Markets are people, not just conversations

I just read (via @davewiner) what Doc Searls labels “beer notes.” Read it. It’s filled with wisdom including this sentence:

Talking may be social, but listening is personal.

No surprise to those who read this blog regularly: I belong to the Cult of Doc. More than anyone, he has helped me to articulate my beliefs regarding the way a world in which people have the ability to connect and communicate online radically alters the relationships we have with one-another and with the institutions and causes and products and ideas and passions and music and hobbies and beliefs we all choose to embrace as individuals.

Big media companies and politicians and traditional marketers and everyone I know want to do the “social media” thing. And I believe many, if they knew how, want to do it the right way. But they start by going to conferences and hiring consultants. And unfortunately, the way many “experts” explain what’s taking place ends up sounding to the people running big media and big marketing programs like they are being asked to convert their building’s lighting from electricity to lightening-bugs collected in a jar. I used to get frustrated with the people who run these companies, but now I’m more understanding. I appreciate the challenge they face in transitioning from that which was into that which will be.

And I appreciate that many are at least trying to listen.

I’ve been listening to Doc for at least ten years — as this month is the 10th anniversary of “The Cluetrain Manifesto.” (The website was created in April, 1999, and the book was published early in 2000. Doc wrote a detailed blog post in January that reflected on the past decade and Cluetrain.)

For me and many others who have spent much of past 15 years pondering the role of online communities, Cluetrain is a bit like Woodstock. The authors didn’t create or discover anything new: however, they synthesized and simplified what was taking place into a list of proclamations they wittily called their “95 Theses” (witty for those who enjoy references to historic protests calling for reform). Together, these 95 theses were the Cluetrain Manifesto. (The “Cluetrain” is what left the station, leaving behind those who “have no clue.”)

They started out by merely nailing 95 theses to the door of a website.

The first thesis was this: “Markets are conversations.”

For me, those three words were a lightbulb — or, at least, a jar filled with lightening bugs.

Markets are conversations.

But as Doc Searls reminds us in his “beer notes” post, conversations are among people.

Not pitches and creative and media buys and transactions — conversations. Not targets, battles and strategies — conversations. Not copy-writing, institutional-speak or buzzwords — conversations.

Conversatons among people.