Cluetrain Angst

2469635150_6ac89581de_oWhen asked for case studies about excellence in Social Media, particularly by big brands, the default answers have been Dell (Dell Outlet, RichardatDELL, IdeaStorm), Comcast (@ComcastCares on Twitter) and lesser lights such as Starbucks’s MyStarbucksIdea and Zappos’s Twitterific ubiquity.

There are 1000 companies in the Fortune 1000.  Yet we keep pointing to the same handful.

That’s not to say that there aren’t more (and maybe even BETTER?) examples.  But they are not particularly well known, apparently.

The bar is still low.  When you think about it, “being responsive and engaged with customers” should be the RULE not the EXCEPTION.  Yet the handful of companies embracing this idea get outsized credit for their efforts.  And I say “outsized” not to minimize their attempts but to juxtapose them with the fretful foot-dipping of their corporate peers.

Not to take anything away from our current crop of Social Media idols, but, I look forward to the day when we routinely discuss OTHER big brand case studies.

To that end, tomorrow I’m going to BlogWell in NYC.  The event will highlight 8 case studies from companies such as Nokia, Coca-Cola, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson (disclosure: J&J is a SHIFT client).

If you’re going, I hope you’ll say hello (sadly, I’m actually pretty shy in these venues, so just stick out your hand)!  More to the point, I hope to be able to come away from the event with fresh ideas and a fresh sense of hope that Corporate America is all aboard the Cluetrain.

Posted on: April 28, 2009 at 4:22 pm By Todd Defren
10 Responses to “Cluetrain Angst”


  • Biana says:

    I like your optimism, but I do think corporations have a long way to go in changing their attitudes before they will change their actions.

  • Susan Hart says:

    Interesting and valid point regarding hearing about the same top companies. As excellent or succesful as these organizations may be in social marketing, aren’t some of these same companies laying off people (Dell), in the Customer Service Hall of Shame (Comcast) and being slammed for inappropriate pricing (Starbucks)?

  • Keith Trivitt says:


    I echo Kevin’s sentiment with your passage about the bar being set so low for many major companies. The fact is that only a handful of major companies are currently actively and passionately engaging with the people that are primarily funding the company’s growth: their customers or primary constituents. And as you point out, this form of active engagement should be the rule, not the exception, as ALL companies should seek to actively engage with their customers, no matter what form of media they need to use or are allowed to use (as is the case for many investment companies).

    That gets me thinking that NOW is the perfect time for a company that really wants to break out from the beaten path and gain extra and more loyal customers or constituents (especially in today’s tough economic climate) to actively use social media to engage with their customers. Get ahead of the curve now, when so few companies are doing it, and everyone will think you are an expert and are one of the social media darlings of the corporate world.

    As always, great insight, and thanks for getting us all thinking!


  • Todd:

    I especially like this part:

    “The bar is still low. When you think about it, “being responsive and engaged with customers” should be the RULE not the EXCEPTION.”

    Unfortunately (I know I don’t have to tell you) it IS still the exception. Which leads to the attention being filtered to the few companies that are “going above and beyond” by giving consumers what they expect.

    I think that we will see other “social media poster children” emerge, but I think it will continue to come from the non-Fortune 1000 more than from the Fortune-1000.

    At least for the time being.


  • Jacquie says:

    Please remember that not all of this is about being aboard the train… I’m the commuications person in a highly regulated company — in the securities industry, which is regulated to protect clients/investors. Because of reguatory constraints, it’s VERY difficult to use a corporate blog as a key form of communication, as just one example. I’m on Twitter in case we need it for crisis communications, but, because those communications can’t be captured for the regulators, for now I’m mostly just posting small, fairly personal items. So please don’t start slamming those of us who aren’t completely on board with you… It’s not always as easy as it would be for Starbucks or Dell!

  • Jon Clements says:

    Attended a technology business breakfast yesterday and, interestingly, of the three speakers the only one without case studies was the one talking about social media. I don’t believe it was a coinidence; there’s too few companies in the UK at the moment that have boarded “the train”.

    There are hopeful signs though – we are providing SM training to a major retailer whose people are beginning to put it into practice and budgets are starting to appear for SM where, previously, the purse holder looked either confused or just laughed.

    Tickets please!

  • Peter Kim says:

    I moderated a panel today at the Bazaarvoice Social Commerce Summit. The panelist from Razorfish claimed that a recent campaign for H&R Block drove $18.8 million in sales directly attributable to social media. I’ve asked my contacts at Razorfish corporate for verification and more details; if this is the case, I expect that you’ll be hearing a lot more about this going forward.

    • Jonathan Goldfuss says:

      Interestingly, the next post, “10 Tips for Social Media Marketers,” was originally written by Paula Drum, recently the VP of Marketing for H&R Block. You should ask her: @pauladrum or

      Best of luck

  • James Paone says:

    Being a Boulderite, one local company – but global brand – that is very engaged in social media through one of their employees is Crocs. He tweets from GeorgeGSmithjr, writes their blog, engages their key demo, attends conferences (spoke on Chris Brogan’s Flash Panel at SXSW for brands) – pretty cool stuff. Not doing the flashy stuff – so probably slips under the cracks.

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