Just finished Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. Timely topic and certainly these gentlemen are more than qualified to tackle this subject. You never know what you are going to get with books. They can be academic and dry or too light and obvious. I’m happy to report that this work does not fall into either camp. It’s accessible, open and easy to understand. They fill the pages with personal experiences, good as well as not their finest moments, and provide examples from others they admire. These guys are very generous. You will read things you never knew before not for sizzle effect but to make a point and tightly linked to the advice offered. At no time do they become preachy or put themselves into a special category.
The whole point is to be a Trust Agent. Someone who is recognized by others and accepted into a group or network. The trick to being a Trust Agent is authenticity, transparency and willingness to help others. This is the foundation of Social Media, but it is frequently misunderstood or purposely avoided by people and corporations. They say the book is about business, not technology, and it certainly is. But these guys are technical wizards underneath their social trench coats. That knowledge and their smarts have given them a jump start in this new world. Something they tell us anyone can do by making their own game. They tell you how.
The book is full of little sidebars that provide clear cut action steps to help crystalize the points made in the chapter narratives. I think it was a great choice to mention technologies like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, but keep their advice on a much higher plane that can travel onto any new technology platform. If anyone knows that things become obsolete quickly in this world it’s them.
The style of the book is conversational, kind of a duh for a Social Media book, but that could have easily been betrayed. Mr. Brogan and Mr. Smith take turns writing paragraphs and chapters, but honestly I couldn’t tell their voices apart. I would never have known who was writing what unless one of them mentioned the other. They are either writing soul mates or one of them is a made up person (just joking).
It’s a fast read and full of information. It provides the most value for someone looking to get an overarching understanding of how the web has evolved into the social platforms we have today and how to make sense and leverage it. I hope to meet these guys some day and buy them a drink (or cookie). They seem like people I’d like to know.