I’m probably a decade late in actually reading the Cluetrain Manifesto for all I had heard about it for most of that decade that I have been not reading it. In the process I certainly picked up on the message that markets and business are driven by conversation and that those institutions who strive to manage or manipulate the conversation would find themselves on the losing end of the internet revolution.
In some ways I’m glad that I read it 13 years after it was written because I have the opportunity to look at how things have changed over the last 13 years in the way of internet, business, and technology and compare that to what Cluetrain was saying about the changes being wrought by the spread of the internet. The first impression I had was that the increasing levels of communication discussed by Cluetrain have continued to grow and show no signs of decreasing. On the other hand, the prediction that organizations would have to open up their communication to outsiders or be left behind has yet to take hold. Certainly many organizations are getting better at opening up channels and communicating in a more human way but there is still no lack of examples of the Fort Business mindset.
The real idea that I took away from the book was that in the age of hyper-communication all aspects of business are at least partly a matter of selling yourself by building relationships. This is true for products as well as individuals.
When it comes to products we have moved into an age where traditional advertising is less and less trusted in comparison to personal opinion – especially when it is the opinions of people known to the person making the choice in question. I think it’s always been true that the opinions and experience of acquaintances tend to have more weight in influencing a person’s purchasing decisions than professional advertising. The difference today is that personal opinions are so much easier to share and find than they used to be.
As for people, the adage that it’s who you know, not what you know that counts holds true. If you are looking for a job either as an employee or a contractor you have to do more than list your skills, you increasingly need to demonstrate that you have the personality to positively represent those you would work for or with. With the increasingly open lines of communication everyone associated with an organization is part of the public relations team to one degree or another.
My conclusion is that to get ahead professionally it is necessary to get better at communicating with others consistently and across more channels both so that I can be better practiced at communicating my ideas and also so that I will be more well known by others so that they can be comfortable working with me when I can help them or when they can help me.