The Cluetrain Manifesto Book Review

The Cluetrain Manifesto is one of the first books I ever added to my Shelfari. It came highly recommended in the social media circle I traveled in. At some point, I’d read the the 95 theses online (where you can also consume the entire book for free), and just figured there was no point in reading the entire book.

I was wrong.

If you think it gets a little repetitive, it’s because it should. *Most* brands still don’t get it. The book, tabbed as “the end of business as usual,” makes it laughable that we’re *still* advising brands to refrain from one-way messaging (that gets tuned out), shouting from a bullhorn and shoving their messages down our throat.

The fact this book was first printed in 1999 will blow your mind. Read some of the most impactful (to me) excerpts below. They’re still just as relevant today.

The thesis:
Markets are conversations.

The thesis (expanded):
The future business of businesses that have a future will be about subtle differences, not wholesale conformity; about diversity, not homogeneity; about breaking rules, not enforcing them; about pushing the envelop, not punching the clock; about invitation, not protection; about doing it first, not doing it “right”; about making it better, not making it perfect; about telling the truth, not spinning bigger lies; about turning people on, not “packaging” them; and perhaps above all, about building convivial communities and knowledge ecologies, not leveraging demographic sectors.

On markets as conversations:
For thousands of years, we knew exactly what markets were: conversations between people who sought out others who shared the same interest. Buyers had as much to say as sellers. They spoke directly to each other without the filer of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising, or the shading of public relations.

The message that gets broadcast to you, me, and the rest of the earth’s population has nothing to do with me in particular. It’s worse than noise. It’s an interruption. It’s the Anti-Conversation.

Every advertisement, press release, publicity stunt, and giveaway engineered by a Marketing department is colored by the fact that it’s going to a public that doesn’t ask to hear it.

As sophisticated as marketing became, it has never overcome the ability of people to smell the BS behind all the marketing perfume.

In short, although there is no demand for messages, there is a tremendous demand for good conversation.

On the new workplace:
Top down command-and-control management has become dysfunctional and counterproductive.

Real authority is based on respect for knowledge and the two are inherently intertwined.

Corporations — if you’d only let yourselves admit it — consist entirely of human beings.

On the longing:
Our longing for the Web is rooted in the deep resentment we feel towards being managed.

There are many ways to look at what’s drawing us to the Web: access to information, connection to other people, entrance to communities, the ability to broadcast ideas. None of these are wrong perspectives. But they all come back to the promise of voice and thus of authentic self.

On honing your voice:
There’s an incredible amount of practice, failure and learning that has to take place before we develop the courage and surety to trust such an internal, private muse, to ignore the contrary opinions of others and do what we know will succeed.

On multitasking:
Slicing your attention, in other words, is less like slicing potatoes than like slicing plums: you always lose some of the juice.

On the hyper-linked organization:
The official structure is of little use to you. Instead, your network of trusted colleagues becomes paramount. Your effectiveness depends upon how networked you are, how hyper-linked you are.

And the value of the individual ‘node’ to a large degree depends upon the node’s links.

In short, your most valuable employee is likely to be the one who, in response to a question, doesn’t give a concrete answer in a booming voice but who says, “You should talk to Larry, And check Janis’s project plan. Ohm and there’s a mailing list on this topic I ran into a couple of weeks ago…”

He managed by holding people to deadlines, I managed by holding people to people.

On telling stories:
We don’t need more information. We don’t need better information. We don’t need automatically filtered and summarized information. We need understanding.

If you don’t have a story, you don’t understanding.

What obstacles did particular customers face and overcome by using your product?

In conclusion:
The two-hundred-year-long industrial interruption of the human conversation is finally coming to an end, both inside companies and in the marketplace.

The lesson is: don’t wait for someone to show you how. Learn from your spontaneous mistakes, not from safe prescriptions and cautiously analyzed procedures.

While some people will claim that the book doesn’t provide actionable steps to success in this new business paradigm, the book is widely endorsed by the business community for a reason. To tell you *how* would defeat the point — and prove you missed it in the first place. We’re tired of waiting.