I've been sharing my commute with Chris Brogan and Julien Smith for the past few days. I've been reading Trust Agents, their latest collaboration. While writing to the SLAW community about the importance of social media feels a little redundant, I'd still like to expound on this book for a little while.
Trust agents are connectors – people who bring people together, who cannot help themselves from telling others about interesting ideas, products and people they've encountered. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about them in The Tipping Point. Brogan and Smith credit David Maister with describing the concept in The Trusted Advisor.
Personally, I've always seen this role as a natural extension of what knowledge managers and librarians do. Few of my colleagues have not heard me expound my theory of librarianship: "Librarians are not about books. We're about the phone". Lawyers also know the value of connection, and put a lot of effort into developing and maintaining networks of people upon whom they can rely for information, referrals and advice.
Brogan and Smith present a well-reasoned and highly readable exploration of how one becomes a trust agent. Strategic use of Web 2.0 and the networks you develop with social media are the lynchpins of the strategy. The text is accompanied by specific tasks to introduce neophytes to the power of the internet as a tool for influence.
Although the book is written for marketers, much of the advice presented can be easily extended beyond the promotion of a product or service. I particularly liked the messages about encouraging a "tinkering" attitude. "Play with new technologies and new tools to see whether or not they fill a need" – this message can easily be applied outside of the communications and marketing departments. More importantly, the message should extend to management – build an atmosphere of inquiry in your organization. Allow staff to explore and experiment (within reason, of course).
Regular readers of Brogan and Smith's blogs will not likely find a tonne of new stuff here, but the book is an excellent introduction to two great Web 2.0 strategists. Well worth picking up – and sharing.