We all know the old adage about success being defined by who you know, not what you know, but in the online world I think it is completely different. Well not completely different, but there can be an addendum to it that will read:
It is not what you know, but who you know and if you don’t know anyone then it becomes how you make yourself look.
In the online space you can talk about anything and make yourself look like a genius. For the first 2 years of this site I wrote posts that deemed me an expert in design by many (dead serious), but all I really did was give my opinion. How many other “experts” are out there solely based on their writings and not their actions? VCs probably head the top of this bunch because they have money and for some reason being rich (many times attributed to luck) also means being knowledgeable in how to make more money or what kind of business you need to run to become rich.
We were once told by a VC (well-known guy) that if we didn’t plan on making $100M in revenue a year then there was no point in talking to anyone. Fair enough, the guy has experience and is well-known so obviously he knows what he is talking about. But then one day I got to thinking on why I even thought that way. Was it because of his blog? Was it because of a book he wrote? What had this person actually done that made me believe that he was the end-all, be-all of VC knowledge and business?
Looking at his VC firm and what they have invested in and started I couldn’t find one successful startup in the bunch, but people run to this guy for advice. Amazing. That’s when I realized that in this online world you can position yourself as anybody you want to depending on how you present yourself. That’s how Michael Arrington can turn into the guru of Web 2.0 and Seth Godin is not only perceived as a genius at marketing, but business in general.
The thing is there are so many different places online that people can find out about us that depending on where they go they will form an opinion of you. If you only know me through here then you get one opinion of me which might contradict what you see from my social networking profiles that have me hanging out with girls and relaxing in a club.
So although you want to say that you have to be true to yourself and you should be able to portray yourself any way you want, you also must realize that you control many times how others perceive you and if you are okay with that then good. If not, there is a reason for it. However, don’t always believe what others are saying just because and don’t think someone knows what they are talking about simply because they published a book.