Nobody in the railroad industry knew who Orville and Wilbur Wright were either


I was talking with a colleague of mine this morning about how Social Media is taking shape and changing the world, and that it would be good for people in business to know who the movers and shakers are. People like Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Danny Brown, David Armano, Robert Scoble, Hugh Macleod, Shannon Paul, Cali Lewis, Karina Stenquist and a few others. You know who you are.

And his response was: “I talk to my clients and they don’t know who any of these people are and they don’t really care. These people are all just social media/blog people who really don’t have any impact on the real business for these companies.”

And one respect, he is absolutely correct. Many of the social media experts are consultants, authors, theorists and people who really don’t have P/L responsibilities at the Fortune 100/500 level.


In 1914, nobody in the railroad industry knew who Orville and Wilbur Wright were and even if they did, they would dismiss them as a couple of nut job bicycle shop hacks from Dayton, Ohio.

In 1876, nobody in the telegraph industry really cared what some speech professor and part-time mad scientist named Alexander Graham Bell was doing with his goofy electrocution equipment.

In 1908, nobody in the buggy whip, horse carriage or saddle industries really cared what some farm-boy turned engineer named Henry Ford thought about personal transportation.

And in 2009, few people know who Rufus is and why an itty bitty blog named DogWalkBlog is of any cultural significance whatsoever. (Hey, it’s my blog and if I want to plug myself with greats like Ford, Bell and the Wright Bros, I can.)

Just because you are not a captain of your industry doesn’t mean you can’t change it dramatically. I have no idea if any of these folks sitting around blogging in their underwear are going to change the way retail or marketing or advertising or publishing does business, but I’d sure as heck have at least one sideward glance in their direction.

4 Replies to “Nobody in the railroad industry knew who Orville and Wilbur Wright were either”

  1. Great concept – I never really thought about this (esp being from Dayton)…however, I think Social Media has more of an impact than people realize. It can show in the stock market vs. twitter/FB/digg/etc

  2. “Mover and shaker”, huh? Well thank you – can I be a shaker? 😉

    Not surprising that your coleeague (and his clients) don’t know (or care) abour certain names and people. Let’s face it, most of these names (and I’m looking at the big ones more than a little guy like me) aren’t known ANYWHERE outside the usual places.

    Yet I also look at it this way – if they are, or you hear more about a person than the businesses they’re helping, then they’re not doing their job properly.

    I’d rather be known as the anonymous person that helped change a company’s approach to business and turned them into a success, than be known as “Hey, there’s Danny Brown – great social media and marketing chops!” (and I’m not inferring this is how I should be seen, either).

    Do the work, make your clients a success and you’ll get recognized (if that’s your aim). Otherwise what are you really doing?

    PS – Some of us do actually help the top companies as well, even “just bloggers” can help define the Fortune 100 (and higher) businesses…. 😉

    Nice post, and love the analogy!

  3. @danny If you live in Dayton, everything is about the Wright Brothers eventually 🙂 I say this a bit tongue in cheek, but this town is a “duct-tape-fix-it-up-make-it-work” kinda culture and on our way to fix one thing, we discover quite another. Not everyone is who they appear to be. In Dayton, the janitor is more likely to be smarter than the CEO.

    Thank you for your comments. And you can be a shaker, but keep it down to a respectable, Midwest-modest shake 🙂

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