Friday, July 18, 2008

The Cluetrain Manifesto: Should Anarchy Replace Structured Communications

First published online and then as a book, The Cluetrain Manifesto (see their website) was an apocalyptic warning. Things were unraveling. Systems were broken. The Internet unleashed long-term trends that would assert themselves.

“Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.”

Many acted. Microsoft and IBM both have employees talking directly to customers. In fact, Joe Cox reports (see Microsoft Watch) that Microsoft has over 5,000 employee blogs and quite often Microsoft makes major product announcements only on these blogs, not incorporating one or another of its marketing agencies.

How effective are the differnet implementations of the Cluetrain Manifesto?

John Cass is a marketer and a researcher at Forrester and has made a startling finding (see his blog ). Dell and Macromedia use a dedicated approach, and control communications that uses Social Media rather than take the wide-open approach of IBM or Microsoft. Dell and Macromedia are doing quite well with such an approach. Cass notes that

“Macromedia and Dell empowered employees with resources, while IBM and Microsoft give only verbal encouragement without the backing of cash and resources. There may not be a difference in strategy between the dedicated approach and the cluetrain manifesto, just in tactics.”

He highlights two of the manifesto theses, 48 and 51:

48. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked marketplace.

51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.

But he concludes that anarchy does not work. While the Cluetrain Manifesto helped focus attention on change that is needed for marketing communications because of the Internet and Social Media tools, "[it] did not provide a really effective road map for how to open up a company.”

Marketing communications is a discipline. By focusing their Social Media efforts on smaller groups capable of effective marketing communications, and providing them with support, Dell and Macromedia have been effective. Microsoft succeeded when it provided the logistics to trained communications professionals like Robert Scoble. Cass says:

“Maybe in the process of encouraging open conversation, companies like Microsoft and IBM have failed to give the training, tools and tactics necessary for success. While, Macromedia and Dell’s focus on a smaller group of dedicated people has produced more results.”

John's book is:


John Cass said...

George, thanks so much for mentioning my post, and discussing the issues surrounding the cluetrain manifesto.

I did want to clarify something however, while I work for Forrester Research I am not a researcher with the company. I am the company's online community manager. So the post on my blog in way represents Forrester research but rather my personal opinion.

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