For those of us that read the Cluetrain many moons ago, we are increasingly amazed at how well it has held up to the rapid changes the Internet has experienced over the last 10 years. (This book is amazing and is required reading for my class at DU.) At the time of its release, most people we locked into the concept of mass customization; which is now standard on sites such as Puma’s Mongolian Shoe BBQ. The real meat of the book was the fact that we are back to a marketplace relationships; online. This is why the walls of businesses seem to have become porous with customers actively participating in a business through social media and all its forms.

Several months ago, Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang released a report outlining the 5 eras of social networking with the last era being social commerce. This is not a linear progression and there is some overlap, but Owyang’s contention is in line with the Cluetrain. There are two phases that need to happen prior to social commerce can happen:

  1. Colonization – Data portability has happened via OpenID and you traverse the Internet with pertinent elements (based on network, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc) defining your profile.
  2. Context – Social networks become niche focused with a social object at the core. This is happening currently on Facebook/LinkedIn groups and Twitter Lists but in the end will need to be a richer experience with dedicated tools. (Rhymes with Google Wave)

This intuitively makes sense when you think of a group of like-minded people (niche social network) working together on something they have a passion for (social object). “Let’s build something and sell it!” Curious to see which niche social network becomes a business first.

There will be a whole new market creating tools (online/touch web) to empower these networks to create their product and then take it to market. Excited to see this shift.

Owyang is on the Cluetrain