Thinking About Trust Agents

typist I’m struggling through a little crisis of self-explanation, which is difficult to admit, as someone who writes thousands and thousands of words a day. When I introduce myself at events, I have two fake answers I like to give: “combat helicopter pilot” or “typist.” B is closer in truth than A. The real promise is that Julien Smith and I haven’t fully defined the term that best fits what I do: trust agent.

Julien and I have a book coming out in May 2009 (earlier, if we can type faster) from Wiley tentatively titled Trust Agents. The premise, and we’re still working to define this word more succinctly is, “people who use the web in a very human way to build influence, reputation, awareness, and who can translate that into some kind of business value. That’s my definition at the moment. Julien and I send each other countless little emails a day that say, “What about THIS definition?”

It’s a business book, not a tech book. We talk about the web, but we discuss it as a tool, not in terms of how great Twitter and Friendfeed are, but rather, what someone can do with the tools of the moment with regards to the web at large.

Here’s the thing: though a company like Microsoft spent millions and millions of advertising and marketing dollars trying to improve our perception of the brand, none of us gave a sh!t until Robert Scoble came along and put a human shape around their online and event presence for us. Robert acted as a real human, with thoughts, opinions, and – gasp – he sometimes agreed with us that MSFT didn’t have something right. It was brilliant.

Lionel Menchaca at Dell is a trust agent. Pam Finnie at HP is a trust agent. Matt Cutts at Google is a great example of a trust agent. Caterina Fake when at Flickr was a great trust agent. Kathy Sierra is one of the ultimate trust agents.

Are these things related to tech only? Hell no. I’m just listing a few that we have batted back and forth a lot. There will be more.

Know who’s the non-web equivalent of a trust agent? Oprah Winfrey. To a lesser degree, so is Paris Hilton. We’ll talk about that, too.

Book writing isn’t exactly the same as blog posting. Julien and I are doing a lot of talking, a lot of reading (well, Julien is), a lot of research (again, more Julien than me- he digs that stuff), and a lot of storytelling.

I spoke with Seth Godin over lunch today. A little later, I spoke with business partners David Meerman Scott and also Paul Gillin. We talked about books and publishing and the business overall. It’s some tricky stuff, but it can be rewarding, if you do it with passion and get a decent book turned out.

While I’ll be putting lots of this information into the manuscript, I wanted to open up some conversations about trust agents, about who you think fits that description, and about what you think it means before knowing more than what I’ve written about what goes in the book.

(Side note: I’ve written in some form or another since age six. I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life, and never realized on the way up the scale that I *was* a writer. It all changed when I stopped worrying about BEING a writer and just started writing. If this is an aspiration of yours, you can do it. The key? Practice. The other key? Practice. Third key? Read a LOT of books. )

What do you think? Your ideas mean the world to me, and to Julien as well. We’ll ask you bits here and there from time to time. You know me. I ask questions. Right?

Print Friendly