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April 9, 2008

What Happened To “Fake It Until You Make It”?

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Our friend Michael Gray had decided to jump into the Shel Israel/Loren Feldman mêlée and offer up his two cents in a post that asks Are You More Entertaining Than A Sock Puppet.

I’m a fan of Michael’s but I am not a fan of this post. Sorry, Michael, I just don’t agree. On virtually any of it.

First off, I completely disagree that videos need to be short and sweet to be successful. I don’t know how many times us ladies need to repeat this, but size doesn’t matter, fellas. It’s the experience that counts. Keep viewers engaged and they won’t care how long your video is. Shel Israel’s videos didn’t fail because they were 10 minutes long. They failed because they weren’t at all engaging and the camerawork was distracting at best. Loren’s sock puppet videos weren’t successful because they were short. They were successful because Loren Feldman is funny. End of the story.

But that’s not even my biggest problem with Michael’s post. My biggest problem, and the part that borderline angered me, was when Michael offered up his key takeaway from the whole situation.

He writes:

"What’s the takeaway here…don’t play in the big leagues if you don’t have what it takes to compete. Don’s use the medium to talk to an audience when you don’t understand what makes them tick and how to reach them."

No. Just no.

I hear Michael and I’ll agree that you need to understand your audience and what works for them, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow what everyone else is doing. Do jump into the big leagues. Do try and test the boundaries. Do create 10 minute videos if you think you have what it takes to hold people’s attention that long. Do experiment. Don’t follow the "short and sweet" video mentality because that’s what has always worked. Don’t let other people discourage you from trying and failing.

People who are afraid to fail typically do.

Ignore what Michael is telling you. Video is still in the infant stages. No one has figured it out yet. Not Shel Israel, not Loren Feldman, not Michael, no one. Let’s not discourage people from playing before the real game even starts.

Whatever happened to the "fake it until you make it" school of thought that SEOs have always been so proud of? The theory that you never show people that you’re secretly terrified or inexperienced. That you just throw it all out there, fall, and then pretend you did it on purpose. As link bait!

Michael has a low tolerance for crap and I respect him for that, but he shouldn’t be discouraging those who are out there trying. It’s like when he demanded SEO Bloggers Step Away From The Keyboard because their stupidity was hurting him and we again told you not to listen to him. Yes, there’s a lot of crap out there, but sometimes that crap becomes really great content when people finally figure it out. You have to let the evolution happen and it’s not going to happen while someone is silently creating content in a corner. You have to shove it out to the masses, let them annihilate you, and then take your life lessons and go use them.

It bothers me that Shel Israel took so much heat for his video. There’s this theory that A-listers and people like Shel who have "made it" shouldn’t take risks because it may hurt their brand. Forget that. Unknowns and newbies aren’t the only ones who should be given the freedom to make stupid choices. Shel’s faux pas wasn’t that his video fell onto the side of suck; it was how he handled the situation that evolved after. Make sure your crucifying someone for the right reason.

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5 responses to “What Happened To “Fake It Until You Make It”?”

  1. danielthepoet writes:

    You are so going to get into trouble now.

  2. Chris Garrett writes:

    Excellent post, I completely agree. All we keep hearing about is this is a failure. Sorry, that’s ballcocks. We HAVE to keep trying stuff, and yeah it might not work out, and we might have egg on our faces, but better to try than sit there in our bubble wrap pj’s worrying what the intarwebs will think of us.
    Better boldly go and make an arse of it than not even make the attempt until we think we have it all sussed out!

  3. Bill D writes:

    Couldn’t agree more. I admire that you’ve got the balls to remind us all that we need to have the balls to shake it up. Progress isn’t made by people that stick around forever doing the accepted thing, progress comes in fits and starts and blazes of glory.

  4. 4eyes writes:

    This wasn’t a newbie trying to make a name for himself – this was someone who had already built a reputation shooting himself in the foot by trying to play outside his area of expertise.

    The "fake it until you make it" approach is one of the reasons that SEOs have gained a bad reputation. To many bullshitters without the track record or experience.

    ‘People who are afraid to fail typically do.’
    People who aren’t afraid to fail, but are just plain awful at their job fail far quicker.

    Know your limits, Know your skills and work to your strengths.

    Want me to provide a list of occupations where "fake it until you make it" is dangerous?

    I guess not – we can all come up with one easy enough.

    I would suggest that any job description that ends in ‘guru’ be added to this list, right alongside ‘Heart Surgeon’ and ‘Nuclear Scientist’.

  5. Tin Pig writes:

    good post. in a medium that is evolving as quickly as this, there are few “rules” that hold. it’s the folks that continue to experiment who drive us forward.

    that said, on the topic of internet video, most of the current data out there does show that short-form video (~90 seconds) is better received online. this probably has less to do with the quality of the content as it does with where people are watching (at work) and frustration with spotty bandwidth and several rounds of buffering.

    nevertheless, this isn’t a reason to not to experiment with longer-form video. in the end, the longer you can hold the attention of the visitor, the more monetization opportunities you have.



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