1. Intro duction
The text that I have chosen to examine for my literature review is ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto:
The End of Business As Usual’ and the title of my literature review is ‘The Marketplace is a
Conversation’. The Internet is providing a platform for people to discover and share relevant
information in real-time. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter, smarter than most
companies; these markets have become conversations (Locke, et al., 1999). I intend to examine
how the Internet and the prevalence of social media technologies are changing the marketplace
from one that voices its message to a passive audience to a model that is based on engagement
1.1 The Evolution of the Media Landscape
The media landscape has change dramatically over the past five hundred years, with the printing
press redefining the landscape in 1454 to the present day of the Internet. The media of
industrialisation is considered to be broadcast media where companies told its audience their
message and those people reacting by buying that good or product based on the advertising.
Television became the focal point of many houses in the Western World and companies would
purchase advertising time to bombard the viewers with their marketing message; if companies
advertised directly to a consumer their sales would go up. This was the media of the 20th
century, but the Internet came along twenty years ago allowing native support for groups and
conversation at the same time, where the telephone gave us one-to-one and television gave us
one-to-many, we now have many-to-many scenario — marketing has moved from a monologue
to a dialogue (Shirky, 2009).
1.2 The Problem with Industrialised Media
The Industrial Age witnessed high rates of production, as goods were being mass-produced. As
a result companies employed the techniques of mass marketing to increase the levels of
consumption to sell their goods. The use of advertising through mediums like the television
symbolised the relationship between consumer demand, TV advertising, and ever-growing
companies that were built around investments in ever-increasing marketing expenditures
(Godin, 2002). The problem with the TV-industrial complex is that it broadcasts messages to
an audience that are unwilling to listen. As Locke, et al. (1999, p.81) states in The Cluetrain
Manifesto “the industrial interruption of the human conversation is coming to an end”.
1.3 Transition to ‘New Marketing’
We are now post-consumption consumers; we have what we need, we want very little, and we’re
too busy to spend a lot of time researching something created for us. The marketing
department’s job has been to take a nearly finished product or service and spend money to
communicate its special benefits to a target audience (Godin 2002). This approach no longer
works. Before advertising, marketing solely consisted of the word of mouth. With the advent of
advertising, coupled with the mass appeal of television and mass media, companies would see
sales go up as a result. We are now back where we started but “word of mouth has gone global”
(Locke, et al., 1999, p.81). O’Reilly (2004) has described the Internet as an architecture of
participation and Godin (2008) states in Tribes that it has eliminated geography. Consumers are
now talking about goods and services, regardless of whether they are in London or Dubai, and
these conversations are connecting consumers.
2. Social Media
The previous segments have highlighted the change in media landscape as a result of the
Internet, but these changes would not have taken place if it hadn’t been for the groups of
people that are using the emerging tools that have provided the framework for collaborating
and taking collective action. The real power of these groups has nothing to do with the Internet
and everything to do with the people (Godin, 2008). Having the communication tools in place
has merely provided a platform for group-forming but the tools that have been built for them
have harnessed its full potential, making it fast, easy and cheap to form groups as a result of
these new social tools. Shirky (2008, p.20) highlights in Here Comes Everybody, “When we change
the way we communicate, we change society”. Social technologies now exist that connect people
around a variety number of themes, such as sharing videos (YouTube), photographs (Flickr) or
sharing what’s happening in one hundred and forty characters or less (Twitter).
A good example of how these tools can be used to bring about social change was the 2008
presidential campaign. Barack Obama’s party launched a web-based campaign that rewrote the
rules on how to reach voters, raise money, organise supporters, manage the media and wage
political attacks (Leadbeater, 2008). Using the web Obama was able to raise $50 million in
twenty-eight days (Godin, 2008). Obama’s party used these technologies in imaginative ways to
connect with his supporters. Not only did the candidate with the greatest Twitter presence win
the election, but just about all observers said that Obama had been the most discussed
candidate, on election night alone there were a million mentions of Obama (Israel, 2009).
