Everything good in life – cool business, great romance, a powerful social movement – all of it begins with a conversation.
Talking with each other – one-to-one – is a human beings most powerful form of connection – building an understanding, a shared moment and attunement. Conversations help us understand and connect with others in ways no other species can.
The above thoughts are reflected in Daniel Pink’s latest book about the grubby business of Selling (look around page 85). But these ideas resonate with me because they are also the position of the Cluetrain Manifesto – a modern day classic – on what can happens when people connect.
In real life, for sure, people talk… but in the late 1990’s with 50 million people plugged into ‘the Net’ – the Cluetrain guys presented an idea of social connection and personal reach through technology. Their vision and storytelling was electrifying and above all else it was no long business that owned the means (channels) of communications – word of mouth became emancipated – and at unprecedented scale.
We do still need commerce – of course – but its the connection and conversation that shapes the intent.
Conversations are markets
Last week I spoke at an Oxford UX event about my work and life at Lithium and if Im ever going to frame the genesis of ‘social’ to a room full of intelligent digital types Im going to hang it on the Cluetrain position. Not everyone has read the book – not everyone has heard of it and not everyone needs to read it. But its nice when you do meet others that have.
If Im going to talk about ‘social business’ its not going to be about the platform or the style of interaction – it’s about the connections that get created – the conversations that happen – and the markets that are formed when people engage through social technologies. Because all our Lithium ‘stuff’ and our customers are in the public domain (we build public forums) its pretty easy to weave together a well-evidenced story.
The killer Cluetrain quote is that “Conversations are markets”. The idea of markets being formed in social space is a long way from the colour, noise and terror of walking through souks in Marrakech – but the dimensions are similar. There is mass and vibrancy – noise, colour and discomfort – but within it discourse is shaping thought and choice.
Advertising and apple tea is always there (at least in a Moroccan Souk) as ‘orbital content’ – but the conversation is at the core and present at the moment of truth.
I first went to Morocco when I was 25 – it was terrifying. I got fleeced on a number of occasions and I experienced my first ever culture shock. A year later I went to Delhi and again I was fleeced – a rite of passage even if you are prone to thinking you are older, wiser and more informed.
But every adventure starts with a conversation, a proposition and the potential for a value exchange. Its just what happens when folks meet – and ‘social’ is no different. There is a culture shock – especially for businesses – but the potential is equally exciting and discomforting.
And just like Delhi hasn’t stayed still since I first visited 18 years ago – social is changing fast too. But I ‘m happy (today) to not be wrapped up in Snapchat, comfortable consuming a tumblr-world (but not creating one), and very happy to not be running rings round inside G+ circles. Because its not about tech its about intent.
Its about conversations – being open, sharing and helping when ever you can, and if you can shape this intent – the markets emerge. Simple.
I first heard about Cluetrain from JP Rangaswami (follow him on Twitter @jobsworth – he is wonderful company) – a blog post laid the hook and the www.cluetrain.com – a site that is fantastically dated but pure 90’s – whet the appetite. It is original digital thinkers gold.
After chatting at UX Oxford and reading folks tweeting their approval of the Cluetrain references I knew I had been in a safe place. And when I was dragged into my first ever Lithium client meeting and got to watch Michael Wu quote Doc Searls you kind of know your in the right place.
Above all else, the book says things Ive never been brave enough to say – but funny enough my world is a better place because some one said them. The ink might of dried on the pages many years ago – but its still a gift.
Have you read it?
And what about Pink – are you moving others?
Source WordCloud Above: http://crowdmedia.co.uk/blogposts/why-the-cluetrain-still-works/