Ever since word got out in Bellingham about my social media marketing lessons, I have had a deluge of authors asking for my help.  They have varying degrees of skill levels with computers and the Internet, but that all have one complaint: “I have been doing this Internet stuff for a couple of months now and nothing is happening.”

My first response is always to reassure them that this is normal and not necessarily because they are doing something wrong.  Most are also in need of improvement and lessons, but there is one important concept that they need to know to alleviate their worries:

There is no magical switch you can flip to get instant success on the Internet–or in anything for that matter.

There are two perspectives on success. The first is of those who have not yet achieved success; those who see amazing people having astonishing success, seemingly out of nowhere. They had never heard of the person before their success, so obviously it must have been overnight. But these people existed before their success, and they didn’t just trip on success in the drive way one day.  They were working hard at what they do: learning, training, perfecting. From their perspective this thing did not happen overnight.

“It takes 20 years to become an overnight success.” –Eddie Cantor, performer.

“It took 15 years for the rumpled native of Omaha, Nebraska, to be an overnight success.” –Nick Nolte’s Bio.

“Give me a couple of years, and I’ll make that actress an overnight success.” –Samuel Goldwyn, producer.

“I worked half my life to be an overnight success, and still it took me by surprise.” –Jessica Savitch, news reporter.

“I start early, and I stay late, day after day after day, year after year, it took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success.” –Leo Messi, athelete.

“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.” –Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter.

My own current success with teaching social media happened very quickly, but without the years I spent marketing and learning on the Internet I could not do what I am doing now. I was slogging away, earning a few dollars here and there from various Internet Marketing schemes, and earning a modest livable income from an online business which was primarily successful due to positive word of mouth in online circles–to do all that, I was working my butt off.  Now I am enjoying a modest success in a new venture, because all those years of hard work have given me knowledge that other people desire. I am still working my butt off.

When people tell me they do not understand why they have not had huge success after only a few months, I know that my first challenge is to convince them that instantly “going viral” on social media does not really happen out of nothing.  Most successful Internet campaigns that receive “viral” status become so because the person has spent a long time building a platform.

If JohnNobody14 posts the most amazing video to YouTube and then tells 30 people about it, only a fraction of those people will even watch it.  And as much as it amazes them only a fraction will share it.  And only a fraction of those shares will result in people watching….and the fractions often just get smaller.  To really go viral takes “reach” and reach can take years to build.  This is one of the reasons why it is so important to start building your platform before you write your book.

Now let’s take an example of JoeFunny35. He posts an amazing video to YouTube, but he has spent a long time building his platform and extending his reach.  He has spent an entire year posting amazing videos once a week and promoting them to what started as 30 people but has now increased to 300.  This is not the first amazing video these 300 people have seen from JoeFunny35, but it is one of the best ever–they can’t not watch it and share it with everybody. They rave about the video and JoeFunny35 so that the people they share it with cannot help but watch it.  The the 300 people following JoeFunny35, suddenly increases to 3000. Then 6 months later JoeFunny35 puts out another really amazing video that everybody has to share–he logs on to YouTube the morning after posting his video and finds half a million views overnight.  He got those views overnight, but he achieved the success after a year and a half of making videos and promoting them.

Marketing and promoting on the Internet is a cumulative thing, like rolling a snowball down a hill.  If you keep rolling it eventually it will get big enough to start rolling on it’s own. Everybody wants to win the Internet lottery and make it big–and anyone can.  But the only people who will, are the people who do not get discouraged and quit when they don’t get the overnight success they were expecting.