The Cluetrain is derailed.
Last Spring Adage pronounced that “There is no more social media marketing: just advertising.” The article announced a new era of #NotReallySocialMediaMarketing and went on to proclaim:
“The idealistic end to business as usual, as “The Cluetrain Manifesto” envisioned, never happened. We didn’t reach the finish line. We didn’t even come close. After a promising start — a glimmer of hope — we’re back to business as usual.”
I love Big Brother
My first social media marketing class was Spring 2012. It was a brand new class – there were no syllabi online to crib, so I built the course fresh with the help of my Twitter friends. I proclaimed that “marketers must drop the megaphone – broadcasting or shouting at customers and prospects is dead! We must engage and have a CONVERSATION.” Our group projects were to work with organizations to show them how to have that conversation….
Tomorrow I will face two new sections of my SMM class. I will talk to them about the ominous and omnipotent Facebook algorithm, social media advertising, and sponsored posts. I require them to be Google AdWord certified. For our group projects we will participate in the Google Marketing Challenge and use AdWords to help organizations with their marketing efforts.
Using AdWords is a valuable skill. Translating that skill to the evolving world of paid posts and social media advertising is challenging and interesting. My social media marketing class will continue to be a vital part of digital marketing and the marketing curriculum.
But I really love Cluetrain
I love the original manifesto! I want to believe in “the conversation” and “content marketing.” We should return to the craft model of having a genuine relationship with our customers. We absolutely should stop shouting and drop the megaphone.
“Organic” communication is so much kinder than paid ads. The idea of a “Like Economy” was really cool.
Just two years ago I warned that Zuckerberg was using the algorithm-formerly-known-as-EdgeRank to kill the Like Economy. At the same time Mark Schaefer noted that even without malignant forces such as Zuck and Facebook, content shock would wreck havoc on organic marketing strategies as audiences were buried in a deluge of information.
Organizations: learn the ins and outs of online and social advertising. A conversation sounds civilized, but you have to reach your audience.
Wishing doesn’t make it so… The Cluetrain is off the tracks!
I loved The Cluetrain Manifesto in 2001 and I still re-read it from time to time. For me it is a collection of stories written by four guys who don’t give a sh*t about what one ought to do – and how could I not relate not it. The first chapter is just … art! ‘The scary part is over now’ etc.!
Actually, since I do something that might be called ‘social marketing marketing’ I can just say they were right. We are running a German ‘business blog’ about our heat pump system and related stuff (plus weird stories, search term poetry) that has often been considered a private fun blog. In addition, we do disclose lots of technical details on that blog – more like an open source initiative run by DIY enthusiasts than a company reluctant to disclose their know-how.
I am a techie and a geek and I admit don’t like marketing, ads, and selling. But I have always had some creative streak and I have enjoyed to experiment with weird content on private websites since 15 years, and I did not care about ‘reputation’. My favorite story: New enterprise customer, project kick-off, new colleagues from various respected IT companies. One of them seems to have read my stuff and greets me officially as ‘You are The Subversive Element, aren’t you?’. So I can relate to the authors of cluetrain personally on so many levels, I don’t know where to start.
We started our blog more out of creative necessity and the need to communicate our research results in a special non-dull way, maybe also rehearsing for talking to inquiring clients, rather than for ‘pro-active marketing’.
But it turned it was right in a way I could not imagine: That blog serves as the perfect filter for our target group – people I did not know they even existed: Tech-savvy home owners who share our sense of humour and our DIY mindset. Clients’ typical first feedback is that they have never seen a website both so informational and entertaining. I am also sure that we ‘deflect’ prospects who search for a more conventional engineering consultancy.
So it became true what I considered our special inside joke: Planning heat pump systems the way we worked in enterprise IT projects – as most of our clients live 100s of kilometers away and find us via search engines (not via social shares). A crazy idea I for sure have never planned to ‘achieve through social media marketing’. We have hardly any comments and likes on the blog, as our clients are typically not very active on social media. People read for months until they call or shoot an e-mail. So we are only broadcasting in a way 🙂 In the old days, as an IT consultant, I did not do marketing as people who knew me endorsed me. Now people get to know me by reading the blog.
But it does only ‘work’ – and I think this is true for the whole ‘Cluetrain concept’ – if you enjoy the story-telling and fun aspect so much that you would do it even if it would have no impact at all. I had considered the blog a fun outlet while doing the real work. The Cluetrain authors have been that sort of people, I think, and maybe this mindset cannot be implanted in professionals who strategize about how to win customers by disguising their marketing messages as a viral story, or social media managers who are in duty to tweet all the day and search for appropriate sound-bites. If I personally start to feel that social media became like a marketing assignment in the slightest, I stop sharing immediately and take a break.
I guess such Cluetrain-like story-telling marketers have always existed, and perhaps they always have been in the minority. So maybe they have been wrong in thinking that Cluetrain may ‘surge’, because it always has been a niche.
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Great comment! I am trying to think how to port it over to the LinkedIn post so readers there can see it also. (I think I will repost on LinkedIn more often and experiment with doing it on FB also. I suppose if Twitter goes to 10K characters I could repost on all 3!)
I also love Cluetrain. My half finished SMM textbook introduces each chapter with a quote from the manefesto.
I started off with the bad news and will follow with a couple posts showing all is not lost… But my worldview has shifted since I launched my course only 3 years ago!
Thanks for being a loyal reader and brilliant responder!
Thanks, Gary! I have also thought about turning the response into a blog post after I realized who long it was 🙂 I’ll try to respond with a short version of that on LinkedIn – I assume I will hit the limit otherwise.
Now I had to re-read my first post on The Cluetrain Manifesto, from more than three years ago. At that time I was still coping will my time in the corporate world (lacking my experience in a completely different market), and my outlook was more balanced, or negative … and more similar to your post. But after all, the post was just some pretext to curate all my favorite quotations 🙂