Priorities: When "Shiny Object" Crashes into Bandwidth

Photo by Coletivo Mambembe

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sohini Baliga, writer and communications consultant who has produced and written extensively for clients in both for and non-profit sectors. Check out her last post on IG and follow her personal blog.

I clearly remember a moment two years ago–an eternity in social media time–when I mentioned that I routinely advise clients to pick a couple of social media platforms and not worry too much about the ones they’re not at yet. Even if that includes the big four (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and LinkedIn). It was an informal social media discussion and I kid you not when I say the room stilled. I then compounded the moment by using one of my favorite phrases, “shiny object syndrome.”

As it turns out, I wasn’t wrong. I’d just said out loud what a lot of people were already thinking but didn’t routinely say yet, especially to big clients who had the budget and resources to try everything. Today a lot of communications professionals will say that it is better to go narrow and deep with one or two really well-tended social media channels vs. spreading yourself thin over many channels that don’t get frequently updated and look actively bad over time.

If you’re Ford or Nestle, it makes good sense to consider, try, and adapt to everything there is out there. (Hey, budget’s not an issue!) But if you’re a small business or nonprofit with limited budget and resources, you have to be strategic with your time and resources. And that is where you have to watch out for shiny object syndrome.

The Shiny Object Sydrome

The challenge is to explain this to nervous clients who worry that they’re not where they should be. They hear about something new, but know just enough to ask for an assessment. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard colleagues privately bemoan the pressure from a boss to start a blog: “Everyone has a blog. We should have a blog! Why don’t we have a blog?!”

It reminds me a bit of the patients who my doctor friends said drove them crazy after a very special episode of House. Except they almost always responded with, “That’s TV, this is real life, and your insurance may not cover that full body MRI.” My colleagues and I can’t quite use that response, particularly if the client does in fact have the budget to support a social media channel that is clearly going to be wrong for them.

Frustrating as it may be, this is where I think a communications professional earns their dollars and their reputation. It is my job to present the client with the full panoply of options. After all, that is what they’re paying me for–the expertise that will alert them to the Next Big Thing, and then implement or delegate as necessary. But as I tell all possible clients, it is also my job to rain on your parade when necessary. And push back hard if I think you are wasting your time and money.

A classic case in point is Pinterest. I heart Pinterest. I think it is great for some folks. But it can be a huge challenge for those who don’t do visually interesting things–they’re going to have to work twice as hard to come up with the imagery and infographics that feeds a really successful board.

I happen to have a client for whom I think Pinterest would be a great fit. And I would not have been doing my job well if I didn’t at least tell her about this new platform. But we both had to look at what was smart. She looked long and hard at her budget, her audience, my availability, and what has worked so far. The verdict was clear: we’re skipping Pinterest for now. A wise decision, because not soon after, the client’s Facebook and Twitter feeds finally got the traction I’d been hoping for, and a website relaunch and migration became a priority.

Bandwidth 1, Shiny Object 0.

5 thoughts on “Priorities: When "Shiny Object" Crashes into Bandwidth”

  1. SOS! I’m going to have to use that the next time someone asks me a tech question. Do we need it or is it Shiny Object Syndrome?

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