The way we do business is changing. That’s the message behind Cluetrain Manifesto, a work by authors Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger that blows apart the traditional notions of how institutions operate in today’s networked society.
Cluetrain argues that the internet is allowing consumers and markets to become smarter. If corporations are to succeed, it is argued, than they need to tear down the walls they have built between them and their customers. We are in a new area of transparency, access, and openness. Companies should pay renewed attention to the wisdom of the crowds and “take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.” (If you’re interested in reading the basics, skip to the book’s “95 Theses,” which serves as a good outline of what the book is all about.)
Cluetrain also argues that companies and institutions need to find a human voice in which to communicate with the masses. In other words, phony corporate babblespeak will no longer keep the attention of smart, connected consumers.
I visit Woot every day. Why? Woot.com is a company with a soul, a point a view, and a human (and often hilarious) voice. Brutal honesty regarding the products they sell has allowed them to gain a substantial online following of customers. Woot has a user blog and comment forum that its users use to post information and communicate honestly with each other and company officials about the products they sell. Woot does not censor comments users leave about their products, even if they’re negative. (They even sell a self-proclaimed “bag-o’crap” every once in a while.)
The result is that Woot.com has managed to become one of the most popular online marketplaces for electronic gadgets. They’ve even spawned a wine site (wine.woot.com) and a t-shirt site that allows customers to design their own shirts and vote for which designs should be chosen to be sold (shirt.woot.com).
If companies read and live by the 95 Theses, then we all win.