Customer Reviews: Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust
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on December 19, 2009
I was looking forward to reading this book as I work in social media and highly respect the authors. I'm always weary of reviews of social media books because, let's face it, in general the authors know more about reviews/ratings and how to manipulate them more than authors of other books. Anyway, I was very disappointed in Trust Agents. I felt that it was similar to other social media books in that the authors are trying to create catch phrases or buzz words (e.g. "trust agents") being that this is a new industry and creating a buzz phrase is a great marketing tactic. Despite the book's description, this is more of a theoretical book and does not offer practical advice that can be used at the tactical level.

It might not be a bad book if you're new to social media, but if you're experienced you're basically going to hear the same old stuff with different jargon. Then again, if you're new to social media you're much better off reading Groundswell. You'll get plenty of interesting supporting data there rather than anecdotal evidence of why certain strategies work.
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on September 18, 2009
I've met Chris Brogan several times (who is impressive in person despite a penchant for thinking that foul language is cool), and I have a great admiration for Seth Godin, who enthusiastically praises and endorses this book. Trust Agents is well-written, and the authors certainly are leaders (i.e., trust agents) in social media. The problem is that the book reflects a disturbing philosophical shallowness within our society, as well as a mindless pursuit of celebrity. Hey, it's a good book, and worth reading, but there is nothing profound within the covers. Trust Agents glorifies the current trend toward acquiring great quantities of snippets of relationships, and assumes that the value of quantity over quality in our relationships is the appropriate focus. Yes, this acquisition probably is the most effective means for business success now, however it ignores a fundamental destruction of the true fabric of our humanity. I am surprised that Seth Godin praises this book so highly, since it has so little to do with relationship quality, excellence, and the pursuit of remarkability.
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on August 17, 2009
Chris Brogan and Julien Smith say they set out to write a business book. "Perhaps you've been noticing that the older approach to marketing, PR, advertising, business communication, and other activities on the web aren't pulling as well as they used to...Trust Agents is the answer to the question: `What do I do now?'" Eventually, it suggests that its message can be more broadly applied. "You will get the job you want without a resume. This book will teach you how....By the way, this works with talking to attractive members of the opposite sex, too." And finally, at the end, "Though we've written the book to be a business book about using the web, the skills of a trust agent relate to many offline possibilities." Disclosing this so late may have been intentional. Or, seeing how the narrative develops, perhaps it was something the authors realized only after the whole thing had been written. Regardless, they're absolutely correct.

People will believe what tends to conform to their own social circles and the people that they trust. Generally, we trust our friends. And on the web, those friends can be everywhere. The ones who set out to gain our trust are called "Trust Agents." "Trust agents use today's web tools to spread their influence, faster, wider, and deeper than a typical company's PR or marketing department might be capable of achieving, and with more interest in people, too. We need to become them and harness them...A Trust Agent builds networks almost reflexively by being helpful, by promoting the good work that others do, by sharing even their best stuff without hesitation, and by finding ways to deliver even more value on top of all that without asking for anything in return."

Business needs to cultivate its Trust Agents, some of which will be under company control, most of which will not. Personally, so do we all. I recommend this book for everyone, both business and personal.
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on September 5, 2009
Why Bother with Social Media

I've had a Facebook account for almost 2 years now. I thought that it was a great way to reunite with old friends and find out what they have been doing over the years, but I didn't care too much to know that they were going to the mall, watching a movie with friends, or changing their children's diapers; Nor, did I care to let my friends know what I was doing at every second of every day. The constant barrage of status updates and invitations were of no value to me, and quite honestly annoying. Time is what I value most in life, and I was not about to waste it.

I purchased Trust Agents on the recommendation of bloggers that I admire, and upon reading the first few pages I was met dose of reality: I have been wasting time for 2 years. Whether you like it or not, social media is the new revolution in communicating and getting things done. Relationships that you build through major social networking sites are not empty; Rather, they are an amazingly effective way of gaining knowledge, building your professional reputation, and creating an army of like-minded individuals that can help you to syngergistacally achieve your goals.
cover to trust agents for the book review

Relationships Are the New Market

Before the social media, entrepreneurs and big businesses marketed themselves like battering rams at the gates of your potential patronage. They would hammer away via commercials and advertisements that told you of their greatness and how you needed their product like a fish needs water. Now, these same people - through the advent of social media - are no longer high and mighty intelligentsia looking for a buck, but are like-minded individuals in the same boat as the rest of us. Producer and consumer now have a new relationship of sorts - one of pseudo-friendship (and sometimes real friendship).

