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Trust: Get It, Measure It, Grow It Online or Offline

by Jennifer Beever on November 9, 2009

I just finished reading two books about trust, Trust Agents and The Trusted Advisor.  Reading these books was very meaningful for Jennifer Beever the marketer who does social networking and wants to establish a better presence, and for Jennifer Beever the CMO for Hire and B2B marketing consultant who wants to add more value for clients. Here are some of my takeaways from the books.

The Trust Books

First I read Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. This book discusses why trust is important for social media – a must read if you’re thinking of getting into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging, and a great read if you’re already into these networks and activities or even if you consider yourself an expert.

What I liked about Trust Agents is that the authors talk the talk about trust (it’s been studied and written about before) and applied it very well to social media. I follow Chris Brogan online and know that he walks his talk; I’m sure his co-author does as well. In their book I got my first exposure to the trust equation (I’m a geek; I love stuff like this):

Trust = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Selfishness.

With this equation you can actually measure your trust quotient with clients and/or perhaps calculate a social media average score for yourself (if you’re self-aware and honest). This algorithm discussed by Brogan and Smith is from The Trusted Advisor, by David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford. More about that book in a bit, because when I saw the equation I realized I had Maister et al’s book on hand and queued it up as my next read.

Back to Trust Agents – if you stop and think about it, as the book authors obviously did, we follow people online if they are credible; if we can rely on their reliable information and presence manifested in frequent and regular posts; and whether or not they intimately engage us as people, not as sales targets. Speaking of sales, what about that selfishness factor? We see selfish a mile away (or thousands of miles away) in social networking. My favorite quotes from the book Trust Agents are:

  • “Be in the relationship before the sale.”
  • “In social media, human is the new black.”
  • “Be worthy of being liked.”

I love the chapter on “Make Your Own Game” in Trust Agents.  It’s a motivating section that gets you thinking about how, by tinkering with what is (software, systems, social networks and more), you can come up with the next ‘what could be’ product or service. Very fun to think about.

Next I read The Trusted Advisor. In this book, Maister et al tell you not only why and how, but they give you behaviors to adopt and exact questions to ask to begin to grow trust with clients. Part way through the book I could tell it would be foundational knowledge for going forward as a consultant. The book expressed what I believe I want to embody in my consulting practice, but I didn’t realize that some of my behaviors and thoughts didn’t support my intent.

I read the chapter on client types first. The authors suggest that you identify what type of client you are working with, and then bring forth the aspects of your personality that will best compliment that type to maximize the relationship. They caution that consultants should not lie or be something they are not. Questions to ask to identify what type of client you are working with are:

  1. “What is their personal motivation in the company or current situation?”
  2. “What is their personality?”
  3. “How does the state of the company affect their view of the organization? Of the world?”

The book is an important read for consultants and other service providers, in my opinion. My favorite takeaways from The Trusted Advisor:

  • Never take on the attitude that you are the professional, and the client is not.
  • A selfish advisor wants to win more than help the client.
  • What turns clients off: selling, making them feel they are not important, not listening, trying to romance them.
  • What clients like: consultants who make an impact, do work on spec, help them think or strategize, sit in on meetings, show how they compare in their industry, analyze their competition, stay in touch!

Both Trust Agents and The Trusted Advisor suggest the power of giving away knowledge to establish credibility, reliability and intimacy and to reduce selfishness. My next read will be David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Advertising and PR, which seems to be in alignment with some of the takeaways from my most recent reading list.
What do you think about trust? What are you reading to be a better social networker or consultant? Will/do you give stuff away? Please comment below.

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