Written in 1999, the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto could only guess what the internet would evolve into by 2015. Originally written as a warning to businesses that if they did not adapt to the opportunities that the internet delivered, then they would cease to exist. MSN and AOL were fledgling websites, Google had only been around for 1 year and instant messenger was still in development when the manifesto was published.
Christopher Locke, David Searls, David Weinberger, and Rick Levine are the brains behind the phenomenon, but how did their 95 theses get it so right? The theses provide a humorous insight into the way in which businesses need to communicate with their ‘markets’ or face being left behind.
We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal. According to eMarketer there are now 2.18billion people on social networks across the world, a few more than when the Cluetrain Manifesto was written. That means there are even more people involved in the conversations across the world than ever before. The markets have the power, social media is not censored and the companies have no power to censor it. The customer is now as valuable as a reporter from The Wall Street Journal, United Breaks Guitars is a prime example of this. The airline was seen throwing guitar cases which broke the guitars, the passengers made a song ridiculing the airline. The video went viral and currently has 14,729,823 views.
As though the authors knew that something like social media was coming, they said that companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships. Web 2.0 saw the introduction of the interactive conversations between businesses and their consumers. The businesses officially ‘came down from their Ivory Towers’ and struck up the conversation, we now have a direct link to the multi-nationals and the small firms that we did not have before.
You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe. With most businesses utilising social media whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, or something else entirely, the issue of missed emails or ‘busy tones’ are no longer problems that we have no choice but to accept . There is now a job role specifically aimed at conversing with the customer. Whether they are a ‘Social Media Manager’ or a ‘Digital Marketing Specialist’, there is someone there to act as the face of the business with which the customer can have a conversation.
One theses in particular that stands out to me is thesis 74; We are immune to advertising. Just forget it. In the digital age we now have the ability to skip adverts completely, they are now further in the background than they were in 1999. Social media has been adapted as an alternative way for businesses to get their brands known. Platforms such as Instagram have been utilised by companies to promote their products in different ways, hash tags have been created and targeted posts are all over our Facebook pages – a more subtle promotional approach. All of which are open to responses and thrive on engagement.
If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change. It is not enough to simply create posts that are relevant to a brand. They must be relevant to the markets. Engagement will not occur if the content is dull. When constructing a press release, we are taught that the story must be news worthy, the same theory applies with social media content but in this sense the content must be market worthy. PR practitioners know that endless posts full of company branding is of no interest to the consumer, the manifesto pre-warned this back in 1999 and the best practitioners know this.
The Cluetrain Manifesto’s 95 theses are basic handbook of modern day social media. Predicting the impact that the internet would have on businesses has provided a basis that can be applied to our use of social media and the relation it has to our markets.
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eMarketer (2013). Social Networking Reaches One In Four Around The World. [Online]. [Accessed 29/03/2015]. Available from: http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Social-Networking-Reaches-Nearly-One-Four-Around-World/1009976.
Lock, C. Searls, D. Weinberger, D. Levine, R (1999). The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual. [Online]. [Accessed 29/03/2015]. Available from: http://www.cluetrain.com/book/95-theses.html.