5 Tips to Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome

by John Rogers on Jan 16, 2012
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If you know me, you know I love Disney-Pixar’s “UP”.  It’s a story of an old man and young boy that bond over an expedition they’ll never forget.  (Insert obligatory “I work for Disney…” message here.)

Accompanying the two on their travels is a dog, named Dug, that can speak.

Thanks to a special collar, but that’s another story entirely.

In the film we see that dogs are extremely loving animals, but have a major personality flaw.  They are very easily distracted.  Did someone say “squirrel”?

As funny as that image may be, I feel like marketers have a bit of Dug’s squirrel syndrome.  In fact, we even have an official name for it: “Shiny Object Syndrome

There are over 500,000 apps in Apple’s App Store, 1 billion tweets sent each week, 48 hours of video uploaded to YouTube a day, and several pitches of the “next big thing in social” sitting in your inbox.

Signal to Noise Ratio

So what are we to do?

It all comes down to signal vs. noise ratio.  Although it’s easy to allow the noise to overwhelm us and send us down various paths on wild goose chases.

We need to simplify.

Focus on the bigger trends and how major shifts in consumer behavior are shaping the world around us.

Thankfully, there is help. Sites like SocialFresh.com, companies like Edelman Digital, and people like Jeremiah Owyang weed through the digital fodder and help illuminate some of the bigger stories of the day.

Change is constant. So instead of reading through those 300 tweets you missed out on while in a meeting, let’s go through some steps to improve your signal and reduce the noise.

I’ve put together a handy list below of 5 steps to avoid the pitfalls of shiny object syndrome in marketing.

1. Set up the right filters

Who are you following on Twitter, Google+, blogs, etc?

Are they trendsetters, thought leaders, and news makers?

Be smart and focus your “subscribed to” list up front and it will pay dividends in the long run.  I follow a little less than 400 people on Twitter. In addition to friends, there are several dozen thought leaders I follow that bring the news to me.

Curation is one of the big trends we will continue see more of in 2012.  Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Fab and other sites are not simply publishing platforms.  They’re social interest engines that allow you to discover new items from your trusted friends.  That’s a very powerful thing. But very easy to get carried away with.

Find the channels you get the most value from and form smaller focused lists on those channels.

2. Listen to the crowd

With any new app, you’ll always have geeks & power users flocking to be among the first to take it for a test spin.

Take the stock exchange of people, Empire Avenue, for example. Although a small group of obsessive compulsive social fan boys jumped on the site early on, it never gained any real traction.

People vote with their time, activity, subscriptions, and overall use of sites and apps. No matter how flashy the site, if it fails to gain a significant user base, its not worth your time.

3. Beware of the hype engine

Techcrunch, Mashable, TNW, and others are all great sites for keeping tabs on the latest tech news.  But “76 Stories in Social Media You May Have Missed”, seems a bit much to me.  Hype has become a sort of currency. Don’t buy it. One story on the latest SoLoMo app on Mashable is not reason enough to shift your entire digital marketing mix.

4. Test It For Yourself

Scientists are really smart.  They realize the need to test, retest, and then test some more.

As marketers, we should do the same.

You, or someone on your team, should be constantly playing and experimenting with the latest and greatest gadgets.  In other words, if the only social media apps I use personally are Facebook and Twitter then how can I have an opinion as to how a business might use tools like Tumblr, Google+, Foursquare, Flipboard, Shazam, etc.

5. Let Logic Be Your Guide

A tid bit of wisdom my leader shared with me the first week in my new role was when in doubt “Let logic be your guide.” In other words, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

But if it just feels right, go for it.

Sounds a bit ambiguous, but the first time you posted a photo to Instagram you somehow instantly knew it was going to change the photo app landscape.


What about you?  How do you stay on top of the latest trends in Social Media and separate the digital wheat from the the chaff?

Image source: Shutterstock.com

Post Author

Digital Marketer at Disney Parks, music junkie, tech evangelist, quasi-geek, Florida Gators fan who loves to travel. Views expressed here are mine alone and don't reflect those of my boss, Mr. Mouse....

  • Thank you for your tips about reading through the hype, as a social marketing manager for my hotels it can get overwhelming at times trying to decide how to promote our brands!

  • Rona Davis

    Great post!!  I am a reigning queen of SOS!!  While reading your post I was thinking, “yeah, yeah, that’s good,” and then I started thinking, “but what about my clients? how do I keep up in order to utilize the best for their needs.”  You addressed that as well, shew!  I think it still boils down to our daily choices.  Every day I have the opportunity to just “check on” my personal fb, twitter, etc., and the distractions start rolling in and before I know it an hour has gone by and I haven’t really started my work day yet.  I work for myself (thank you GOD!), and for an entrepreneur with SOS (and literal ADHD) I have to make good choices starting first thing in the morning!  A book I read a few years ago – Julie Morgenstern’s Never Check Emails in the Morning” really began to re-shape my days.  At her suggestive writing, I learned to make my day’s plan the night before and start the morning working on my plan before I open anything that will create the perfect SOS storm.  I wish I could say I do this religiously, but I don’t.  When I do follow that protocol, however I am ALWAYS most productive! 

    Thank you for your thoughtful 5 tips!! 

  • Ah, no squirrel videos!   There’s actually a tag on Twitter @RonaTheBigMouthWordWarrior:disqus squirrel for folks who are distracted and want their followers to get them back on track.  In addition,  I found that distraction or rather intentional distraction techniques that Bregman proposes are really useful: 
    http://www.bethkanter.org/18-minutes-three-words/   The idea that you can intentionally distract yourself to make sure you’re on track.

    These are great tips for avoiding shiney object syndrome.  Having clear goals that are measurable can also help.   In terms of filters, I think you need to balance filters with serendipty.  I use a timer – so I can gain the benefits of discovery without wasting an entire day … 

  • Great post! It is really scary how much “Permission Based” marketing is turning into the old way of marketing. I realize it is still “inbound” in nature but like you mentioned: “76 Stories in Social Media You May Have Missed” edges awfully close to “interruption marketing” in my mind. I like how places like social fresh and others are recognizing this need to filter through the noise.

    Great post, thanks!

  • This is a great article, especially for people like me who are near the beginning of their social/community management life cycle.

    One of the techniques I use is to stick to the same sources for new information. This helps avoid the “hype engine” you mentioned. In particular SocialFresh, Mashable and Techcrunch have been my go to sites (haven’t used TNW much but may have to start). I’ve found these sites to be some of the very best in curating and reporting the “latest and greatest.”

    Great tips, John!

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