneur knows that lessons are everywhere. For many companies, 2018 was a tumultuous year, but even those that had a smooth ride should still pay close attention. Their time for upheaval will come, and history tends to repeat itself.
December 12, 2018 at 03:44PM