If you believe the "I make $50,000 a day online!" advertisements and spam e-mails touting the "Millionaire's Secrets to E-Trading," then the Internet is one big gold mine just waiting for a shovel. Or someone has a gorgeous suspension bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
It's true that a few visionary -- and lucky -- entrepreneurs cashed in big when venture capitalists and large brick-and-mortar companies funneled billions into their fledgling tech startups during the dot-com boom years. Huge flops like Webvan, eToys and Pets.com made news, but the memory of these flameouts would fade with time [source: German].
From a business perspective, it's still tempting to think of the Internet as a magic bullet for increasing sales on any existing product or service. After all, if millions of people are online, then you must have a huge customer base. Then again, you may not.
Effective online marketing is a tricky business. It requires savvy search engine optimization, complicated online advertising models and sometimes even expensive offline commercials. The sad thing is that even if you can convince millions of people to visit your site, there's no guarantee that they're going to buy anything [source: Borrego].
There's no formula designed to ensure online business success. On fact, most online businesses succeed or fail by the same principles as offline businesses. The quality of the product or service is the most important of all, followed by your ability to forge and maintain excellent relationships with employees, business partners and customers [source: Holloway].
For more information about the Internet and social networking, take a look at the links on the next page.