Social Media Experts Run Over By The Cluetrain

DampflokAlmost every presentation on social media that I see alludes to The Cluetrain Manifesto. Either that, or to the Obama campaign.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this – I myself am a huge fan of using the Cluetrain – but it is also important to use it IN and AS context. And it is also important to dig into the underlying meaning of the Cluetrain – and to use that to power your own ideas, communications and approaches.

But the problem that I often see is, that for all the talk around social media (from agencies as well as from independent consultants), very few practice what they preach. Very few proposals or strategies are written with a view towards business – they provide almost no support for the marketers who need to sell these proposals and strategies back into their businesses. It makes me feel like quoting the Cluetrain back:

As markets, as workers [and as clients], we wonder why you're not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.

I was thinking through this as I read Mandi Bateson’s excellent post on “social media” and whether all the talk is getting in the way of clarifying the message – and importantly, are we discussing the topic with passion or with reason. You see, in general, businesses will get behind social media if they can see that it will work for their businesses. Their decision will be based on reason – on the facts and figures, the case histories, the reputation of the people in the room and what they bring to the table, and it will be based on relationships.

Businesses won’t get behind your ideas if you don’t give them a reason to. They won’t champion your project if you don’t provide them with the support and the ammunition to take on their own (internal) detractors. And they won’t know what they are missing out on, if you don’t make it clear or if you strangle your pitch with social media jargon. Remember the Cluetrain:

The inflated self-important jargon you sling around—in the press, at your conferences [and in your social media pitches] — what's that got to do with us?

Maybe you're impressing your investors. [Maybe you’re impressing your social media echo chamber.] Maybe you're impressing Wall Street. You're not impressing us.

If you are going to pitch social media – then be respectful. Don’t get run over by the Cluetrain.

6 thoughts on “Social Media Experts Run Over By The Cluetrain

  1. Excellent post Gavin.
    It’s not easy selling in the adoption and use of social media. Whilst the key is to give them reasons and support to overcome the inevitable detractors, the rational needs to be positioned according to the culture of the particular business.
    Developing this understanding requires the building of relationships, which ironically many practitioners avoid.

  2. Gavin, one simple reason I give for selling proposals into business is search engine optimization and reputation management. The large number of searches being performed on brands and topics often lead to SERPs where bloggers (and NOT the brand) get the top rankings. While part of the strategy to get higher rankings may be to have a blog on the brand domain in addition to lots of content there and on multimedia content sharing sites, the second half is to ENGAGE with others to add to the conversation – a humanistic form of PR that borderlines customer service. SO many people are lurkers; having a voice in the conversation that’s publicly available to all to see can be immensely valuable.

  3. Thanks everyone … glad this struck a chord with you all. It certainly feels like it’s time to move beyond words, into the real challenges of transformation – of ourselves, of our businesses and of the relationships upon which we base most of our lives.

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