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Are Companies Ready for Trust Agents?

Posted on : 17-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Marketing, Social Media

6

Well, ready or not, here they come!  This topic has been on my mind for ages.  With Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book out and Chris mentioning on his blog, I thought today was the right day to do it.

While at a marketing conference as a guest on a panel regarding Customer Service through Social Media, I started thinking about trust agents.  We heard introductions from each person.  The last panelist was a marketing professional from a very well known online bank.  He seemed like a really good guy.  During his introduction he mentioned how it was all about the brand, and the discussion must center around the brand.  I have heard this so often, typically from marketing people that desire to control the message in social media.  The message is really a conversation.  I tend not to speak with a logo, but rather the person.  The reason why certain people and brands are successful in social media is because they recognize that fact.  Even brands like @Starbucks and @Jetblue let the personality and the person behind the tweets shine through.  We’re all learning about the brand through the people.

Here are six secrets to being a trust agent:

  1. Are you making your own game? (Are you following or writing the new path?)
  2. Are you one of us? In the trenches and engaged in conversation in Social Media for your brand.
  3. Do you understand the Archimedes Effect?  Do you understand how to take what youre doing in one instance and extend it out into something bigger or better elsewhere?
  4. Are you Agent Zero to several networks?
  5. Do you relate well to others?
  6. Are you ready to build armies? Working solo is easy. Do you share what you know to promote larger interactions?

Displaying some or all of these characteristics in social media suggests that you may be a Trust Agent.  This is not necessarily a role or title assigned by a company.  Nor can a company control the message of this person.  This is someone leading the way in this new medium call Social Media.  These are not the numerous self proclaimed experts, but truly the ones that are leading the way in thoughts and actions.

Chris has referred to me as a Trust Agent, but I can never even come close to some of those that lead the way.  I am not sure I will ever live up to the reputations of:

  • Robert Scoble formerly from Microsoft, now with Fast Company
  • Lionel Menchaca at Dell
  • Pam Finnie at HP
  • Matt Cutts at Google
  • Kathy Sierra

This brings me back to the point of the post, we are still at an age where various “brand” professionals are doing what they can to control the conversation and the message.  They are missing the point, but I am not sure why since it has been out there for a long time.  Right now I am reading Brian Solis’ latest book, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.  When I look back at some of Brian’s earlier work he was predicting this loss of control, and the need for companies to enter the conversation from a very different perspective.  Beyond all the expert opinion, the Trust Agent may not always build up their reputation with the permission of the company they work for.  In fact many are in this space now having conversations.  They are becoming the leaders in this new version of marketing.

It is time for companies to step back, realize the conversation is happening, encourage employees to be a part of it, and provide tools to make sure the employees are successful.  This is the right social media plan that every business should have.

Who are some Trust Agents that you know?