It’s hard to believe that it’s been 13 years since Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger first published the Cluetrain Manifesto, in which they suggested that the rise of peer to peer networks would transform the landscape of communications between businesses and their customers, employees and stakeholders.
Cluetrain’s case was compelling, and in almost every way, the manifesto is as relevant today as it was 13 years ago.
Written before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube even existed, it remains one of the most prescient and important intellectual works of our generation, especially for communications and marketing professionals.
This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer provides clear evidence that the affects predicted in Cluetrain are becoming ever more pronounced as reliance on peers for information continues to grow more important thanks to ever-increasing adoption of social technologies.
The long-term trend of trust in ‘Person Like Yourself’ illustrates the point.
From its initial base in 2003, trust in peers jumped 20 points or more in 2004 to become one of the most trusted sources of information. It remained relatively stable for the next few years, but felt the affects of the financial crisis in 2009. As Professor Jim Macnamara suggested at an event a few weeks ago in Sydney, the drop in peer trust from 2009 to last year reflects a shift to trust in sources of specialised expertise and authority (like governments) during the crisis.
But events in Europe, Japan and elsewhere over the last 12 months have undermined trust in authority, and driven a return to trust in peers.
Fair enough. We are more connected with our peers than ever before thanks to social technology, and in a world where too many governments have demonstrated their untrustworthiness, it’s natural that we turn to people we know.
The trend of peer trust is once again increasing, and this has tremendous implications for marketers and communicators, especially given the continued growth in adoption of social technologies around the world.
After all, the potential of peer to peer, word of mouth advocacy is the reason that the digital world holds so much potential for companies and their brands. And social technologies are simply the vehicle for this peer to peer interaction.
(For more, Vikki Chowney has a nice perspective on this data and some insightful views from others.)