— blending the mix

cluetrain manifesto

The faster we grow, the more bogged down I get in the practical stuff. Tactical ideas and implementation, strategy, problem solving, running a business, recruitment…you get the idea. You’re probably no different.

Yet every now and then I always take tie to take stock. What is gabba doing? Why are we doing it? Why are we different? What are our values? How long will the website look like a dogs dinner? You’re probably no different.

But one thing that I always refer back to is The Cluetrain Manifesto, for me, one of the most important and influential pieces of writing about this whole thang. So it is admittedly, more theory than practical but its principles remain true today.

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As we all (should know) The Cluetrain Manifesto is one of the most important pieces of writing to explain why this whole social media circus/bandwagon/phenomenon is so important.

Some people have never heard of it, some are only just discovering but if I could recommend one book – this would be it (although David’s is a pretty good, as is Brian and Geoff’s…).

But, whilst it has been available for free since 1999, and in available in print in all the usual places, it’s 95 theses were always a bit of a bugger to read until now…so, thanks to the tecorporation and SODB, we have the 95 Cluetrain Theses in easily consumable Slideshare format.




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cluetrain manifesto cover I see a lot of people talking about getting “it” and by “it”, they are referring to The Cluetrain Manifesto without being so explicit as to mention it by name. I see how fundamentally it has changed many modern marketeer’s perceptions of where their late 2000’s marketing activity now needs to be – or rather where their market allows it to be.

The book really did change the way I thought. I suppose, like The Blue Monster, I wanted to change the way people saw my products and the business I represented – but perhaps more importantly, how I interacted with those customers. (nb, This was 2006 and I was running my own online bathroom store www.bighippo.co.uk)

With a conventional direct marketing background I was intrigued by the ideas the book threw at me and the opportunities that social media presents in creating this “new” two-way relationship.

Back to the present day, many millions of blogs now deal with this pr and marketing front line – the next great idea and keeping their readers up to date with everything new but my experience over the last year has shown that

But in my experience of dealing with a wide range of people (clients, colleagues and other “social media luvvies”) it is obvious that there is a genuine need for people to understand WHY they need to engage with social media and to understand the fundamental shift in power from brand to customer.

So…below lies the first in a series (regular series!) which puts a personal interpretation of the 95 Cluetrain Manifesto theses which I hope help bridge the gap between olde worlde marketing and new thinking. helps achieve this. I have also added small footnotes below each item to try to put a more practical angle on each point.

In the true spirit of the new world, feel free to chip in and contribute and I hope to meet many new friends – I am at paul dot fabretti at gmail dot com or @paulfabretti (you know where!).

1) Markets are conversations: Try not to think of talking to your market as a one-way street, or a “them and us” situation. Think “market stall” mentality and you are on your way there. Customers can tell you as much useful stuff as you can tell them, so give them the chance to speak to you.

√ – Think taxi driver. Exchange of a service for money but it is civil, human and more importantly interactive.

2) Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors: Demographics are numbers and diagrams. They are devoid of feeling, circumstance, family situation – devoid of emotion. Don’t go any further until you realise that no demographic analysis can give you insight into human emotion – and buying is an emotional process.

√ – Think of what you FELT when you last bought a major purchase. Demographics can’t show feelings – humans can.

3) Conversations among human beings SOUND human. They are conducted in a human voice: “to whom it may concern”, “in respect of” and terms like “vis a vis” and “hithertofore” are just a few examples of corporate speak that makes people either frown or turn people off. Speak to people the way in which you would like to be spoken to.

√ – Write something then read it out. Does it sound like something you would say? If you have to pause when reading, it isn’t right for you. Alternatively, say out loud what it is you want to write and notice how smoothly it flows or even record yourself saying what you want to write. The most constructive criticism sometimes comes from hearing your own voice!

4) Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humourous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived: Use as many short words as possible, just like you would when you talk – it makes content short, punchy and to the point. Using words like “therefore”, “in retrospect” for example are what I call “padders” – they are there wimply to fill in space until we make your point! Kept it short and sweet and you’ll get to your point quicker!

√ – Listen to politicians answer questions – and do exactly opposite. Find ways to make their answer shorter and get to the point quicker.

5) People recognise each other as such from the sound of this voice: in writing and speaking in the human voice, people will readily indentify that there is another human being on the other side – and will engage more with what you have said. Whether you use txt spk or a familiar tone of voice, it is proof that there is a human being behind the message NOT a corporation.

√ – Show a few posts or messages to non-customers, friends (and family) who have nothing to do with your business. If they can understand what it is you are trying to say (because of the way it is written) – you can be pretty sure your customer will too.

6) The internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media: email, IM, forums, tangler, wiki’s, blogs all enable people to communicate quicker than ever before. Furthermore, with no geographical boundaries stopping the worldwide communication of messages we really are making the world a smaller place.

√ – Go to places like Technorati/Google/Google blog search and enter a brand name. Note how many different languages and methods people are using to talk about that brand. These are all people who could be talking about YOUR BRAND and in ways you didn’t know.

7) Hyperlinks subvert Hierarchy: It doesn’t matter who you are, what your title is or how much you earn – linking is status-neutral. Today a school kid can link to a CEO and blow the socks off what has been written. An addition to this thesis could be “Hyperlinks subvert Hierarchy and promote Humility”.

√ – Take anything you have written and revert to points 3, 4 and 5 – does it sound like me? Would I say this? You may never be able to control some comments, but you can easily minimise those negative behaviours that result from a pompous attitude!

8) In both INTERnetworked markets and among INTRAnetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way: As methods of communication between people becomes quicker and more widespread, so does word of mouth grow more powerful. More people are finding new ways to reach each other and find more and more things out about each other and products. Some of those people will be your employees. What are they saying about your brand? Does their experience typify the customer experience? Are they talking to non-employee customers?

√ – Create an intranet or at the very least a forum where the business and its operations can be discussed by internal staff. Make it anonymous of needs be. Allow the voice from within to make suggestions, highlight problems and give customer feedback. If it can’t be said behind closed doors it will never be said at all. Give people the chance to speak.

9) These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organisation and knowledge exchange to take place: As a social species, it is in our nature to mix and communicate (there’s a reason we can talk and monkeys can’t!). Whether that is IM, email, forums, phones or face to face, the easier communication is the more it will happen. The more it happens, the greater the likelihood that people will be talking about your brand at some point. Taylor Woodrow (a major UK house-builder) didn’t think it could happen to them until they found snagging.org! As with all WOM, a critical mass and momentum builds which, given the ease with which people can communicate online, will snowball whether good or bad. Understanding the power and speed of online communication is essential.

√ – Become part of those networks. Participate, be a part of the very networks who can make or break you.

10) As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organised. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally: Networks provide an easy means for people to swap horror stories, solve problems, offer tips and advice, discuss avoidance schemes and discount offers etc. Who doesn’t want to know how they can get something for less, or get something for free or find a way of avoiding a 10-minute wait on an 0870 call to customer services? Reciprocating favours brings people together, creating communities where (in the main) people will return.

√ – Embed yourself in communities associated with your product and see what people are talking about. Don’t be fooled into thinking a self-hosted forum will work – it won’t. People will be suspicious. Join forums where the REAL community lives and see what areas of concern people are talking about. Are they complaining about call waiting times – address it by putting on extra shifts. Are instructions difficult to follow? Commission some extra photography. Communities will tell you far more about your business than outbound calling will EVER can.

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