Everyone knows that to be successful, you need an online presence. Taco Bell certainly knows it. Be Young and Shut Up knows it. Of course, we’re solely on the internet, but the point is, it’s understood that your name and brand needs reach. You have to exploit social media, connect with audiences (or employers/clients). And when you get to the top, people make videos extolling your virtues! You’re interviewed on the radio! You have press releases! You have a frosted glass plaque on your desk at home, with the text of your first press release laser-cut into it! Right? That’s what success is, right?
Well, that’s what a lot of people seem to think. This is the members list of Worldwide Who’s Who, a “personal branding and network organization.” It’s one of many “who’s who” scams on the internet, though it’s notable for a couple reasons. First, it’s part of a huge network of who’s who scams run by a fairly stable crew, and second, it actually does put on a show of promoting its members and getting their name out there, which results in some really strange internet artifacts.
One of the higher-budget videos produced for a member:
Who’s who scams have been around for a while now. The general aim is to collect information and extract service charges from the people they contact. Generally, they call people of any note and offer them the opportunity to be included in a directory of Important Successful People. There are legitimate directories of this type, and it does sound like something that a big important person such as yourself would be in. So, sadly, it’s not surprising that people are taken in. They’re placed in a directory that doesn’t mean anything and perhaps feel they’ve made an investment that will pay off later.
Worldwide Who’s Who goes above and beyond. They do cold calls through phonebanks (one of the main employment opportunities at the company) and contact through LinkedIn, offering a place in their directory, as who’s who scams do (they also sweeten the pot with free plane tickets, which either never arrive or are tied to expensive hotel packages). But WWWW offers much more than just that.
“Worldwide Who’s Who can help you stand out from the crowd. By taking advantage of our exclusive suite of personal branding and networking services, members are able to identify, develop and promote their personal brands, which can yield powerful opportunities for professional growth, and increase their exposure.”
-Worldwide Who’s Who’s “Member Benefits” list
This is the WWWW-produced website of client Linda Kranich (apologies, Linda). Personal sites are only part of WWWW’s online exposure suite. Other avenues for promotion, such as Pinterest, Twitter, blog sites, and Youtube videos, are also well-traveled by WWWW, and they offer such services to paying members. There are members with astonishing numbers of sites, presumably all put together by the who’s who business, all bland, bare sites that just make you want to leave them. Incidentally, this is the website of WWWW’s CEO, Randy Narod. Narod’s site obviously has more work put into it, but it’s pretty much identical to Linda’s. At least he trusts his own product?
The videos posted to Youtube are, at best, stilted and alienating. At worst, and on average, they’re PowerPoint presentations with music.
If you look at these videos on Youtube, you’ll notice that they each have an average of 10 views. You’ll also notice that WWWW dutifully posts each one on Google+, just so clients know they’re doing their utmost. WWWW’s other efforts at social media are similarly barren and depressing.
WWWW has a smattering of complaints on Ripoff Report, some of which include some interesting information. There’s the accusation that the two founders of the company were barred from stock trading, for paying someone to take their Series 7 exams for them. There’s the stories of plane ticket shenanigans. And finally, the revelation that Worldwide Who’s Who is simply the latest incarnation of a number of Who’s Who scams run by the same people.
These companies (if you would like to call them that) prey on people who don’t know how the internet works. It would seem also that their targets don’t even know how success works. As part of their suite of professional services, WWWW gives clients the opportunity to be interviewed on Elite Radio Network. Guess who owns Elite Radio Network? You only get one guess. I’m just going to tell you; Worldwide Who’s Who runs Elite Radio Network. I am not a member, and as such I don’t know how you qualify for a radio interview, but even if it’s something they pick you out for, you’re still paying them however much they convinced you to pay, to give an interview that nobody will ever listen to (click here to throw them a bone and listen to one; not because it’s interesting, but how crazy is it that they bothered to actually make a fake radio show??).
As I alluded to, WWWW also offers parodical incentives such as certificates, wall plaques, special titles (like, they’ll call you a special thing on their website), and, my favorite, the desk tribute.
“Engraved on a beveled glass or rosewood plaque, the desk tribute features the member’s press release, which can be displayed to increase credibility and serve as a conversation piece.”
Kind of like how an entrepreneur might frame the first dime they made, but you can’t even tell the story of how you got it without cruel laughter.
Run a Google search for some of these clients, and you’ll get a lot of results. Just, you know, not ones that are impressive or attractive to anyone. Garbage websites that read like subpar resumes. Baffling Youtube videos that read the same. Passing mentions of the client and rehashes of the same press release over and over on various outside sites, all clearly from the same source: Worldwide Who’s Who. It’s a weird cargo-cult mentality that Worldwide’s clients have, where just being interviewed by someone, even someone they paid for, seeing their name and the word “professional” on a website people might actually go to, is enough to keep paying for the service.
Some of the people in Worldwide’s directory are successful, and good for them! Fact is, that’s not Worldwide’s doing. Worldwide’s work is worthless, that’s not exactly a controversial opinion. But they have done so much to convince people that the directory is legit, and that their annual membership fee is worth it, that we’re left with these strange shrines. All they had to do was put people on the list, like a normal who’s who scam. But Worldwide cares. For whatever reason, they want to look and act like a real business. And in doing so, they’ve collected a truly ridiculous pantheon of un-notable people.