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Home » New Here

How to be a Trust Agent

I used to think that the most valuable currency was the dollar. It isn’t its trust.

Reputations can be made or lost in minutes thanks to smart phones with cameras, Twitter or Facebook.

If you’re running any kind of business, whether that’s online or ‘bricks and mortar’, you need to realise that social networks and personal connections have far more influence on customers than your marketing messages ever will – so that’s why your business needs to learn how to use them.

This month I’ve been reading Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. They describe a Trust Agent as:

A Trust Agent isn’t necessarily a marketeer or a sales person, they’re digitally savvy people who use the Web to humanise business using transparency, honesty and genuine relationships.

Unsurprisingly people who have trust wield influence. This influence will either build up or bring down your business’ reputation.

If you’re an established business interested in social media, chances are you’ll be worrying about all the different types of tools out there. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin, Flickr to name but a few.

According to Brogan and Smith, don’t worry about it. Focus on connecting with people and the tools will look after themselves.

Trust Agents have 6 behaviours:

  1. Set your own rules – they recognise that the there’s an established way to do things, then there’s some game changing way you can do them too. The game changing way is how most trust agents break the mould and appear on our radar.
  2. One of us: One thing that distinguishes trust agents is that readership can identify with them.
  3. The Archimedes effect – is all about leverage and using the web to increase your influence, knowledge, people, technology or time.
  4. Agent Zero – Trust agents are at the centre of wide powerful networks. They make building relationships a priority.
  5. Human Artist – Trust agents form great relationships, they work well with people and empower people, recognising their strengths and weaknesses.
  6. Build an Army or Tribe – You can’t do it all alone. When you get others to collaborate you can achieve monumental tasks that have previously been considered unachieveable.

Set Your Own Rules

No matter what industry you are in there are usually a specific way things happen. If you’re a journalist writing on a national paper, then you typically start on a local paper and work your way up. If you’re a musician, then you’ll spend years doing gigs in pubs, giving your demo CD’s away hoping that you will get discovered.

It doesn’t have to be like this. UK band the Arctic Monkeys became the fastest selling album in UK history, thanks to Myspace.

Because the web is a platform, it’s the perfect place to make your mark. Trust Agents know this and this is the world they live. They look for the ‘games inside the game’ to find ways to win. Note that Tim Ferriss author of the 4 Hour Work Week, became a World Champion Kick Boxer by learning the rules and applying them, not from physically beating his opponent to a pulp.

Reinventing the rules helps you stand out from the crowd. Closely followed by being there first.

One of Us

Gaining the trust of another person requires you to be competent and reliable. It also requires you to leave someone with a positive emotional impression, which is something that the web has the potential to do quickly and well. Being seen to be a ‘real person’ is big part of gaining trust.

Interacting frequently and regularly is another. Show up at events, get your name out there. Be honest about what your goals are when you start communicating. Then if you want to pitch to someone, do it cleanly and consider the reputation you’ve been building. This should be then easy and natural.

Trust agents plant seeds of ideas.

Archimedes Effect

Archimedes was a famous inventor from 3 BC. He said that “with a lever large enough I can move the world”. Thus the Archimedes Effect is all about leverage. Putting in a certain amount of effort and getting a greater result than our normal human effort would give.

Leverage on the web is using the advantage you have in one place to help you in an another.

Networking is leveraging relationships. We tend to do business with people who are like us. After that we are more likely to do business with someone we feel emotionally positive about.

According to the Brogan and Smith, one way to be build up a reputation that you can leverage that you can leveage is by being the best or boldest at what you do – the rule of thumb they they suggest is is don’t ever sell to your audidence instead be their gatekeeper.

They give the example of Oprah Winfrey who gives and gives to her audience (cars, return trip to Australia) constantly and leverages that goodwill into bigger and bigger guests and giveaways. But she doesn’t directly try to sell to them.

If you’re not taking advantage of the way the web connects everyone you’re missing some easy opportunities.

Agent Zero

Trust Agents are the connectors of all the different groups. They work in positions that connect teams and colleagues whether that’s offline or online, they are sharing information or connecting people.

Trust Agents do this by being able to recognise other individuals who like building networks of value and constantly seeking ways to make their groups connect with each other.  A natural benefit of all of this is that trust agents often connect with influential people.

