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Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust

For six years, FBI agent Joe Pistone lived undercover and had the whole New York Mafia, along with FBI surveillance teams, believing that he was “Donnie Brasco,” Mobster in the making.  Around the same time, British con artist Alan Conway pulled off impersonating the reclusive American director Stanley Kubrick, fooling many movie buffs and critics, including New York Times columnist Frank Rich.  While driven by very different motives, both Pistone and Conway were able to deceive everyone they met—because no one in the world had yet tapped into the power of the Web.

Today, thanks to Google, Facebook, My Space, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and blogs galore, it’s nearly impossible to prevail at pretending to be someone you’re not.  It’s also a lot tougher to win people’s trust.  And that’s a problem for not only undercover agents and con artists, but also for small business owners, marketing and public relations professionals, and virtually anyone trying to sell a new product, service, or idea. 

One of the world’s top-ranked bloggers, Chris Brogan has built a career on observing how the latest trends and tools in Web networking are changing the nature of business relationships.  In TRUST AGENTS (Wiley; September 1, 2009; $24.95 Hardcover), he joins forces with social media pioneer Julien Smith to answer the question nagging at everyone seeking to improve how they do business over the Web:  “What do I do now?”                           

As Brogan and Smith acknowledge, what makes Web 2.0 attractive to “digital natives”—instant access to wide-ranging research, open invitations to join conversations, forums for do-it-yourself media, and universal transparency—also makes it difficult to reach out and do business with strangers.  How can anyone get through to customers who no longer respond to typical advertisements or win over clients who tend to be suspicious of expert claims?  As the authors have discovered, the Web’s best business communicators are people with a knack for building Web relationships.  “The Web has changed to be more humanized,” Brogan notes, “and the people who will succeed in understanding this and using the Web to build business are called trust agents.”                                          

Packed with actionable information, supported by rigorous research, proven strategies, and state-of-the- art tools, TRUST AGENTS explains how to become a Web presence and force—someone who influences others’ buy-in without self betrayal.  Chapters focus on six defining characteristics and the critical skill sets behind them:                                                                                  

Make Your Own Game.  Trust agents dare to break with the established way and embrace the game-changing way to do things—even when it means a high risk of failing and trying again.  Being a trust agent is about standing out.

One of Us.  Trust agents become immersed in a community—sharing its interests and concerns, talking its talk, and being genuine and honest with its members.  Being a trust agent is about belonging. 

The Archimedes Effect.  Trust agents use their unique abilities to enhance anything they do—and then bring all their skills and strengths together to achieve their goals.  Being a trust agent is about leverage. 

Agent Zero.  Trust agents are at the center of wide, powerful networks.  They enjoy cultivating acquaintances and make building relationships a priority.  They realize the value of being able to reach the right people at the right time.   Being a trust agent is about developing access

Human Artist.  Trust agents support people, empower people, and recognize other people’s strengths and weakness.  They know when to improve relationships and when to step away.  Being a trust agent is about developing understanding

Build an Army.  Trust agents recognize that they can’t do it all alone.  They get large groups of people to collaborate, asking each individual to push a little until their efforts become an avalanche.  Being a trust agent is about developing mass.

Throughout, Brogan and Smith illuminate the path to becoming a trust agent with real experiences and telling anecdotes.  They also touch on how trust agents use specific software, technological tools, and Web 2.0 resources to help them establish credibility and strengthen bonds with potential customers and clients…or wield their influence against competitors.  

In an age of widespread distrust of not only paid advertising and self-proclaimed experts, but also government leaders and our entire financial system, TRUST AGENTS is an invaluable guide to gaining a network of loyal buyers and true believers.