Everybody likes a good train wreck.
Hopefully, of course, those where nobody gets hurt.
But when I was a kid, growing up in the sticks of north Texas, I'll never forget the first train wreck I stumbled upon.
Unfortunately, i didn't get to actually see the cars come crashing down off the railroad trestle.
But the aftermath was pretty powerful, in and of its own right.
Twisted steel, splintered and broken railroad ties, spilt cargo...it was awesome.
Ofcourse, I'm sure Southern Pacific didn't agree, and heaven help them,it was a mess to clean up aftewards that took them weeks.
That's what I expect the coming social media train wreck is going to look like.
I'vebeen here in Orlando at the Forrester Marketing Forum for several daysnow, and it's been fascinating to hear all the talk about social mediaamongst a largely traditional marketing crowd.
This, of course,ten years after I first read Cluetrain Manifesto and when the firstglimmer of insight that this shift was already beginning to occur.
WhenI would tell colleagues about the book and about what was starting tohappen, explaining that this was the future of marketing, they wouldlook at me like I'd dropped in from another planet.
Maybe I had. But I also wonder now what their Twitter IDs are.
Ifyou haven't read Cluetrain, and you want to be a social mediapractitioner who can help your business enter into the marketconversation, run to your nearest bookstore and buy a copy.
Because context is everything.
WhenI first read the Cluetrain theses online, it made sense to me,particularly at the time, because I was starting to see the power andempowerment that the strength in connected numbers could bring.
Themass in mass media was going to be rendered increasingly impotent bythe singularity of social media, the one-to-many equation would soon beequalled by the one-to-one.
Those who historically didn't have a voice soon would be able to, affordably and without prejudice.
Theeconomics of scarcity (spectrum, channels, media outlets, highproduction costs) had been replaced by the economics of abundance(lower costs of bandwidth, storage, processing power, production tools,etc.)
Watching some of the traditional media and marketingentities, then, over these past couple of weeks jump onto the Twitterbandwagon has been downright amusing to me.
Not because they, like everybody else, shouldn't have the opportunity to tap into the social media.
No, rather, because so many of them seem to be missing the entire point.
Oprah and Ashton and so many others already have a voice.
This was never about a race to the million subscriber finish line.
Itwas about opening up a new way of communicating, between institutionand individual, about evolving the monolithic top-down communicationumbrella to a democratic megaphone.
Most importantly, though, it was about listening.
As the cluetrain.comwebsite conveys to this day, where markets are conversations, "Theirmembers communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct,funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking orserious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked."
Forthose attendees of the Forrester forum, as well as companies around theglobe wrestling with their emerging lack of control of the marketconversation going on about their business, rather than worrying aboutwhether or not you're using Twitter, you might be better putting yourefforts towards determining whether or not you have something to say,and someone intelligent and thoughtful and eager to listen to others tosay it for you.
In other words, don't fake it.
Don't think just because you got a Twitter account or you put your company on Facebook that you suddenly get it.
No, those steps were only the beginning.
Now it's time to open the kimono a bit and actually tell us something.
Show us the smart people way down deep inside your organization and have them tell us something we don't yet know but should.
AsCluetrain went on to explain, "Corporate firewalls have kept smartemployees in and smart markets out. It's going to cause real pain totear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind ofconversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation businesshas ever engaged in."
This is what Doc Searls and ChristopherLocke and Rick Levine and David Weinberger understood and communicated,and it's what the rest of us ought not forget (although evidently whichsome of us never learned).
I don't know about you, but I'mcertainly ready for a new kind of market conversation, especiallycoming out of the Great Financial Collapse of 2008.
A littlebrutal honesty and transparency and sunshine and liberation of new andmore truthful voices is something we could all stand about now.
Butwhile I wait for it to emerge, I'm going to enjoy watching the greatsocial media crash as so many jump on the bandwagon with little thoughtto where or why or how they got here.
Because everybody likes a good train wreck.