On every social platform today, there is an ad after every four or five posts on “How To Run A Successful Online Business”, “How To Make Money From Freelancing”, and “Become A Digital Expert In A Day!”
Is it just me, or has the world gone on an overdrive by overcompensating for the lack of face-to-face interactions lately?
Almost everyone thinks they are social media gurus, running their own ‘masterclasses’ on how to convert likes to income, or pictures on Instagram to dollars. I’ve seen countless live sessions, where moderators are speaking on topics that they have absolutely no solid knowledge and experience in (or very little of it), sometimes dishing out advice that is outright wrong, unethical, and potentially harmful to listeners.
With the digital world inundated with voices that claim to be ‘experts’ and ‘specialists’ from almost every direction, there is this pressure that everyone is feeling to jump on the digital bandwagon to share and absorb as much information as possible before it’s too late.
I don’t blame you—times are tough, and the need to pivot and dive in seems necessary, and in some cases, urgent. But how do we navigate our way in and around this sea of information? How do you differentiate the experts from the ones who claim to be ‘experts’?
Before you purchase that next course, I implore you to stop right there. Take a deep, long breath.
And read on.
- Always do this first—get clear about your why
Before you make any major decisions, have you seriously thought about WHY you’re doing this?
In my eleven years as a communications professional, I’ve realised that without fail, clients make this one big mistake when embarking on launching or considering communications strategies—the purpose of it in the first place.
WHY do you want to do this, and WHY is it important to you? Does it help achieve your business goals or your communications goals?
As with all of life, none of our decisions are independent of another; they are mutually exclusive and influenced by many other factors surrounding these goals.
For example, how will signing up for a writing class help you achieve your business and communications objectives? Answering the ‘WHY’ gives you a clear direction. Knowing your ‘WHY’, will help you answer the rest of the questions—how will this support your goals, what else is required to make this a reality, what sort of timeline do you need to adhere to, and which skills do you really need to make this happen?
Don’t just do it because everyone else is. Do it because you know what you need, and how it will support you, now and for the future.
- Do your research
How do you know if the course you just signed up for is the real deal?
Like everyone else, I too decided to use the lockdown period to learn new skills and expand my knowledge. I took advantage of the various online learning platforms to sign up for courses that I knew would support how Illuminairre helps its clients for 2020 and beyond. Some of these courses were also accredited, or so claimed to be.
Imagine my surprise when one of the courses I signed up for allowed me to obtain a diploma nonetheless, by doing nothing more than watching a list of videos and listening to someone speak for no more than 6 minutes in each of the videos! The course content itself was sub-par, containing information I already knew.
I compared this to another course I took, which painstakingly ensured that the diploma was truly earned—through coursework submissions, in-depth discussions and participation, as well as truly commendable course materials and resources. This took more time, but the certificate was truly earned through merit.
With so much content and programmes floating about online now, it isn’t easy to differentiate what is legitimate and what isn’t. Before you sign up for anything online, try to do the following:
- Do some background research and checks on the course itself i.e. the instructors/facilitators and the institution or organisation, and their credibility. You can do this quickly with an online search. Check out their social media platforms and content, and also look at comments or reviews, not just on learning platforms, but on the web in general.
- Understand the context of what is being offered, and revisit your personal/business goals again. How will taking this course or programme support your goals? Will this help you increase your revenue, or expand your business network? Be clear on the value add—clarity is everything.
- Think about the method of delivery—are you better at self-paced learning, or do you like small group coaching sessions? Are you interested in webinars, or interactive learning sessions? Take some time to know which appeals better to you.
A pro tip: Don’t be fooled by beautiful imagery and words in the sponsored ad posts that you may see. Be extremely cautious with people who claim that they are experts. Most of the time, many use ready-made templates available for free, without even changing the copy. So be sure to do thorough research to ensure the credibility of the person you’re checking out, so you don’t get tricked into buying something you don’t really need in the end.
- Consider long-term benefits from what you’re signing up for
I cannot emphasise this enough—always, always ensure that what you’re signing up for is beneficial to you in the long run. How can you measure this?
If you have been looking for ways to start working on your own for example, have a long-term plan for your business. List out what you’re good at, your skills and expertise, and create a business plan to ensure you understand who you’re serving (determine your target audience), what you can do for them (your product offering), and where your audience is (which social media platforms or spaces online are they on?). Take it a step further to understand how you can add value to your potential clients first, and ensure that this is something that can be done continuously and consistently in the long run.
Next, list out the gaps in this plan. What are the skill sets that you may need to take your business to the next level? Are they social media strategy skills that will help you navigate the online world now, or do you need a business coach who can help you map out your business strategy instead? Would you need a finance coach that can help you plan and strengthen your finances, or do you actually need someone to help you develop a communications strategy instead?
Determine what help you actually need, and how investing in them will benefit you and your business in the long run. And be sure to understand the course content too—if you’re signing up for a social media workshop that tells you how to create beautiful copy, but doesn’t give you any insights on how to determine and target your core audience, that session isn’t going to help you grow your business at all.
Look deeper, and find your real needs.
In A Nutshell
It is wise to remember that the digital world is evolving rapidly. While many try to convert their businesses into virtual platforms, it is important for consumers and potential customers to stop, think, research, and then act, instead of impulsively clicking that ‘Sign Up Now!” button.
Illuminairre is launching new online communications coaching sessions this month. Instead of insisting you sign up now, we’d like to invite you to take these three steps, even with us—because we strongly believe that due diligence, patience, and clarity are required skills that will help us all become more conscious consumers and learners.