(Suggested listening while reading this blog post:R.E.M.s The End of the World as We Know It)

“The internet is the biggest thing to happen in human history. If you don’t get it, you’re toast.”

In 1997 I saw Frank Feather speak. He’s kind of a dweeby looking guy and when he took the stage (with about 5000 in the audience) there was no electric light show or even a PowerPoint presentation. It was just him. And he said again, very slowly….

“The internet is the biggest thing to happen in human history, if you don’t get it, you’re toast.”

That was 10 years ago. I’ll admit it. I didn’t really get it. I thought by having a website (albeit a static electronic brochure rack) that we got it. I thought when we added flash elements, we got it. I didn’t really start to get it until we made Intel’s BITCH site (their corporate Intranet). I was the VP Marketing for their credit union at the time. They got it. They would email us code to improve our website. We listened. We engaged them in our learning we joined the conversation.

“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies
These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.
Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.”

That’s the beginning of the Cluetrain Manifesto. In 1999 (one year later) I hopped aboard the Cluetrain. In 2000 I bought the book The Cluetrain Manifesto. I’ve read it several times.

In 2006 I joined the Blogosphere. The notion of the blogosphere is an important concept for understanding blogs. Blogs themselves are essentially just the published text of an author’s thoughts, whereas the blogosphere is a social phenomenon. My dear friend Shari Storm gets it. As Chief Marketing Officer of Verity Credit Union, she started one of the first CU blogs. A conversation with her members. She’s not marketing to them – she’s talking with them. Her personal blog examines Motherhood the new MBA.

Then I met the boys at Trabian. I heard their presentation on Social Media. I have built a shrine to their hand-outs. I flew to Dallas, Texas to bask in their greatness. They get it. They’re doing it. They are shaking things up. And they are all twenty-somethings.

No one is going to stop this conversation. The Clue-train has left the station (that’s a metaphor for us Baby Boomers). If you’re not on it by now, you’re toast.

Adults are cynical learners. We often learn best when we can relate it to something we already know. So as not to get too far out of our comfort zone. That’s why so many web pages STILL look like electronic brochure racks. We have no experience with anything remotely like the information superhighway. The internet is merely an on ramp. Blogging is the beginning of the paving.

My three favorite theses in the Manifesto (there are 95 total):

#28 Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what’s really going on inside the company.

#38 Human communities are based on discourse – on human speech about human concerns.

#39 The community of discourse IS the market.

The goal is NOT to build consensus. The goal of the modern marketer should be to listen and learn. The internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass marketing (#6 of the Manifesto).

We all need to get on the Cluetrain.