btripp_books (btripp_books) wrote,

Building Trust ...

Maybe I've been “drinking the Kool-Aid” too much, or maybe it's just because (in my own job search) the areas of Social Media, “personal branding”, and their various quasi-PR cognates (“web content”, “reputation management” and all) seem to be where the opportunities are opening up. Whatever it is (and certainly regular readers of this space will have noted the trend), the genres of “job search” reading and “social media” reading have begun to significantly blur together in my mind.

As you probably know, I've been penning the Chicago Tribune's “Chicago Now” blogging site's The Job Stalker blog for the past few months, and have brought in reviews from my LiveJournal accounts into there, paired with brief author interviews, for a feature that I've been trying to run on a weekly basis. Initially I was “re-using content” with reviews that I'd previously written here, then I had a few appropriate books come in via the LibraryThing “early reviewers” program, then I had a couple of authors (or friends of authors) contact me, but this is the first time that I've actually queried a publisher to obtain a book … so, for the benefit of the FTC: I was sent a free copy of this book by its publisher so that I would be able to read it in order to write a review. So don't fine me, OK?

Anyway, in the Twitter-centric world in which I've been living over the past year, Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith is a fairly “big deal”, with Brogan's blog ranked #3 on the AdAge “Power150”. It has been fascinating to follow Chris' activities around the book, from anticipating its release last fall, through the seemingly non-stop travel that he does to promote it. However, as I was specifically interested in Trust Agents as “content” for The Job Stalker it did occur to me, when I sat down to write this review, that for most people this is not a “job-search book” … or at least they're not likely to realize that it is at this point. As those of you who have been following along at home as I looked at books by McGowan, Seiden, Schawbel, Vaynerchuk, et al. I'm beginning to see that the “personal brand” may well be the core element of the Job of the future, so these may be more on target than they seem at first glance.

Of the books I've read in this niche, Trust Agents is, perhaps, the most philosophical … not a particular call to action, not a “manual”, nor some dire warning of cultural change, this offers up a lot of the background rationale why one should re-invent oneself for these new realities. This is not to say the book isn't instructive, flipping through the various bookmarks I'd stuck in, I found that nearly all were for “action points” (from suggestions for setting up a web “listening station” to various services, systems, and programs one might consider using for achieving assorted tasks) rather than quotes.

There was one bit that I did want to pass along (largely for my The Job Stalker audience), where the “job” issue is addressed:
Being a trust agent requires a mix of strategies and skills that also serve other careers well. Thus, if you want to view what you've learned from this book in a different way, consider applying your new knowledge to your career at large. … Though this book was written as a business book about using the web, the skills of a trust agent can be applied to many endeavors. If you think about it, this is another chance to make your own game. Perhaps you'll learn how to adapt your trust agent skills to other roles offline and have similar success.
So, just what is a “trust agent”? At one point they describe it like Malcolm Gladwel's “connectors” (of the “connectors”, “mavens” and “salespersons” of The Tipping Point), people who seem to know everybody, far exceeding the sorts of limits implied by Robin Dunbar (where humans seem to have a capacity of maintaining “authentic relationships” with only about 150 persons – the “Dunbar number”). The book walks through various elements of becoming this, from Make Your Own Game, in which you're encouraged to re-define how or what you do; One Of Us, on how to become an authentic part of a community; The Archimedes Effect, how to leverage your skills, connections, and existing structures (like the web); Agent Zero, how to establish and support a network; Human Artist, developing the people skills that will give you the advantage; to Build an Army, obtaining leadership skills to make your efforts expand well beyond your own actions. Again, this is not a “how to” book as much as it is a “why do” book, with guidance, but not dictates, provided.

One thing I found very interesting here is that it was very good at anticipating my questions ... there were two or three points when I was thinking “but what about this”, only to turn the page to find that “this” being addressed! I read a whole lot of books, and this is the first time I can recall noting this sort of “finger on the pulse” of a book's readers. I'd also like to share a story about Chris … as I've noted, I've been following him on Twitter for quite while, and he's written a lot about the genesis and expansion of the book. One thing that I'd never heard an author do (and, remember, I ran a publishing house for ten years) is that when he's "cooling his heels" in an airport terminal, he'll offer the various book vendors to sign all the copies they have of the book … which is a brilliant gesture, benefiting the book, the retailer, and the customer, with nearly no effort on his part … that's applying “leverage”.

Needless to say, I very much enjoyed reading Trust Agents and thank Wiley for sending me a copy. In situations where I've gotten a free book, I feel a bit churlish talking about the pricing, but this is available widely, from your local book monger to Amazon and B&N … and those are likely your best options at the moment (Amazon has it at 34% off of cover), as the book is still popular enough that the “used” guys don't have it at much more of a discount that the retail channels. If you're interested in how to be more integrated into the new “trust economy”, this is definitely something you should consider reading.

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