This post is part of a 95 post series discussing the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto as they relate to business in 2009. Read more about the series in the introduction post. And check out the rest of the series!
Thesis #14: Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
It’s really difficult to discuss “voice” when related to text and messaging. While there are different types of “voice” related to language and communication, the type that many people most lucidly process is the audible kind.
This is going to make things difficult when it comes time to turn this series into an e-book or go to print, but in the mean time we don’t have to worry about those constraints. This is the internet!
So. It’s example time.
Twine.com – What happens when you let things unwravel
Twine.com launched a beta back in October 2007. It allows it’s users to collect, share, and discover things they are interested in. Early semantic web stuff, whatever that meant then. Cool platform. Not my point.
They launched a year later with a redesign (yay beta feedback!), some solid press. Unfortunately, most of that press left users confused about what it actually did. Semantic web is a kinda heady concept that we won’t bother getting into here. That, itself, isn’t even the problem.
The real problem was that the corporate overview language was…well…just that. Corporate. It’s bad enough that the concept is heady, why would you fill your descriptive – read “marketing” – messages with language that normal people don’t use?
Twine: The Overview
This overview was descriptive…but it’s voice was mechanical. It sounded like it was written by someone who’d been immersed in Twine for a while, instead of by someone with a voice that the audience could identify with: someone trying to understand what the heck Twine is for.
The day after the launch, a Twine employee uploaded the same overview video to their personal Youtube account. OK. Not the exact same video. Here’s the caption from that video:
Our site www.twine.com needed an overview video. I came up with this as a practical joke on the team with some help from Sam. Basically, we changed the voice over and the music to make the video a little less “corporate”.
Warning: this is extreme, and has some…um…language issues.
Twine: The (Unofficial) Overview
The video didn’t change. But the voice did.
The unofficial parody voice was extreme, but it was one that somebody could identify with. The only people who could connect with the original one were the internal people at Twine, and even they seemed to prefer the parody video.
What’s really amazing is that the company embraced it. A video like this could have come from anywhere, employees or customers, and Twine could have buried it. Instead, they have a video that got 25x more viewership on Youtube compared to the corporate-speak variation.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this demonstration is to show the difference between corporate-speak, and…the other thing. It’s not to say that every company can, or even should, convert their marketing messages into Web 2.0 gangsta-speak.
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