By taking social media seriously, within a matter of 2 weeks I have connected with several successful entrepreneurs and business professionals that I would have never communicated with before such as Guy Kawasaki (who folows me on Twitter. How sweet is that?), Jun Loayza, Jenny Blake from Google, and others. Under old media marketing, these folks would view me as a potential sale. But under the new social media there is a relationship of mutual purpose, respect, and a sense that we need each other to achieve our goals. Would I buy products from these people, almost without hesitation. However, it is not because they convinced me of how great their gadget was, but because I trust them.
Getting Things Done Via Social Media

The beauty of social media lies in its efficient means of simultaneous action by multiple individuals. Since reading Trust Agents, I have had a variety of instances in which I have been able to leverage the knowledge and actions of others to do things that would otherwise take hours or even days. Whether it is requesting book recommendation or asking friends to take action on a particular project of mine, the results have been astounding. For example, just this week I sent an email to my pastor asking if I could redesign his parish's shabby website. After I sent off the email, I let my friends know what I had done. I now have a multitude of very persuasive God-fearing ladies poised to mention to pastor the that the Church's website needs a facelift, and that they know just the guy that can do it.


Overall, the book is a great introduction to the power and the possibilities of social networking. I highly recommend it to anyone, who like me at one point, finds the whole concept confusing or not worth using. Like those who witnessed the birth of radio and television and refused to take advantage of their respective potential, those who ignore the new social media will find themselves one day chasing after a wagon that long left them behind.
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on October 21, 2009
Trust Agents is a great book for anyone new to social media and community management. The concepts in this book will help you gain trust with your online peers however...if you've been following Chris Brogan's blog or if you've heard any of the webinars he's done, a lot of the content in this book is the same and you'll end up skipping a lot of pages in search of something new.
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on January 7, 2010
Yes? Then you have probably already read at least part of Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust, the new book from Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

Most likely, you are wondering what a "Trust Agent" is supposed to be.

"Trust agents have established themselves as being non-sales-oriented, non-high pressure marketers. Instead, they are digital natives using the web to be genuine and to humanize their business."

The main premise is that cultivating "trust" will enable you and your business to succeed. They talk about creating this trust using social networks and online media. Be a trust agent and people will gravitate towards you when they need something, and then trust you with their information and leads. The book combines some theory, with the author's success stories, other relevant examples and actionable suggestions.

Unfortunately, I found big chunks of the book to miss the mark for my involvement on the web. My original jump into the web was to see how these tools would work as knowledge management tools inside an organization. I found these web 2.0 tools were well ahead of the enterprise tools. My approach in using the web is for personal knowledge management.

These tools (including this blog) are for me to find the information I need to succeed at my job and to organize that information for reuse. I use web tools for selfish reasons. They are really good at helping me collect information. That others can leverage my work is a by-product. That these tools allow me to stay connected with colleagues is a by-product.

Some of that stems from the nature of my job and my company. We don't use the web to advance our corporate image. As the chief compliance officer I am not trying to sell anything, ever.

But I do like staying connected with my colleagues and peers. There are many more people outside your organization who do what you do or have the information you need to succeed, than there are inside your organization.

Trust Agents is about creating social capital. I think it could just as easily be called: "Don't be a jerk online." They go into a lot more detail than that and come up with six characteristics of Trust Agents.
1. Make your own game.

Try new ways of doing things. Stand out from the crowd. First movers have an advantage. They quote Warren Buffet on when to enter a market: "Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."
2. Be one of us.

Be part of the community. Don't be the self-promotional jerk in the community who is continually handing out business cards and asking for business. Contribute to the community. You need to give first if you want to receive. The more you give, the better.
3. Use the Archimedes Effect

Archimedes propositioned that if he had a long enough lever and a fulcrum on which to place it, he could move the world. Leverage your message.
4. Try to be Agent Zero

Cultivate your personal networks and recognize their value. Connect with good people. Connect between different groups.
5. Become a human artist.

Learn how to work well with people and help empower people. You need to learn the etiquette and start off by listening to the community before you burst in with a full head of steam.
6. Build an army.

You can't do it alone. You need to find people who are willing to collaborate with you.

If these concept resonate with you, then it is worth your time to read the book. If you are just starting out with web 2.0 tools you should heed the lessons in the book. Even if you are a wily veteran, you will find some useful information in this book.

Trust Agents is a bit uneven at times. In places it reads more like a collection of blog posts instead of a coherent narrative. Some of their ideas are better flushed out than others. Those six characteristics don't have equal weight.
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on August 28, 2009
Brogan and Smith address Trust Agents to marketers in particular. As marketing professionals themselves, they critique many common practices of the profession and propose enlightened alternatives.

