Daily Archives: April 2, 2013

Book Review: Trust Agents



In the book Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Julien Smith and Chris Brogan, the authors discuss topics and give insight into leading successful online communities based on genuine trust and forming long-lasing interpersonal relationships.

Times have changed and gaining the trust on an individual level is more complex than ever before. Anyone can be a journalist by simply creating an account on wordpress.com or tumblr.com. As a content creator, how do you establish trust and credibility with your audience? Well, Smith and Brogan suggest the label trust agent, but dare not call yourself a trust agent. It is not selected by the individual, but rather ascribed by others who can attest to your specific skill sets and talents. A trust agent is someone who has mastered the “extension of the human body” by using digital mediums to broadcast to audiences, understanding new technologies, and leveraging one-to-many communication methods. Trust agents are non-sale orientated, non-high marketers, and like community managers take a genuine interest in humanizing their business.

In becoming a trust agent, the authors suggest several steps. I am going to discuss three that I feel are most significant. The first is gaining new skill sets. It’s highly important to in the know and fully aware of how to operate new technological advances and digital platforms that arise.

Second the authors feel community managers should recognize the shift from creating content for the individual opposed responding to the group’s interest. As a community manager, it is your duty to keep your audience engaged. Part of embracing your audience requires listening and sheer willingness to provide user satisfaction.

Third, Smith and Brogan provided the three A’s to address customer complaints and dissatisfactions. Those include: acknowledge, apologize, and act. Although, it’s agreed that these suggestions are a great solution to resolving conflict with customers/users, will it work in every case? As community manager, you have the right to filter through material and decide which posts are relevant. Posts that negatively impact your community can be removed and reported. In other cases, simply ignoring the post all together is an even better solution. Pick and choose the battles you’re willing to tackle.

Lastly, Smith and Brogan speak on building an army, which in other words translates into have an internal community. “Build an Army. No matter how great you think you are, you can’t do it all alone”. By establishing a mastermind group of all highly talented individuals sharing the same core values and goals, your community will expand and others will place value on what you do.

Smith and Brogan outline very basic yet extremely crucial steps in becoming a person online users can confide in. As a community manager, which steps do you think are necessary for gaining the trust of your audience? Include your responses in the comment box. Feel free to use examples not stated above.

Vehicles for Communities: On Paper and Online

It seemed about as close as you get to having an episode of deja-vu while in the process of reading.

I was only on the first page, and in the first few paragraphs, of Chapter 3, “Content,” in Richard Millington’s Book, Buzzing Communities.

As I was reading along about how Richard advised, “The best content for a community is content about the community,” I immediately thought: JUST LIKE A LOCAL NEWSPAPER.  A few sentences later, local newspapers were exactly what Richard was talking about.

“Think of your content as the equivalent of a local community newspaper that tells you what’s going on in the community.”

“The content of an online community is the same. It tells you what’s happening in the local online community.”


Suddenly, the true-to-form image and understanding of an online community, and online community content, suddenly couldn’t have been any clearer for me.  That’s probably because working at a local community newspaper, reporting local community news, editing the writing of other community reporters, was my first job in journalism. (Actually, thinking back, I worked as a community-interest writer first, while a student, before I became a paid “general assignment reporter.”  That recollection provided even more clarity of what makes for good community content.

Even as newspapers have evolved to manage some sort of future in the wake of Internet journalism and online publications, people always still want to know the same kinds of things.  They want to know what is happening for their friends and neighbors, what “bigger things” are occurring in the community, and they want interpretations of how it will all affect them. In this way, Millington describes, just as the local newspaper performs “a key role as a facilitating agent for the community.”

The author continues to draw the parallels between local newspaper and online community content:

  • To provide informative and entertaining information
  • Create narratives that allow the community to follow what’s happening.
  • Develops a sense of community among members
  • Initiate conversations, things to talk about, and activities to take part in

He goes on to compare how the elements of a news publication are similar to the content parts of online community content: news stories, feature articles, announcements, opinions and guest columns, classified ads.

In fact, I know someone who has transferred the concept of the local community newspaper and made it into an online community content system.  A journalist by training, he did this several years ago, before most mainstream papers developed their online presences. He has put into effect online all the elements of community-building that Millington says comprise a thriving community.

Radio Free Hamilton

For the reasons people have turned to newspapers for decades, they can be motivated to turn to communities online that fulfill the interest and information needs they have now.

And as newspapers face increasingly challenging economic futures, it may indeed be online moderated communities that do – in addition to or in place of, perhaps — what newspapers were founded to do – record, report, and be a sounding board for the community.