It’s taken me a few days to come up with the angle here. I read this Business Insider post on Klout—Klout and startup adolescence—and I knew there was a good post in there (beyond saying “oh Klout is terrible” or “how we need Klout more than ever”), I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then it hit me: when a startup slides out of the spotlight is when it can start becoming really interesting.
Klout really took it on the chin early on. The example of Justin Bieber had a better Klout score than Barak Obama (as cited in the post) is just one of the tempests in a teacup Klout had to deal with. Me? Yeah I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Klout. Of course I think I should have a higher Klout score than I do, but the fact is that when I spend more time on social media, my score goes up and when I don’t it goes down. Funny that. However, this post isn’t about Klout, it’s about startups in general. Having been a part of my share of startups, I can tell you sometimes publicity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When the spotlight is cast on you, then suddenly everyone is trying to define you. Everyone is trying to put you in a box they can understand. Boxes are great for presents and shipping things, not so much for interesting ideas.
What I’ve noticed is, however, and HootSuite comes to mind here, is that once the spotlight moves away from you is when you can really start doing interesting things. HootSuite pops in and out of the spotlight on a regular basis, but it’s between those times that it focuses on building really interesting things (like more and more apps that you can connect with your HootSuite profile—hence HootSuite Isn’t a Social Media Dashboard). Wunderlist bounded onto the scene (and I still love it for its simple task manager interface) and then with much hoopla and fanfare came out with a Project Management app. That didn’t turn out so well. No matter, they closed ranks, rolled up their sleeves, and… Wunderlist Pro was born. Out of the spotlight and into interesting.
Why is this? Well, it’s pretty much that being in the spotlight is distracting. I can’t type accurately when people are watching me. So, if your startup and every decision, tweet, or update you make are being analyzed by the world, a little second guessing is normal, heck, probably even wise. Second guessing, though, means things take extra time to finish. If it has to be perfect for launch, then…
You see where this is heading. Once the crowd is looking the other way you can pull the magic out of your hat. Heck if instead of a rabbit you pull out an iguana (oops) you might even be able to shove it back into the hat before someone notices. Not every startup will get the chance to be obscure again, but many do. So if your startup isn’t the hot topic any longer, don’t worry now you can focus on more important things…like being awesome and interesting.