I had a call the other day with Mario Sundar and two other LinkedIn employees (Wasn’t sure I had permission to name you both). We were talking about my recent post about LinkedIn and sharing. Here’s why Mario is a trust agent: he saw my post, and marshaled his company to take some kind of action to hear more about my thoughts, and see if there was any action that could be taken to improve the experience.
You could say, “Well, Duh. You’re a top blogger in the social media space. Of course he’s going to listen to you.” The picture I put up with this post is from three or so years ago. I was a total nobody. Mario hung out with me because he liked how I wrote. Why? Because he’s a man of the people. LinkedIn knows that it’s in Mario’s blood to be “One of Us.” He’s that kind of person.
I don’t get this kind of response from any of the other big social media platforms. No one at Facebook knows I’m alive. The guys at Twitter are nice, but it’s not like I have a chit-chat going on with any of them. Hell, when I want to talk about Twitter, I talk to @Ed. He’s more of a “face” for Twitter than most of their employees.
How Trust Agents Empower Business Benefits
What did Mario do for LinkedIn by listening to my thoughts about the service, and/or bringing in the appropriate team members to help me? He made me love the brand more. That love results in this post. It results in more conversations about how a company is doing it right when I’m on stage in front of thousands of people (tens of thousands if I talk about it over a year). He built more positive brand awareness via my channels than any ad will ever build.
Awareness is a good benefit.
Mario built further loyalty. I am deep in LinkedIn looking for more ways that I think it could be improved, but by doing so, I’m also using it more. When I invite people to connect with me at speeches, I just give them my contact form and my LinkedIn account info these days. Why? Because now that the new LinkedIn Contacts section works so much better (easier to sort), I’m using it far more often when thinking about business.
Loyalty is priceless.
Mario also gets free consulting from someone with 11 years in the business, because he paid me the courtesy of listening to my advice. He didn’t offer to do every little thing I asked. He didn’t sell any part of his company down the river. He just listened and showed me that he was interested in my feedback.
Friendship is better than a retainer.
Should Your Company Be Developing Trust Agents?
Well, it sure doesn’t scale. But why wouldn’t you try to build a better relationship with your buyers and existing customers? Why wouldn’t you prove that you can leverage the powers of the social web into more business? Why not prove that relationship-based sales trumps transaction-based sales?
How Do You Do It?
Call me biased, but I’d start with reading Trust Agents. But beyond that? Just keep looking for the studies and implementation stories of people who are doing amazing work in this space. New ones come out every day.
And thanks, Mario. I’m a fan of LinkedIn, and will continue to push for people to keep LinkedIn clean and to write LinkedIn recommendations that sell.