The 5 Cogs in the Online Machine: Being Available, Lucky, Rich, Smart, and Visionary
A Snippet of Web History
According to the website of the first-ever web server:
“1990 was a momentous year in world events. In February, Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison. In April, the space shuttle Discovery carried the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. And in October, Germany was reunified. Then at the end of 1990, a revolution took place that changed the way we live today.”
Without much fanfare, the Web was born in May, 1990.
My Web History
I have been doing this for an extraordinarily long time — more than 21 years — which is a stretch considering that Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web only 22 years ago. My first website went live in May 1991, exactly one year after Berners-Lee coined the name World Wide Web. In that same year, the High Performance Computing Act, authored by then-Senator Gore, was signed into law and the Quantum Computer Services company changed its name to America Online, Inc. The rest, as they say, was history.
In my two decades online I have welcomed my share of victories and suffered through occasional defeats, plus I have associated with many remarkable individuals along the way.
Some were lucky and a few were rich. A smaller number were smart, and an even smaller number turned out to be true visionaries. Despite their disimilarities, I can truthfully say that I learned from all of them.
They were all cogs in the same online machine, grinding away in hopes of finding a modicum of success or a lifetime of meaning.
The 5 Cogs
Looking back over my web history and the years of corporate experience before then, I have the unique perspective of a seasoned marketing executive charting absolutely new territory. I was a Senior Officer at AIG before Mark Zuckerberg was a glimmer in his parent’s eyes and had a successful web business with a hundred web clients before he was seven. I have written 190 articles on this blog and welcomed over 81,000 Twitter followers to my little piece of the online world. Recently, I was delighted to publish my first book, “Trajectory: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Successful Business with Twitter.” and plan to start my next book on Google Plus soon. In short, I have had a great time: a delightful experience I owe to all of you.
If you are reading this blog, you certainly have a great deal of web experience yourself, with friends and relatives with similar stories. As men and women who have walked this path together, we have an obligation to share what we’ve learned with others. Perhaps in some small way we can make their travels more productive, even pleasant.
In the increasingly complex social media success machine there are five interconnected cogs. Think of them as five stages — the states of being, if you will — that we all experience as we leave a mark on our chosen profession.
In order of importance, from the least to the most, they are: being available, lucky, rich, smart and visionary.
As a student of social media and as an aficionado of online and offline marketing for decades, I have personally witnessed these stages in myself and others and for a few minutes today I would like to share a few thoughts with you.
The five cogs each have their own story to tell:
- Being Available: The first step toward online success is availability. Despite protests to the contrary, success is not possible until you engage with others. In this respect, the web is not unlike main street. This means a meeting of the minds on an equal footing. Friends and followers, not vendors and vendees. Availability does not mean a sales barrage. You must help others and gain their trust, not simply sell to them.
- Being Lucky: In the early days of the web, luck often was the deciding factor. If Mark Zuckerberg had never met Sean Parker, of Napster fame, for example, would Facebook have become the Leviathan it is today? If Steve Jobs had been given his first job at Hewlett-Packard, despite the fact that he was considered unqualified due the lack of a college degree, would Apple Computer have been born? Being at the right place at the right time has made many a legend, but no longer. Those days are probably over.
- Being Rich: Becoming fabulously wealthy by launching a novel idea was a fairly common event in the days of Yahoo, Google and Microsoft. It’s still possible, but new ideas are much harder to come by in today’s world.
- Being Smart: This is the area where the rubber meets the road today. Finally, after years of magical web ascendancy for the lucky, the mandatory cog in today’s business is pure, unadulterated intellect. It is by looking through new intellectual eyes at previously insoluble problems that wealth is created in the modern world. It is widely misunderstood today, but truly smart businessmen and businesswomen are still in fairly short supply. Take for example the simple concept of how to make money on the web. Solved problem? Not really. Despite the fact that in a recent Ad Age/Citigroup Facebook Survey, 98.1% of advertisers said that this year they were either going to continue their Facebook marketing budgets at the same level or increase them, only 12.2% believed that Facebook ads were very useful in driving purchase decisions. The surprising reality is that we still don’t know how to make money online. This may sound disconcerting, but it really isn’t. The good news is that seasoned business people, armed with the common sense achieved through years of offline success, can become hugely successful online through smarts and creative thought. My advice to the modern online entrepreneur? Spend a little of every day simply thinking. Expand your web knowledge in every way possible — and then painstakingly apply that knowledge.
- Being Visionary: The final cog in the online business machine — and the one we should all be shooting for — is to be visionary. Steve Jobs is gone — may he rest in much-deserved peace — but the future is still available for those of us who wish to think beyond the commonplace or practical. Strive to better mankind by expanding the vision God gave you, and the success and accomplishment you desire will appear.
If you found this post useful, you will love my eGuide — Trajectory: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Successful Business with Twitter