It Pays to Be Mistrustful. Here's Why.
Assume that 99 percent of what you hear is BS. You'll thank me later.
Facebook ads are dead.
This was news to me since I was running (and still do run) a successful digital marketing agency that generates millions of dollars in revenue for our clients. Much of that revenue flows from — you guessed it — Facebook ads.
But there I was at a networking event, losing a prospective client (or maybe a student). Because he had heard in a pre-recorded webinar that Facebook ads are dead. This whole time I've been in the mortuary business and didn't even know it. So my currently-operating seven-figure business was completely unviable. What a shame. By the way, the backward-hat guru who ran that webinar was pitching a how-to course on YouTube ads. And I think I attended a keynote speech a while back entitled Webinars are Dead.
It was a reminder (assuming I needed one) of a principle that has stood me in good stead — all information is wrong until proven right beyond a shadow of a doubt. Forget innocent until proven guilty. That's for criminal trials. In your day-to-day life, the rule of thumb should be wrong until proven right. The burden of proof is always on the person talking to you. Prove I'm wrong is a non-answer. If they don't come with an obnoxious cascade of evidence, assume that they are full of it.
Why it pays to be mistrustful
When you assume everyone is wrong until proven right, it has two beneficial effects:
- It drowns out the noise: If everyone is presumed wrong until proven right, you have permission to ignore almost everyone. The naysayers in your family, the talking heads on the news, the backward-hat gurus choking up your Facebook feed. You can tune them all out. Why wouldn't you? 99 percent of them are wrong anyway.
- You can focus on what works: A mistrustful attitude is penicillin for shiny-object syndrome. If everyone has to show their work before they earn your attention, you can stop getting sidetracked by the grass-is-greener syndrome. And then focus on what is working.
Imagine if I took Mr. Facebook Naysayer at his word. Imagine if I said, Oh my God! I'm wasting my life and wasting my clients' money! I should jump ship and pivot to TikTok! Or YouTube! Or Crypto!
I would be walking away from a seven-figure business. Some yahoo on a webinar is proof of absolutely nothing. Our bottom line is proof that, yes, Facebook ads still do work. Maybe it's no longer low-hanging fruit. Maybe you can't throw up a slipshod ad and make a million dollars selling a garbage product. If that's what you mean by Facebook ads are dead, then you're right, and I'm glad.
Think about it. If Facebook ads worked for no one, people would stop buying them, which means less revenue for Facebook. Do you really think Zuck is going to kneecap himself like that? Facebook ads are tried and true. They will work for a long time. But, it has become a specialized skill to make them work. That leaves room for people like me, who have been playing with FB ads from the beginning. Watching them evolve, and understanding how to make them work. I offer value for clients who don't want to have to figure out FB ads for themselves — value they will gladly pay for.
Why I don't do TikTok
I was on a podcast a while back. The host asked me, What do you see as the future of social media marketing? What role is TikTok going to play in this industry? I got to give every podcast host's favorite answer, and my favorite as well, I have no idea. My expertise is embarrassingly provincial. I do Facebook and Google (including YouTube) ads. I do them very well. I do them so well that my agency crossed seven figures in sales when I had only a handful of clients.
Now ask yourself, why would I disrupt a business like that by chasing after some shiny new thing? With Facebook and Google ads, it's like I have the cheat code to hack a slot machine. I can mash on that button all day, and money will keep pouring out.
With TikTok? I don't have those cheat codes. I don't think anyone does. It's too new. Yes, I realize that some people have become million-dollar viral sensations through TikTok. But I see those as flukes — the rookie who hit a grand-slam home run. There's no repeatable formula for success there that I can follow.
Does that mean I will never fold TikTok marketing into my agency? Never say never. But I'm going to let someone else find that cheat code. I'm having too much fun killing it with Facebook and Google ads. If someone else blazes the trail for repeatable TikTok dominance, I'll just buy the secrets from them. But imagine I bought into the hype and abandoned my company in some Indiana Jones-esque quest to dominate TikTok. I would probably end up crushed under that big rolling rock.
Right now, TikTok is like a powerful snake, writhing in the grass and everyone is trying to grab hold of it. Here's what I've learned about trying to catch a writhing python with your bare hands. Don't.
So how do I know if someone is right?
Do you have any idea how many financial advisors live paycheck-to-paycheck? Think about that. When you look at most financial advisors' books, they're a mess. They aren't invested in any of the products they pitch. They're glorified salesmen.
In contrast, look at major hedge funds. What are they invested in? These diversified portfolios pitched by every newly-minted financial advisor? No, they typically hold three to five stocks at any given time. Billions of dollars are bet on three-to-five stocks.
So why do they outperform indices? Because they don't listen to the noise. They assume nearly all the information they hear is wrong, and they focus on what they can verify. It doesn't happen often, but when they unearth some good information, they go all-in with it. Good information is rarer than platinum.
Incidentally, hedge funds usually have company funds invested in those stocks, not just investor funds. Say what you will about them — they have skin in their own game. So which financial advisor do you trust? The one who does invest in what he sells. The one with skin in the game.
My students all know that I practice what I preach. I'm not teaching them Facebook and Google ads because I think it's a good racket. I make the bulk of my income doing this stuff. I'm not afraid to show my receipts.
When you accept that nearly everyone is wrong, life gets much easier.
You can tune out the news and approximately 100 percent of your social feeds, which makes you productive. You can stop chasing shiny objects and instead trust your gut, or better yet, your eyes.
You can reconnect with that all-too-rare asset in the Misinformation Age — common sense — and follow beaten paths straight to the bank.
Best of all, you can tune out the noise and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Sunset over the mountains, a delicious meal and a glass of fine wine, listening to beautiful music as you hike on the beach, quality time with your loved ones and your pets. There's no faking that.
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