As part of the review of the Cluetrain Manifesto ten years on, Deb Schultz gave a talk at the SAP-sponsored There’s a New Conversation series (celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Cluetrain Manifesto). In a neat twist, she claims that we are living in an age where it not the medium that is the message, but that the medium is the relationship. That is (as I would say) in the Age of Conversation, it is increasingly NOT about the technology but the results of engaging with and using those technologies in a socially-enabled network.
Now, this doesn’t seem, on the surface, to be a shattering insight. After all, you are either reading this online or via RSS … but step back from a moment. Literally. Get up from behind your computer screen and look at the person nearest you. Look across the room. Think about how you are connected to them online. What MORE do you know about them from the way that you connect. What have you seen or read? How has this given you a deeper sense of this person. Do you trust them more or less?
What we are seeing is not the technology itself, but the surfacing of our once private networks. This means that we have a whole lot more "play" in the workplace but also a deeper understanding of our colleagues and teams.
And yet, despite all of this connection — despite the various etiquettes and common courtesies expected in the various communities to which we belong — we are still at the very early stages of understanding the real impact of all this. After all, we spend much more time TRIALLING new applications, coercing our friends to sign-up or blogging about it all to gain any real insight into HOW this is transforming the way that we live or work. Sure there will be pockets of insight, but as the services like Twitter or Pownce or Jaiku or even Plurk begin to mainstream there is a potential to radically TRANSFORM our brands, businesses and our workplaces. It is only when we see the mass adoption of some of these technologies will we begin to see real and lasting change.
And when we do, I suggest it will be far more playful than anyone expects. Or as Leigh Himel says, we will eventually "realize we are only beginning to understand how any of these technologies are impacting our lives on a daily basis". Then we can get over ourselves … and start having fun again.
That is the socially enabled network — and it is the future of your brand.