Trust Agents embody six qualities, and each receives its own chapter:
They make their own game (enjoy experimentation, learn from trial and error)
Are `one of us' (spend time with us, are genuine)
Use the Archimedes effect (leverage one success to create another)
Act as Agent Zero (bring networks together and build relationships long before business needs transacting)
Are human artists (good at `people skills,' empower others)
Build an army (work with their networks to achieve monumental tasks)

Clever Trust Agents `make their own game' by sizing up the system, the status quo. They identify its underlying assumptions and then decide which rules can be broken. They jump the gate; they hack the system; they do something unique. At the same time, and this is crucial, Trust Agents do not take advantage of people. People are real, they have feelings, and deserve respect. Trust Agents watch their own ego. They promote others more often than they promote themselves.

They encourage readers to keep experimenting, keep trying new things. If you stumble, learn from the experience. It's part of creating your own game.
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on August 23, 2009
"Do you see yourself as a Trust Agent?" I asked an entrepreneur. "Kind of," he responded somewhat coquettishly, immediately mentioning that he had thousands of followers on Twitter for his company. He "had a reputation," and he had "earned it." As if any reputation were a "good" one by default (the internet version of "any publicity is good publicity")! As if a "good" reputation at any given time entitled anybody or any company to be trusted in perpetuity. Madoff was a "Trust Agent" in his field, and remained so for a long time mainly because people are so scared at the idea of trusting people that they are even more scared at the idea of questioning the trust they have placed in them... All of this to say that this book addresses anybody: the perpetweeters who feel like inductees into the Web-pantheon -- yet could be dismantled as easily as any statues - and, of course, those who wonder how to expand their influence.

The book is structured around the six main features of a Trust Agent:
1. They make they own game. Nothing to do with ego packaging. They are the people who set new rules and provide a novel or interesting perspective on things.
2. They are "one of us." The expression "social media" maybe somewhat redundant, except that the Web can also be the playing ground of antisocial nerds and weirdos. Trust Agents are people we can relate to and care about others.
3. They understand the principle of the lever - or the Archimedes effect ("Give me a place on which to stand, and I will move the earth") and empower others.
4. They are marvel-ous connectors -- they have the power of an "Agent Zero." "No matter where they go, trust agents have a desire to connect good people together." They are not mere networkers and are more like relationship facilitators.
5. They are human artists. On the Web, we are deprived on 93 percent of all the human signals (38 percent vocal tones and 55 percent body movement), which exposes anybody to a number of blunders. They understand the subtle aesthetics and the etiquette of communication.
6. They know how to "build an army." You can't do it alone. But how can you best convince thousands of ronin and lone rangers to join in and follow? The loyalty of people is first and foremost your loyalty, as a Trust Agent, to them. The Kmart incident let the authors realize that "there are agreements, often implicit, between people and that these social contracts need to be clear and understood at all times."

The chapter "Build an Army" ends with an interesting statement: "Most of the meat of the business isn't in using these [social media] tools, but rather in how they are applied uniquely to your organization." The how requires a new type of skill, and tellingly enough, the conclusion of the book starts with an interesting statement: "Business, it feels, is becoming an art," the art of humanizing people that you may never see, and at looking at a random collection of people as real human beings emotionally connected by what the authors often call a "social contract." Push marketers are doomed to belong to another age, and social media marketing, still kind of a sidekick in marketing organizations, will be the cornerstone of the next marketing age - one governed by a completely new understanding of the value of customer service.

I like this book for many reasons. It's pragmatic and offers actionable advice to individuals and business leaders. I like the underlying assumption of a good-natured, transparence-driven popular sovereignty of digital natives that trust agents must respect to remain trust agents - and not turn into a body of traders controlling the social media business. I was interested by the fact that it is written by two authors who end up complementing each other as they express the complexity of a social media scene, the strange confluence of behaviors that we have caught from living on the Internet for the last 15 years, playing computer and video games (from the first SimCity to MMO games), reading American comic-books while still breathing in the real world.
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on August 16, 2009
This one's a keeper. If you do business online (or do business with people who have ever been online) or know someone who once used a computer, I strongly suggest you get smart about the ideas in this book.
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on January 12, 2010
This book - with such a cool title - was somewhat mediocre IMHO...While the two authors certainly do a great job of inducing you to "like-them" and try to come across as "one of us" - the main disappointment I have with this book is that there are few (if any) "ah-ha" moments! These are the things I want in a book..Stimulating new ideas, concepts, and notions that make me go "Ah-ha!" and make new mental connections.

If I had to sum this book up it would be Dale Carnegie (his book - "How to make friends and influence people") meets the Godfather (remember the line paraphrased: "I will do this for you now - and someday I will ask you for a favor which you cannot refuse", and Goodfella (remember the line: "he is a Goddfella, one of us").

On the positive side - it is a very easy read (somewhat wordy and obvious in places though) - and the best part are the specific "Action Steps" which I did find valuable. Good intro to nuts'n-bolts of Web 2.0.

A decent read but would like to have been a little more amazed with new concepts from these two Trust Agents.
-Joe M.
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