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What Mark Zuckerberg Taught Us about Our Readers

What do you not know about Mark Zuckerberg?

Facebook founder. Billionaire boy wonder. And by now, you know he’s the SUCCESS 2010 Achiever of the Year.

When we first began throwing out names of candidates for the award, Zuckerberg’s was right up there. The SUCCESS team along with freelance writer Sally Deneen continued to research and discuss as we strived to come up with a stellar list of nominees.

Even though we would present the nominees to readers for the final vote, we couldn’t help but assess them ourselves: Oprah Winfrey’s move to found her OWN network was gutsy and inspiring; master innovator Steve Jobs had wowed the world again with the iPad; Warren Buffett’s and Bill and Melinda Gates’ brand of philanthropy was bringing attention, money and solutions to the world’s most intractable problems; Chris Anderson’s idea-sparking TED forums were morphing and expanding, bringing even more of the brightest minds in technology, entertainment and design together in public TEDx events worldwide; and then there was Zuckerberg, who had changed the way we connect with each other.

But there was something else about Zuckerberg—a little movie called The Social Network that was starting to generate buzz. The movie was sure to be a blockbuster, but word was that Zuckerberg was cast as an overly ambitious and uncaring villain. Would our readers be turned off?

Which brings me to what you don’t know about Zuckerberg.

OK, here goes: Because of the way he was portrayed in the movie, staff members thought readers wouldn’t buy into Zuckerberg as Achiever of the Year. Not that we thought he was unworthy—but we thought that’s how readers might respond.

But we were wrong. Readers not only went to success.com and voted for Zuckerberg, they told us how Facebook had enabled them to connect and stay in touch with friends and family, to exponentially expand their reach in business and increase the impact of their ideas.

Our readers wouldn’t be influenced by a movie; they’d experienced the Facebook effect themselves. They could filter the negative and discern between fact and fiction.

We underestimated our readers, but we won’t do that again.

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