Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Writing on the Cluetrain Wall

"Most corporations only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies"

Are you and your brand taking part in the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in?

Yesterday, TSB offered a taste of "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and what four smart guys predicted a decade ago.

The quizzical quartet peered into their collective crystal balls in 1999 and revealed how the Internet would allow customers and employees to become more hyperlinked than the companies that either serve or employ them. Their 95 Theses detailed how sterile, corporate happytalk would ultimately prove to be less than formidable as a firewall to prevent smart employees and customers from sharing stories and shifting balances of power.

Ten years later, many organizations are now feeling intense pain from the shift to this new kind of conversation. And much of the discomfort results from being unaware of key elements of "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and the way a 20th century focus on selling commodities and services has been replaced by a new focus on conversations.

If you haven’t read "The Cluetrain Manifesto" – take a look. Or re-read it in 2009 with a new lens. With thanks to Cluetrain authors Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, here is a sampling of the 95 Theses that marked the end of business as we know it:

#6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

#7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

#12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

#15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized "voice" of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

#16. Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.

#23. Companies attempting to "position" themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.

#24. Bombastic boasts—"We are positioned to become the preeminent provider of XYZ"—do not constitute a position.

#34. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.

#49. Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.

#53. There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market.

#62. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.

#75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.

#89. We have real power and we know it. If you don't quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that's more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.

#93. We're both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they're really just an annoyance. We know they're coming down. We're going to work from both sides to take them down.

#95. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.

And if that's not enough, here is a quick video summary of what "The Cluetrain Manifesto" is trying to tell you.

Just as GM mistook Hondas, Toyotas and Volkswagens for passing fads, most big corporations and even small businesses have misread what the 21st Century Digital Economy is offering.

But, the "clues" are everywhere.

The Internet clock is ticking faster than ever.

Small business has speed on its side.

Do you see a problem here?

Or an opportunity?

"The main thing for me was the net was not well understood. One of the major messages was that “we” weren’t seats or eyeballs. "We" were ordinary folks, people who loved and used the net, not necessarily customers who would support IPO valuations. The stock market crashed helped correct some of this mystique. And now we’re dealing with a new “us” – a world where the net is everywhere, on phones, accessible all over the world"


No comments: