Book Review of Trust Agents by Julien Smith & Chris Brogan
Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust
I have been tearing through books lately. A lot of books. In fact, my wife is starting to wonder what exactly keeps me in the can for 10 minutes (ok, sometimes longer) that can be so interesting, ummm, errr..important. Truth be told I’ve never been an in-and-outer, but I digress….
My thought was, because I’m spending all this time reading these books, that I would review them. In no way am I really qualified, but my English teacher in college was my favorite before I decided to drop out. So, maybe I am qualified after all.
The most recent book I devoured was Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. You will no doubt see a trend as I begin to review other books that I’m on a big Social Media/New Media kick, and along with tweaking my Google Reader (can you believe I’ve just discovered this tool? – thanks to Mitch Joel & Six Pixels of Separation – which I’ll review another time) to bring in feeds galore, I’m thumping through all the big names and their latest (some older) publications.
To say that I and Heelatch are new to Social Media would be a lie, but we certainly weren’t among the early adopters when it comes to things like Facebook and Twitter. Fortunately we find ourselves much more involved now, and thanks to our involvement as organizers/founders of the Social Media Breakfast here in Montreal, there is no doubt we’re on a crash course with the latest and greatest innovations as we come together with local peers to discuss such tools and hopefully employ and understand them enough in order to be able to “sell” our clients on them. Note: When I say “sell”, think of me saying it in the softest voice possible.
Back to the task at hand; a book review of Trust Agents.
Without a doubt, these guys have hit the nail on the head. Much like their peers, they advocate a lot of the same principles and guidelines one (or businesses) must respect/observe in order to “use” social media to grow one’s brand or business:
The guys go so far as to encourage readers to get off their butts and do something, now, if they find that their industry or a niche they’re passionate about isn’t being well served in the blogosphere. And rightly so. Who better to talk about Star Trek badges than a Star Trek badge collector on the newly minted www.startrekbadgecollector.com blog?
For the most part what they are saying are things you’ve no doubt heard before and likely preach if you are in this space: Social & New Media. How do you expect a client or potential client (or reader of a blog for that matter) to find you believable if you registered your company the day before and/or have blogged about a particular topic once over the last 6 months? A: You can’t.
Here are snippets of some reviews posted on Amazon by some “big names” in the industry:
Chris Penn writes: “The people who need Trust Agents the most are the least likely to read it….” and “In the end, if you’re probably already a reasonably trustworthy person, you’re not going to get much out of Trust Agents. Like I said, it’s not for you. Buy it anyway, skim it, and then force it down the throat of your pointy haired boss as fast as you can.”
I don’t know Seth Godin or C.C. Chapman (personally)…but they provide pretty decent reviews (albeit short ones) that aren’t as poignant as Chris Penn’s…but I do know Penn is pretty close to Brogan, so it’s refreshing that he’s not bowing down to the book and flogging it like a rat might a most exquisite swiss cheese. Funny, but over the last few days I ran into the stat that says a negative review (as opposed to no review) oftentimes will convert into a sale. Had I not read the book prior to reading Penn’s anecdote…I think I may have actually gone out and bought the darn thing. Yay! I’m a statistic…haha…
Building trust takes time (ie. patience). Chris and Julien recommend you start slow, by commenting on other blogs and lurking around? before jumping into the conversation. They implore you to learn about the space within which you want to engage, become known, become One of Us (a chapter devoted to this notion in the book), and then eventually, hopefully, an established resource or expert in that particular space (we’ll stick with Star Trek badges). Several examples are provided to explain the One of Us theory (see Robert Scoble trashing Microsoft while being employed by them) – where someone comes off in a believable fashion as “working” for the people that are actually listening to them – earning their trust as it were. Someone who chooses to do so without the promise of financial gain (sometimes even at the risk of financial loss) on a continuous basis. Someone whose opinion becomes so highly valued, that they are now recognized as the voice or expert in that domain. A Trust Agent.
Julien and Chris also talk about the importance of being human. Of admitting you’ve done wrong and genuinely appreciating people and the things they do. Of helping someone for the sake of helping someone. Of saying please, thank you, and I’m sorry when applicable (in and out of business settings). Big businesses are finding out the hard way (hello Toyota!!), that there really isn’t anything that can be downplayed anymore or swept under the rug. The web is everywhere and forever… So, why not just come clean and cut your losses from the get go when you know you’ve done wrong? I truly believe it’s because the full impact of the web (2.0, 3.0, 8.0…whatever) still isn’t being felt or observed within some of the larger old school corporate cultures out there. Sure they’ve all gone and hired “Community Managers” or “Social Media Evangelists”, but they’ve done this before asking the Why?, as Mitch Joel likes to say…and they are all trying to engage in these spaces because they feel they have to. I find it funny that businesses that probably have plans and manuals and procedures that make up 12 encyclopedia’s are so quick to hire and let loose on the world these “new media agents”. Chris and Julien reference a few big companies in their book that got it right (Comcast for example), and these companies serve as great examples of successful implementation of new media strategies.
Networking isn’t dead, but it is changing. While your local Chamber of Commerce might offer up a lead or two every once in a while, it is likely your online networks trump that number by a factor of 10. What’s more, the people in your online spaces are more likely to share the bits of your digital footprint with those in their circles most likely to benefit by your expertise, which has an Amway effect on future leads. Except in this case, the pyramid doesn’t stop growing. The bigger your “army” of followers and advocates (evangelists…??), the bigger and further your reach.
Several more instances in the book demonstrate both Julien and Chris’ knowledge and experience in this space, but the final and most important point I’ve taken from it is this; Get it down on paper!! If you’re going to speak about it, have an opinion about something, interview somebody, review a product, anything….get it down on paper, or video or podcast! The more of YOU that is out there communicating your views and thoughts (hopefully genuine), the more likely you are to attract like-minded people, who in turn become part of your network, and who, provided you furnish them with consistent positive and believable info (or annoying – hey, people listen to Rush Limbaugh and hate his guts right?), they’ll keep coming back! That is the key! Know you are not going to be able to “monetize” your idea until you can leverage your following or knowledge, or the trust your following has in your knowledge. But whatever you do – don’t take it for granted! Like momma used to say…don’t forget to say please, thank you, and most of all, I’m sorry.
Enjoy it. It will make sense of all the work you think you’ve been doing for “free” and convince you it has not and will not be in vain. Yes, a lot of it you’ve heard before and will again, but if you’re like me you need to hear these things consistently. Either that or just slap a bunch of post-its on your bedroom mirror. Either way, please keep at it! We sure as hell are going to try.
Does anyone have anything else to add? Surely I’ve missed out on some key points that should probably be related..so please help if I have. Also, I’m looking for more books to read. Any ideas? Upcoming reviews will include Rework, Good to Great, New Rules of Marketing and PR, Six Pixels of Separation, Problogger, Purple Cow and more…