Trust agents are helpful in promoting the good work of others, often sharing the best stuff without hesitation.  They make friends with newcomers, they hunt out the interesting, driven and talented.

They do this by commenting on other peoples blogs, stumbling their content via Stumble Upon or tweeting it via Twitter or by Facebook updates.

You become Agent Zero by 1) building awareness of who you are 2) Grab their Attention and let them know you’re a good person to know 3) Then you take that recognition and develop it across several groups to the point you’re considered an authority.

Human Artist

Because the web inherently wants to be free, the skill to making money online is learning to interact on your audience’s terms. You need to be a human artist.  When you meet some in ‘real life’ you shake their hands and look each other in the eye. Online the there are equivalents  which you need to learn.

Listen – pay attention to the way other people comment on blogs. Read what others are saying before you comment.

Ask – if you don’t know what’s acceptable, ask.

Reciprocate – When someone friends you on a social network., unless you have a reason not to, friend them back.

Comment and Comment Back – when you are first getting started online you can begin by being a visitor. When someone contributes, try adding to the conversation.  If someone takes time to comment, comment back on his/her response and comment on their blogs blogs too.

Build an Army

The main job of the army is to have a huge impact. Something that they can’t be done by one person. Once you become a trust agent, reaching the next level means building and dispersing armies around projects and opportunities.

You can build an army by establishing a

A Mastermind Group – groups of highly motivated people who are joined together helping each other reach higher ground. If you aren’t already in one, find groups of like minded people and get together virtually to help each other.

The web allows aggregation like no other tool has in the past.  We can ask 100 people for something as easily as asking one person.  A great example of this is Wikipedia. This would be impossible to create without the internet.

The social contract – It’s important for everyone to know what is expected of them.

The web and social media give you the opportunity to present the human side of your business like in no other way in the last 50 years.

Never hoard your expertise or your angle. Always find ways that you can work with others to be successful.

Six Strategies for increasing your web presence

Here are six strategies that you can use to increase your web presence:

  1. Write a blog about a passion of yours – think Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV who sold more than $50m of wine and spirits on the back of his internet ‘tv’ show.
  2. Build a small, powerful network – you can create a group of people in your niche who’re willing to help each other
  3. Become the name brand – by putting out useful content you can, over time dominate your niche and become the trusted voice.
  4. Master leverage and use it for good – using the webs tools (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) to help others eg raising money for charity, or promoting other people’s work.
  5. Sell by generating human trust – trust can develop from constant exposure to your work so that people accept you as the ‘guru’ in your category.
  6. Create an army to power your change – building up groups of people to work on projects should be your priority. Never hoard your expertise or your angle. Instead find ways that you can work with others to become more successful.

Want to know more?

You can buy Trust Agents From by clicking the book image below for $11.53  or £8.39 from


  • Karen said:

    Hi Matthew,

    You know, I’ve seen this book around the web for a while and I can’t believe that I haven’t picked it up yet. I’m definitely looking for it the next time I’m in my bookstore. You’ve written a great synopsis of the book. I recognize some of the concepts here but didn’t realize that they came from the book. It sounds like a very interesting and useful read.

    Thanks for the review and the recommendation,

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Karen, thanks for the comment.

    It’s surprising but sometimes ‘Trust Agents’ have to bring great books to your attention! 🙂

    To be fair, I think a lot of stuff that applies for being a web trust agent applies equally in the ‘real world’ also, so you may well have heard some of the stuff elsewhere. It’s a little bit like a modern day How To Win Friends and Influence People.

    Thanks for stopping by! Matthew

  • Rick Byrd said:

    Hey Matthew:

    Great post!

    I haven’t read the book yet but I will add it to my list.

    I love the post and I agree with 95% (I just made that number up because it sounded good at the time) of it.

    When you talk about Trust Agent behavior of “Setting Your own Rules” I do kind of disagree with you on this one. Just because someone sets their own rules does not mean they are truthful or worthy to be called a Trust Agent. They still have to follow the rules of being transparent, honest, and genuine. I do understand that you should set yourself apart, which might include setting some new rules. But to me it is all about being ethical and those rules are already set.

    Take care!

    – Rick

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Rick, thanks for taking the time to comment. I had heard that 98.7% of statistics were made up on the spot (there you go, there’s another one!)

