I had seen a number of references to it. But it wasn’t until I saw L.L. Barkat’s article at the High Calling Blogs on “The 12 Days of Self-Promotion” that I decided to read Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. So on the Christmas wish list it went, and Santa (dressed as my wife) delivered.
Brogan is a cofounder of PodCamp, a news media conference series that focuses on the use of social media to build both business and personal relationships. Smith is a trend analyst who has run web communities for more than a decade. They are well suited to talk about trust agents.
The book is written in that enthusiastic, rather breathless style often found in books about Web 2.0 and social media. The difference here is that it also contains considerable and significant content. These guys know what they’re talking about, and while they’re aiming at businesses here, what they say has equal application to individuals.
“There are people out there right now,” they write, “working to understand these new technologies and learning everything about how to use them – from etiquette to audience building and beyond. They are learning the ropes. They are the pioneers, mastering the latest one-to-many communications methods. Like your kids, they know more about technology, and maybe even more about people, than you do; and that makes them very powerful. We call them trust agents.”
They’re trusted because they make sure it’s “not about them.” They work for others, linking, encouraging, providing information, teaching, leading, mentoring, helping.
Brogan and Smith go on to describe the six characteristics or actions of a trust agent: make your own game; one of us; the Archimedes principle (as in leverage); Agent Zero (who connects the web); human artist; and build an army. Along the way, the reader learns where so many companies go wrong with social media – they believe this is all about them, and use social media channels as means to publicize and promote themselves. That results in, like the Twitter hashtag says, #fail. They also point out that the need to trust people hasn’t changed, but that the way we do that certainly has.
Trust Agents is easy to read, and more importantly, well worth reading.