The Cluetrain Manifesto
I do this frequently. In my mind's eye, I watch myself clicking off my intended path, wondering what the draw is, why am I allowing myself to be diverted from my goal.
It's because I enjoy listening to people. They give me windows into their lives, providing substance as a foil to the superficial factual gloss of their day jobs.
I'm seduced into spending time staring at evidence of their humanity, despite my better judgment against such a "waste of time." And then I do it again. And again.
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The fact that Web pages are conversations hasn't sunk in because they look like publications. But they are conversations: expressions of individual voice looking for response.
The Web pages we revisit often have feedback mechanisms and change over time in response to that feedback. Further, they must change visibly, or people won't come back.
We expect change, reaction, reflection of our comments and feedback. This is not just true with respect to personal Web pages.
There's a very strong desire for corporate Web pages to have a human feel — to speak to us in some genuine way. This desire cries out for communication that's less formal, less professional, less anonymous, and more for the people reading than for the company doing the writing.
Hart Scientific, Inc. (www.hartscientific.com) posted a convenient comparison of conversational versus traditional writing on their Web site.
They have two versions of their Y2K compliance page. You can tell them apart:
??Noncompliance issues could arise if Hart Scientific manufactured products are combined with other manufacturer's products.
Hart cannot test all possible system configurations in which Hart manufactured products could be incorporated. Our products currently test as being compliant and will continue to operate correctly after January 1, 2000.
However, customers must test integrated systems to see if components work with Hart Scientific manufactured products. Hart makes no representation or warranty concerning non-Hart manufactured products.??
??If you're using our equipment with someone else's gear, who the hell knows what's going to happen. We sure don't, so how can we promise you something specific, or even vague for that matter? We can't, so we won't.
However, we love our customers and like always we'll do whatever is reasonable to solve whatever problems come up, if there are any.??
We seem to know, intuitively, when something spoken, written, or recorded is sincere and honest — when it comes from another person's heart, rather than being a synthesis of corporatespeak filtered by myriad iterations of editing, trimming, and targeting.
There's an inherent pomposity in much of what passes for corporate communication today. Missing are the voice, humor, and simple sense of worth and honesty that characterize person-to-person conversation.
We survived Y2K, but that's not the biggest challenge we face. The need for honest speech, to ordinary people, hasn't gone away.
Web-savvy consumers are ignoring online brochures. An organization, as presented via the Web, must have a human voice, must stand for something, mean something, want to meet people, and show they're trying to understand those people.
Millions and Millions Served
??How do you scale one-to-one networking to reach thousands and millions of like-minded netizens? Sure, I could do it with a phalanx of smart people reaching out and touching electronically, but then my fledgling company's burn rate would increase faster than I could raise capital.
Where is the balance there? Seems like any mass-produced message (even tailored for a given "market") will be disingenuous to the savvy.
- Jody Lentz, e-mail to cluetrain.com??
Is having conversations with lots of constituents really practical? Yes.
Our conversations are already reaching more customers than we know. People have other means of hearing conversations besides talking to us directly.
They can "eavesdrop" on conversations we have with others by reading other people's e-mail posted to the Web, or by reading posts in newsgroups. The volume of conversation about us we don't participate in directly is almost always greater than the volume we are personally involved in.
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We respond not only to the honesty and integrity of our conversations on the Net but also to those indicators of integrity in other people's conversations. Our choice was never to be in all the conversations, but to be honest and open in those we do engage in.
Companies will survive employees telling their truths, their stories in a business context, without instituting draconian controls on their ability to speak out when and to whom they please.
We listen to individuals differently than we do to organizational speech. When a company publishes PR, it's trying to give us a complete message about who they are and what they do.
We have to decide to trust or distrust the company based on a single statement. Well-written PR leaves us with few avenues for corroboration and second opinions.
It's meant to be self-contained.
On the other hand, when I converse with people inside a company, I hear stories from individuals.
They're all grains of sand, their combined voices richer and more diverse than the univocal speech of corporate mouthpieces. We add up all the anecdotes we hear from individuals.
We have to trust our own averaging, our own summing of stories, our own divining of truth. With more people, more stories in the mix, it's harder for one negative story to sway me.
Again, thanks for the cotenmms. It's becoming more and more evident to me, that the way to build community through social media is to reach out to others who are involved and looking to move forward. Prove that something can work, and you'll have a line of people asking you to help them get involved. On the other hand, if we spend too much time trying to sell social media to the uninterested, the ROI (and I'm not necessarily measuring in dollars) will be small. If we are trying to expand local participation, find ways to reward those who have displayed an interest (feature them on your blog, RT their updates, recommend their business, post links to their blog, etc). If we help our fellow businesses and organizations succeed, they will spread the word and help bring in the next group of participants. Yes, government will get involved at some point but in Pleasantville the attitude seems to be prove to me that it works, and then I might consider signing on. If you find things that yield success in Katonah or Bedford, please share. And thanks for the follower recommendation and link on your previous comment. Both were worthwhile and helpful.
This speaks to the need to have many people in an organization talking to customers. A single "corporate story" is a fiction in a world of free conversation.
Corporate stories, like corporate cultures, are informed by individuals over time through many contacts, conversations, and opportunities to tell stories.
Stories play a large part in the success of organizations.
With stories, we teach, pass along knowledge of our craft to colleagues, and create a sense of shared mission. Will coordinating what a large number of people have to say be a problem? Yes and no.
The problem is not in the effort required to coordinate voices, but in the attitude that assumes speech demands coordination and control. A culture of story-telling, one encouraging the collection and sharing of knowledge in conversation, may need encouragement and example-setting, but it will certainly fail in the face of attempted restraint.
When we were building Sun's first Intel-based workstation, the 386i, we used mock magazine reviews of the product as a way to test ideas for the design of the computer and the software.