'Cluetrain Manifesto' Comes True In Age of Twitter, Facebook

Customer Empowerment Predicted Written When Mark Zuckerberg Was in High School Finally Comes to Fruition

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Josh Bernoff
Josh Bernoff
The "Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual" was an incredibly prescient book. It still amazes me that a book written in 2000, when blogs were novelties and Mark Zuckerberg was in high school, was able to identify the shift toward customer empowerment. Combine that with the insight that employees must directly engage with those customers, and you have a truly visionary work.

Because of when it was written, "Cluetrain" was not practical. A whole lot of people read it and said, "Wow, this makes me think differently." But it's more inspiration than manual.

I was struck by this as I began to find echoes of "Cluetrain" in our new book "Empowered." We didn't set out to create a followup to "Cluetrain" -- we were just following the idea that emerged from our research into the way technology empowers individuals, both customers and employees. But that research led us to this fundamental principle:

To succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve customer problems.

The tenth anniversary edition of 'Cluetrain Manifesto.'
The tenth anniversary edition of 'Cluetrain Manifesto.'
Looking at this, it seems very "Cluetrain." Especically, Cluetrain theses 53 and 56: There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market. . . . These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other's voices.

More of "Cluetrain" is actionable now. For example:

"Cluetrain" thesis 50: Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

Reality: Your staff are going to be coming up with solutions on their own . . . management's new job in marketing is to support and empower employees.

"Cluetrain" theses 8, 9, 10 and 18: In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally. . . . Companies that don't realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.

Reality: People make more than half a trillion impressions on one another about products and services every year. Solving customer problems, making customers happy, and harnessing their power to talk about it is marketing.

The shout that is "The Cluetrain Manifesto" has become the reality of customers and employees empowered by social, mobile, video, and cloud technologies. "Cluetrain"'s ideas are now practical and actionable, but the details are a bitch. That's why we wrote "Empowered."

Josh Bernoff is senior vice president, idea development at Forrester Research and the co-author of "Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers and Transform Your Business," a management book that teaches you how to transform your business by empowering employees to solve customer problems. He blogs at blogs.forrester.com/groundswell.
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