    I think it means by setting your own rules is don’t be conformist and stick to your beliefs. For example if you’re a vegetarian, it’s no good writing about meat and what a great taste and the health benefits. It’s not credible for you as a blogger. Sticking to the rules you lay out is of course the primary components of being a trust agent.

    Thanks Rick, Matthew

  • How to be a Trust Agent – Big Red Tomato Company « Tech4buziness – Eng said:

    […] Build an Army or Tribe – You can’t do it all alone. When you get others to collaborate you can achieve monumental tasks that have previously been considered unachieveable. via […]

  • Steve said:


    Some very good methods of building trust. It seriously looks like a good book. All of these seem like great strategies to build trust. Being genuine, honest and reaching out to people through these methods seems like a wonderful way to broaden your reach and possibly effect significant change.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Steve, it’s a really good book! A lot of the strategies I see talked about in the book your site is doing so without realising it, you’re becoming a trust agent.

    Power to you Steve! Thanks for the comment.

  • Ben said:

    Cracking Post Matthew.

    I’ve not read Trust Agents yet but its now on my radar.

    I really like the idea of building to help build your business. It’s not enough any more to just put your stuff out there and expect to be picked up. You have to build trust.

    I think the sticking point new online people have is the time factor involved. They expect the in a week of building online they should be a trust agent already. It takes time to build that loyal following up but it’s worthwhile time spent in my view.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Another way of looking at it is being the hub of the centre of the wheel. You’re certainly right though, you do have to build turst and that can’t be done in a week.

    Most successful bloggers have been blogging and running their businesses several years. Most people forget about that….because obviously overnight success is a lot more attractive for people to buy into.

    Great comment Ben, thanks for taking the time to stop by!

  • El Edwards said:

    Oh Matthew! Every time you do one of these darn book reviews you end up costing me money! This sounds like an excellent book. I’m adding it to my Christmas list though because I know my mum will tell me off if I buy myself any more books this close to the big day. 😉

    I love this because trust and honesty go hand in hand and I for one am sick and tired of all the pretend and putting a brave face on stuff. I would love us to build a world where people just say it like it is. Yes, sometimes it’ll get us into trouble but it’s got to be better than playing pretend.

    Fab review. Do us a favour though? Add a link to the UK Amazon too so you get all the commission you so rightly deserve? 😉

  • Ryan Biddulph said:

    Hi Matthew,

    Sensational review!

    I am a big fan of Chris’ work, following his blog daily.

    I like the note about consistent engagement. Connecting with folks is the cornerstone of my marketing campaign. I write mini guest posts in the comments section. I intend to answer all questions I’m asked and I always end my blog posts with a question, initiating a discussion.

    You become trusted when you reach out to others. Make it a 2 way street. Get off the podium and get down into the crowd, mixing it up, engaging, chatting, connecting. This makes you look human, like a real, living person who expresses concern, who listens. We like listeners, we luv people who care about us.

    Thanks for sharing your sensational insight, Matthew!


  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Ryan, thanks for comment, glad you enjoyed it! Apologies for the delay in responding to your comment, I’ve been away. I do love your comment about writing mini guest posts. That’s a really great idea. I think that’s extremely good advice. Although for many big blogs with lots of comments, you’ve got to be careful that your gems don’t get lost in the “noise”.

    Great advice! Matthew

  • Ken said:

    I agree with what you mention about reputation, if we wan to start building our won business, the first thing to o is to build our reputation, bad reputation means no want will trust to you anymore and this can bring an big negative effect in the long run of your business even the worst thing is people who get not good experience with you, they will tell badly about you. The book of Chrish Brogan i think can help people know how to build the reputation toward your client a a trust agen

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Thanks for your comment here Ken, much appreciated.

  • Patricia said:

    Hello Matthew. I think the one-of-us strategy works wonders. But i think the most important point fer me here is to build YOUR NAME as a brand. There can be nothing as powerful as that as proven in so many online marketers and firstname sites/blogs.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Thanks for the comment Patricia. The building of a brand though can only come from content. I think there’s 3 elements to building the brand; content, design and promotion. Making sure you’ve got shareable content and atrractive packaging represents you. How you promote the content of course reflects how quickly you’ll build yourself as a brand.