Today I want to talk to you about the internet and our money, and I want to tell you a true story from my own life. It may sound a little extreme, but it could happen to any of us, and it’s a story of dragon wings and unicorn horns.
This Is What Started Me Thinking
My story starts with a new study that I read on statista.com that says that Americans are now averaging 11 plus hours a day hooked up to and actively using the internet. When we think about the fact that there are some people who have no internet access in the US, it’s kind of mind boggling how much time some of us spend on the internet.
What happens when we’re spending all of that time on the internet?
- We surf
- We Google
- We search
- We follow links
- We Pinterest
- We scroll
- We go from one thing to another
and you know what we’re doing all of that time? We are giving internet marketers a ton of information about us.
They know what we like, what we don’t like, what we click on, what we click away from, when we leave sites, what makes us go to sites. They track all of this data, and it teaches them a whole lot about us.
My story is about two of the animals that we own. If you’ve been listening for very long you probably know that I have two kids with autism, and that we also run a ranch and a record label as well as me doing this. Between having the ranch and the fact that my husband as a child was not able to have any animals, and that my kids love animals, we kind of have a bit of a menagerie.
Because we have the ranch, when Talullah was diagnosed with autism in 2010, we looked into a lot of different kinds of therapies. Pretty much anything that claimed it could provide reasonably scientifically proven results in the positive direction for kids with autism we at least looked at. There was one point where I was looking into equine therapy, and I mean to say nothing against genuinely talented and trained and skilled equine therapists, it was just the person we found – we live in rural Arizona – probably wasn’t a therapist at all.
She had a fantastic course and her horse was awesome with Lu, but the woman was very strange, and when I left there, my takeaway was that the horse was great, the woman was weird and I don’t really want her working with my daughter.
Because we had a ranch, we kind of looked at the cost of equine therapy and driving a long distance to get this, and of statistical evidence of the effectiveness of equine therapy. In the end we decided that what we really wanted to do was find a bomb proof pony and buy it for her, as that would be a lot cheaper than going to some of these not totally reputable people who are claiming to be equine therapists.
Again, nothing against real equine therapists, this was just a very odd situation.
We eventually bought her an Amish pony named Cinnamon, who had a baby named Nutmeg, and she was fantastic, she’s a lovely little pony. So far, so straightforward.
Another animal in our house is a bearded dragon, which is a type of lizard.
My husband called me from the pet store shortly before my oldest daughter’s eighth birthday and told me that he wanted to get her a lizard and bring it home. I said, if you take care of it, sure, we can get it.
So he brought it home, and it wasn’t all that big to start with, but they live for 15 years and they can grow to be two and a half feet long, not counting the tail. So this is a pretty big commitment, to be honest.
While I wasn’t a super fan to begin with, there’s something really zen about a lizard that will just sit on your shoulder and hang on your shirt, and you can walk around doing things during your day. I got to where I would sit and hang out with it for a little bit of each day and just get used to it. At first we called it Mr Salty Salty Pascal, but then after a few months I looked up on the internet how to determine the sex of a bearded dragon and we discovered it’s a Miss Salty Salty Pascal.
As she grew and got too big for the first terrarium and then the second terrarium – she’s now on her third – we realized that she wasn’t getting enough exercise now she’s so big. Pretty much her tail takes up a lot of the space in there, so as she turns around, she has this long train of a tail behind her.
And so we come to the part about what exactly we are telling the internet
This is where the story starts. I started looking online for leashes for lizards. Did you know such a thing existed? Because you can’t really put anything round a lizard’s neck I wanted a harness and a leash for our bearded dragon so we could take it out in the backyard with the dogs penned up, so it could run around in the grass.
I had this joyful image of the giant lizard frolicking in the backyard
In my mind we’d put the leash on so I could walk around with it, the kids could walk around with it, and it wouldn’t get hurt because it had this nice harness on.
I started Googling, I started clicking on links, I went from one thing to another, and I did finally purchase a very small, cute, modest harness with a leash attached. It’s mainly like a bit of rope and a little piece of leather with some leg holes cut in it.
However, because I did all this clicking and searching, for days afterwards I got a crazy amount of not just lizard stuff, but dragon stuff, dungeons and dragons stuff, how to train your dragon stuff. Then it seemed to hone in on the fact it was an actual living bearded dragon, and I started getting these amazing handmade translucent wings for your bearded dragon that attach onto a harness.
The truth is, if I’d seen this before I bought the harness, I might have done it because I think my kids would love it so much. Every now and then it comes back somewhere in a feed of some kind and I click on it. It’s in Etsy, someone makes these, you can find there here. I have it saved because it was such a surprise.
I discovered a whole world of clothing and costumes for your bearded dragon.
So this is what the internet learned about me, that I own a bearded dragon and I’m willing to spend money on accessories.