2.1 Social Media Technologies
Social tools have made it easier for us as a society to share, cooperate and take collective action
(Shirky, 2008). Cluetrain was published in 1999. At the time the authors didn’t know what a blog
was, YouTube had yet to be invented and Twitter would not follow for almost a decade later,
but the premise that the “market is a conversation” had been established. With the advent of
social media technologies we have witnessed this fact — consumers are now eager to engage in
the discourse of commerce (Li, 2009).
Marketing used to be about advertising, and advertising is expensive. Today, marketing is about
engaging with the audience and delivering products and services with stories that spread. These
stories spread as a result of new social tools but the real power of group-forming has nothing to
do with the technologies and everything to do with people. Technologies will come and go but
the lesson is that everyday it becomes easier to tighten the relationship with the people who
choose to follow you (Godin, 2008). Tools like Twitter bring groups together and provide a
forum for the conversation.
Twitter is a micro-blogging tool that enables users to connect with other people and message,
or tweet, each other in one hundred and forty characters or less. This constraint means that
people can update their accounts using their mobile phones, but far more importantly restricts
users to update their status with concise and relevant messages. As Pascal1 says, “If I had more
time, I would have written [you] a shorter letter” implying that it takes more time to craft your
thoughts and ideas in a concise manner.
Twitter itself is a prime example of the power of conversation and new marketing. It started off
as a tool for a team of employees at Odeo to communicate with each other. At the end of the
first day of launch there were the twelve employees of Odeo plus eight of their friends. Three
years and two months later Twitter had a user base of 32 million with no money invested in
traditional marketing, PR, or advertising (Israel, 2009). Twitter’s members marketed Twitter
to the ‘unconverted’ as they thought it was a service worth talking about. Twitter is now doing
for business what it itself had done. It is allowing big companies to connect and talk with a wide
The origins of this quote are unclear and has been attributed to Hemingway, Cicero, Voltaire, Twain,
Elliott, and Blaise Pascal.
variety of their customers. Twitter is the most effective tool yet delivered into the growing
arsenal of social media tools (Israel, 2009), “Twitter is not a technology. It’s a conversation”
3. Refl ection
The market is very much a conversation with many entering into discussion, both companies
and consumers. There is no longer a demand for marketing messages, but there is tremendous
demand for good conversation (Locke, et al., 1999). Social media tools are providing the
platform for these discussions and whilst Twitter is the prevailing technology at the minute we
may see a new tool in the near future that will bring us even closer together.
This new philosophy is relevant to my practice as the web is changing to cater for our new
expectations and needs. Big companies and people are engaging with each other in new and
exciting ways. Cluetrain predicted that markets would have to change how they operated a decade
ago and we are now seeing the ramifications of this transition. The next five years will see the
refinement of existing social tools and new ways to connect which will heavily impact on my
Godin, S. 2002. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. New York: Portfolio.
Godin, S. 2008. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. New York: Portfolio.
Israel, S. 2009. Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods. New York:
Keen, A. 2008. The Cult of the Amateur. London: Nicholas Brealey.
Leadbetter, C. 2008. We-Think: Mass Innovation, Not Mass Production. London: Profile Books Ltd.
Locke, C. Levine, R. Searls, D. & Weinberger, D. 1999. Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As
Usual. New York: Perseus Books.
Scoble, R. & Israel, S. 2006. Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with
Customer. New Jersey: Wiley.
Shirky, C. 2008. Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens When People Come Together. London:
Gillmor, D. 2006. We the Media. [ebook] California: O’Reilly. Available at Authorama
http://www.authorama.com/we-the-media-1.html/ [Accessed 10 December 2009].
O’Reilly, 2004. The Architecture of Participation. [Online] (Updated June 2004) Available at:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8423340.stm [Accessed 23 December 2009].