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!

Markets are Conversations. This is the core thesis that, naked and contextless, I believe has misled so many people.

Brian Oberkirch ranted about how completely borked the use of “conversations” in marketing has become:

Marketing should be dialogic. True dat. But the goal isn’t conversation. That’s just a way station en route to customers doing their thing.

Marketing isn’t a conversation. Opening your mouth doesn’t make you a marketer. It makes you noisy, and very likely, annoying.

Markets do converse, with or without you. Just because you have access to their conversations doesn’t give you permission to butt in.

In 2009, having a conversation is easier than ever before. Social media (which, for the context of this discussion only, is a set of tools that enable online discussions to take place) is the solution to, and the cause of, all of our current problems. The signal to noise ratio is extremely difficult to manage, and contributing more noise in the name of “marketing” doesn’t help your effort one bit.

But the fact that conversations are easier now than ever before means that both parts of the conversational equation have been improved: both speaking, and listening.

Listening isn’t sexy, even if the tools are better. We like seeing our name credited in the bi-line of a blog post. We like seeing our traffic stats spike. The Pavlovian effect of “share my opinion”–> “gratifying feeling” is an easy cycle to get caught up in, since the reward tends to magnify each time. We get asked to write more posts, our traffic spikes more. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Listening is silent, and the perception it carries involves less quantifiable reward. Unfortunately, that perception is bogus.

There are 94 more theses left change that perception .