And Then THIS Happened…
In the midst of this somewhere, I came across a handmade unicorn horn that you can attach onto a bridle for your horse, and like I said, we have a pony, super calm, easy going, a favorite at birthday parties, all the kids ride her, she’s super sweet. My kids would so love to have a unicorn that I had this moment of just picturing the next birthday party. What if I quietly buy this horn and hide it until the next birthday party? When we bring Cinnamon out for the birthday party ride, she has a horn, oh my gosh! Maybe I could spray some glitter in her hair?
So I start going down this fantasy land of like, what would I have loved at my six year old birthday party? I would have loved to have a unicorn that everyone could ride with glitter in its hair.
I’m sure you see where this is going. These are kind of extreme examples, because dragon wings and unicorn horns are not things that most people put on their shopping list, but they ended up in my searches. I will admit that in the end, thanks to the amazing photography on the unicorn horn website of the little girl in rapturous ecstasy when she sees the horse come out with this unicorn horn on, I bought a unicorn horn.
Did I need a unicorn horn? No, I did not (who does?!). It’s going to be a very special thing for a birthday party.
And, That is How it Works
My point is, this is how internet marketers get us to buy things. We click on something, we’re interested, and the day I was looking for the dragon harness and leash, I didn’t have to buy it that day, I was interested and I was curious about the options. I tried using a harness for a hamster and that didn’t work, so I was like, okay, I need something that’s specifically built for a bearded dragon.
What I ended up coming to was these exotic and quite expensive handmade beautiful translucent dragon wings that you could see through to the bone structure in the wings. They had a little hook on the finger part of the wing at the top, so it was basically like bat wings made for the bearded dragon. If your bearded dragon is at the center of your world, then this is awesome.
There are so many outfits, costumes and accessories for the bearded dragons, but even for the horse, again, just buying the basics for a horse gets pretty expensive, not to mention when you start adding on things like custom made unicorn horns.
The nice thing about the horn is that it’s soft and made of fabric, but it has form to it, and the way it attaches is very secure. If the horse shakes its head and does bump somebody, it’s not going to impale them or injure them.
So basically I got suckered into buying a unicorn horn, I’m just going to admit it here.
We ALL do it, Even Me!
On this show I have never held myself up as any kind of financial guru of any kind. Tess Wicks tried to call me that on her show, Words and Money, and I absolutely refused it. I’m facilitating conversations, I’m your comrade at arms, I’m here with you to talk about it, I’m here to talk about mistakes I make as well as things we all do and how we can improve things, so buying a unicorn horn probably was not the wisest purchase of the moment.
I did resist the wings for now, but I may revisit that when she’s a foot bigger!
That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, because when we spend so much time online, and especially time that we spend clicking on things, we’re really allowing people to seduce us into buying these things that we never knew existed before. I now think about these things relatively frequently, both the fact that I bought a unicorn horn, and I haven’t yet bought the dragon wings. How happy would it make the kids? Is that worth the cost? It’s not exorbitantly priced, but it’s handmade, so this is something someone spent some time on.
Even in our regular life, just looking at regular things, think about all the times you’ve clicked on something on Amazon and decide not to get it and go away. Next thing you know in your Facebook feed you’re getting ads for that thing. People are really learning a lot about us with all the time we spend on the internet, so we need to be kind of thoughtful and aware, because online marketers are so slick, and so good at persuasion.
They look at all of these behavioral psychology tactics and what causes people to take certain actions like clicking the ‘buy’ button without going and investigating if there are any better options or prices elsewhere. They really like to hook us in on the emotions, things like the little girl looking up ecstatically at this unicorn with the horn on it, and they’re good at making the buy that we make at the end of our decision making process almost like a kneejerk reaction.
We go through this process, they show us these different things, maybe we don’t buy it the first time, then they show us some more ads, maybe we click to learn more, maybe we join a mailing list here or there, and then we start getting some emails about these things. Slowly, slowly, with each step, the marketers are convincing us of what they want us to do.
And We Can All Use These Techniques
If you are an online business person, this is great to learn from, and I actually totally recommend Bushra Azhar’s Persuasion Revolution. She has a fantastic free group, she also has some paid groups, a membership site and then some courses too, but she really looks at this from a very kind and gentle perspective of, the big guys are already doing this, the man, the corporations, the people who have control of the most money are already using these interesting psychological persuasive techniques.
Why don’t we use them too, but for good?
We can learn how to talk to people in the language that makes them feel the emotions that we want them to feel, in order to get into the mood to buy these things.
Hopefully we do it in terms of things that will actually serve a greater purpose for them, things that will actually help them better their lives, make good decisions, get rid of bad habits, start paying more attention to the things that are most important to them in their lives, those kind of things. It’s important for the people that don’t have these bigger agendas and are honest business people to have some of these skills as well.
That’s the two sides of the coin. One is protect yourself and try to have some awareness of how your time online is affecting people’s ability to sell things to you that you may not want and may not really need, and on the other hand, if you are a small business owner and if you are a freelancer or an entrepreneur, how are these sales funnel tactics and email marketing and pay per click affecting your customers? How are the big corporations – who may or may not be your competition – using these sorts of tools and skills to affect people who may be your customers, who may be able to benefit from service you have?
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I’m doing two episodes now every week, one solo and one interview.
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