Who are Your Trust Agents?

Have you read “Trust Agents” by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith? If not you might want to get a copy. If you are a social media practitioner in general or an online community manager specifically as I am, you already are one or you’re working very hard to become a Trust Agent.  (Incidentally, Brogan and Smith are experts of all things social media and each is a must on your  Twitter Follow list : @chrisbrogan, @julien.)

So what exactly is a trust agent?  As Brogan points out, trust agents are, among some other things, relationship builders. They are clearinghouses of information and people and provide the sign posts to both.  They often do the connecting of someone to someone or something in the Social Media whirl (outside SM too) whether for good or ill.  If you are on Twitter or Facebook you’ve already identified some of your trust agents – and may have an idea of who sees you as such. 

Trust agents on these media have the latest and greatest stuff on their blogs or Web sites. Their tweets are not only clever, they’re informative and concern things you care about (even if only a little and for a moment e.g. Balloon Boy). Their URLs lead to the coolest things. You click them and are regularly pleased and often surprised by what you find there. When you see that they’ve written something on their wall in Facebook – you read it and then go to their pages to find out more because they have proven to be in the know over and over again.

Likewise, you’ve followed or friended some real duds too. You know who I mean. Either they are telling you every little thing they do through the day or what they write is just plain boring.  I recently “unfollowed” a couple of people who were giving me no ROI. The bottom line is that I lost trust in them.

So as my title asks – who are your Trust Agents? I’ve got a lot and am finding more every day but I want to take a moment to tell you about two of mine.  These two women are role models when it comes to connecting. Of course  they have the tools and techniques down cold, but the secret to their success is that they are both made right  on the inside. They do all their connecting with the goal of making their connector and connectee benefit. 

Back in 2005 I had a personal experience with this idea when my high school reunion was coming up. One of my dearest friends (high-school friends, majored the same at the same University – even pledged the same sorority) Cheryl Stewart-Miller, took it upon herself to round up email addresses and create a Web site. I know for a fact that these electronic means were critical to the reunion’s success. It was a great time and surprisingly(you know how these reunions can go. :-),  I was really glad I had traveled 2000 miles to get there. 

So you think that’s all well and good – not really news -  and we’ll just do it again in a couple more years.  But that’s not the end of the story. About the same time her committee was working on the reunion Cheryl started up this Facebook thing. I kept getting invites from her. I was annoyed at first – paranoid about privacy I guess. But after the reunion I eventually put up a page too – of course my current job has something to do with it!

So I get this page up and I see that a whole lot of our HS graduating class members have pages up too.  Hmm, what’s up with that - I thought. Then I started getting these friend suggestions – all from Cheryl of course.  I’ve chuckled at some of those but have followed most of them with the result being renewed friendships and being a witness to a lot of caring. For example,  one of these friends had a job interview – more than 15 of us wished her good luck.  Then another had some serious surgery and again there were well-wishing and prayer promises. I did not realize how powerful our shared experiences in Indiana, Pennsylvania really were and continue to be.

The trust agent in all of this was, and continues to be Cheryl. I have to tell you that Cheryl has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism, has a wealth of PR experience at the corporate level and is one of the best writers I know. So Cheryl has a bazillion skills that lend themselves to social media in general, but she is wildly successful with all of her connecting mainly because of who she is – a caring friend to many.

I recently added another to my Trust Agent  list, finding her here at Intel, seemingly by accident.  It was the middle of this past December and I found myself in a bit of a quandary . I was in a new job and had signed up to produce an event in a very short period of time and without a lot of funding.  I was still figuring things out in the job and had no idea of where I should start. Intel Marketing Engineer Renuka Awasthi seemed to materialize out of thin air.

I happened to be at the Intel Hillsboro site and found a meeting invite – from someone I did not know – on my calendar for that morning. I later found out that one of my stakeholders had asked her to assist me but that first day I did not know this. When we got together, Renuka quickly made it clear that she understood what we needed to do, how to do it and what the first steps should be.  That first meeting ended with a succinct “To Do” list and she immediately started work on a marketing plan. She made a few phone calls to her contacts and the result of all this so far was my newly found belief that we just might be able to pull this off!

Throughout the planning and execution processes Renuka was right there, volunteering for tasks, some of which I didn’t even know we needed. On the day of the event she even came to the conference room from which we “broadcast” the event, making herself useful all the while.  Now I need to tell you that she did all this in addition to her “real” Intel job at which she was pretty new and was still coming up to speed on.

So Intel® vPro™ Technology Virtual Seminar 2010 - Getting to know Intel® Active Management Technology 6.0, was a great success and it’s been almost a month since, but Renuka’s involvement has not ended. Just yesterday, she emailed me to ask if I wanted to put information about Intel ®AMT 6.0 (the whole point of the event) in a newsletter she knows about which would bring our message to another audience. Of course I said yes, and then she sent an email to the newsletter contact introducing me – immediately setting us up for success.

If you ever find yourselves working with Cheryl or Renuka, consider yourself lucky. Both are extremely skilled, but behind their connecting is a clear desire to benefit others. That is the most important part of trust agency and again I ask the question - who are your trust agents and what are you doing to become one as well?

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jacace's picture

I'm going to "unfollow" some people too.
btw: I just started @jacace

anonymous's picture

Loved reading this. SO glad you and I have reconnected....hugs!

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