Business Weblogger's Motto: Esse Quam Videre

Esse Quam Videre is my new motto – it means “to be rather than to seem�?. Not only is it the motto of my home state (North Carolina), but it captures the essence of what I believe is happening in business today and more importantly what I think will happen tomorrow. Let me explain in an admittedly idealistic fashion…

I believe that a fundamental change is occurring in the way that businesses market to and interact with their customers -- a notion I first saw related in the pages of the Cluetrain Manifesto. The essence of the change I see is related to “seeming�? vs. “being�?. I’ll start with a description of these two terms related to this post.

    To “seem�? is to project a specific impression or to appear as desired

    To “be�?is to be real or to have an existence

Seeming vs. Being

The growth and power of online discussions and weblogs are moving organizations from a state of “seeming�? to a state of “being�?. The current public face of a majority of companies is more about how the company *wants* to appear in the market than how it actually appears to customers, as described in press releases and marketing collateral. The message is one of “seeming�? a certain way to customers and this message is losing power and influence.

At the same time, tools like online discussions and weblogs are allowing companies to “be�?. These new tools are providing the foundation for a new kind of marketing, a new way for companies to appear in the market by enabling real people to be the embodiment of the company’s message.

Using weblogs and online discussions, companies can project an authentic message that engages and builds relationships with customers through personal connections and communication. These tools help the organization to be more human- as in human “beings�?.

So what?

I believe that “being�? is a competitive advantage and that “seeming�? is becoming a liability. In the future, companies will find that it is impossible to project an image that does not match the reality. They will find that there are hyper-connected, vocal and influential people in their customer base (and inside their company) who may rival their own influence in the market -- and these people will expose the problems they see and celebrate the successes.

In this new reality, companies will need new resources to influence a new kind of market; not a mass one, but one of customers with influential voices. Only by influencing this new market of influencers will companies realize the value of “being�? real and dealing with customers and the market in honest and engaging ways.

What’s a company to do?

Companies need to understand the value of Esse Quam Videre- "to be rather than to seem". As the environment changes, we’ll see more companies adopt the strategy of engagement in these new networks of influencers. Instead of defending themselves against the perspectives of influential webloggers and communities, successful businesses will learn to become part of the discussion – to engage the influencers.

As companies learn to "be", they will become more transparent, more open and personal. They will create weblogs and online communities that allow their customers to interact with people inside the company who really know what is going on. They will become more human, warts and all.

All Companies?

No. I don’t expect to see a weblog from my bank teller -- and “seeming�? may be perfectly appropriate for many companies. However, I think a growing number of companies will find that their market is made up of people with growing online influence.

Currently, this change is affecting mostly high tech companies, where users are more likely to have weblogs or participate in online discussions. Over time, as weblogs and online discussions become more mainstream, the risks of not being involved in these networks will grow.

Below are examples of companies that are “being�?:

Microsoft has made some real progress toward being. MSDN's Channel 9 is one of the more impressive examples of transparency and personal communication. Further, they have over 400 employee bloggers who are working to personally communicate with the market every day. Microsoft is becoming more human.

Apple, HP, Cisco and Adobe all have online support communities that are networks of users who support one another using the company web site. Inside these communities, a human voice is the only type of communication that exists. These companies are using online communities to support users, but also engage them in conversations that build long-term relationships and trust.

MacroMedia is using corporate sponsored weblogs to allow employees to have a voice in the market. Their weblogs are run by their community development team, personally managed and open to the public. This is one of the most advanced and managed systems of corporate weblogs I’ve seen.

Six Apart makes the ultra-popular weblog platforms Movable Type and TypePad. As you might expect, they use weblogs to market products, inform customers, and promote ideas. In using their various weblogs, they engender trust because they know that they are under the microscope of thousands of webloggers- who will not let them seem to be something they are not. They can only be.

Northfield Construction is a small company that uses a weblog to support their construction business.

The list goes on and on.

The traditional marketing machine is losing ground to networks of real and influential people with opinions based on reality and experience. The only thing that will matter is the real quality of a product or service, not what it seems to be.

In the end, I believe that companies who learn to be rather than to seem will reap the rewards from a market that values reality and substance over bravado.