Trust Agents: a gentle social media read and a scary question

'Trust Agents' by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith sits on my coffee table and every now and then, I read another chapter. Unlike many other books on social media, it is a gentle friendly read.

Every now and then Chris and Julien stop me in my tracks with an idea that demands attention. (See, I can't help using their personal names instead of the conventional Brogan and Smith. That's the social media world.)

In brief, they discuss and illustrate many aspects of modern marketing. I recall that even in the late 1990s, traditional marketing was dead. The old approach (branding plus bang-em-over-the-head-with-a-four-by-two) didn't even fit Web 1.0.

Everything that's happened online since then has steered marketing in the same direction:

  • Less skiting, more listening.
  • Less hype, more facts (for comparison shopping).
  • Less narcissism, more community involvement.
  • Less me, more you, more us.

Even when you know the goal, it can be hard to get there, and Chris and Julien include loads of advice. Some is radical. Most is practical.

Today this snippet made me groan aloud:

The trick is to come up with something you could tell people at a party, something that would differentiate what you think is interesting about what you do and what the average person thinks is interesting.

Alice and I love our business with a raging passion. Speaking for myself, I find everything about Contented utterly fascinating—our courses, our customers, our plans... I enjoy being forced to think new thoughts and do new things week after week. I love my work for reasons psychological, intellectual, ideological, economic, literary, aesthetic, pedagogic and technological. It's fun, dammit!

But the moment someone asks me what I do, the conversation is doomed. After my first three words, the other person's eyes glaze over and drift desperately over my shoulder, looking for somebody less boring. Know the feeling?

What a contrast with the years before I got hooked by the Web. Everyone seems to find a poet or writer fascinating. Even now, they find it mildly interesting if I say I'm a poet who went over to the dark side. But that's what I am, not what I do!

I have been unable to tell people what I do in a way that they find interesting. In the light of 'Trust Agents', this is no way to use the Web to build influence, improve reputation, and earn trust. Why would you respect anyone whose job seems so dull and forgettable?

Do you have the same problem? I have decided to give my sister Prue a tour of my computer and then ask her the scary question. I'll let you know her verdict.

Thank you Chris and Julien for confronting me with this horrible truth.



Mar 09, 2012 • Posted by ManuelaMattei

Hi Rachel, I talked about this post here: . Thanks a lot for your ever brilliant suggestions!

Mar 09, 2012 • Posted by Rachel McAlpine

Thank you for commenting on the post! I love blogs about Contented in another language.

Dec 09, 2011 • Posted by Rachel

Rachel, I loved this post and can totally relate. For someone who makes a living out of putting words together nicely, they absolutely fall apart coming out of my mouth answering the question, ‘What do you do?’. I’ve never been able to articulate it succinctly, let alone to incite interest. Although I have recently started a website for parents of teenagers which I think people are more interested in, and I can certainly articulate this a lot better. When I say I am a writer/producer for print and web, I sound almost APOLOGETIC! What is that about? Thanks for giving me a laugh on this Friday afternoon.

Dec 10, 2011 • Posted by Rachel McAlpine

At least we are not alone! It’s so painful, isn’t it?

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