Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
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Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products. 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.
A metaphysical construct called "The Company" is the only thing standing between the two. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations.
To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman. Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site.
Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view. Companies attempting to "position" themselves need to take a position.
Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about. Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.
Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets. By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed. Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Your own "downsizing initiatives" taught us to ask the question: "Loyalty?
Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities. But first, they must belong to a community. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market. Human communities are based on discourse — on human speech about human concerns. The community of discourse is the market.
Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.
As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company — and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines. Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right. Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom.
The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation. A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.
While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to "improve" or control these networked conversations. 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.
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. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia. Paranoia kills conversation.
But lack of open conversation kills companies. There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control. As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets.
These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few companies have yet wised up.
However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting. This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.
Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false — and often is. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.
De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you. We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.
We want to talk to customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script. As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other? You seem to be speaking a different language. Your tired notions of "the market" make our eyes glaze over. We like this new marketplace much better.
In fact, we are creating it. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel! We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
People of earth...
A revised and extended version of the text appeared as a book under the title The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual in Technologies listed in the printed publication as conduits of such conversations include email, news groups, mailing lists, chat, and web pages. More recent technologies such as blogs and wikis are not mentioned. The work asserts that the term "cluetrain" stems from an anonymous source speaking about their former corporate employer: "The clue train stopped there four times a day for ten years and they never took delivery.