social networking

Trust Agents 7b: Building an Army

In the second half of chapter 7 of Trust Agents, Brogan and Smith further develop the importance of building an army through the unique abilities afforded us by the Web.

Because of the information access and the ease of further distribution, a group of people on the Web is more powerful than a group of equal size anywhere else. The significant difference being that we now all have access as well as distribution which was, in the past, a more significant hurdle.

This ease of spreading information must be leveraged, but is not without flaws…

Misinformation can spread just as efficiently creating very real consequences as in the incorrect report in ’08 of Steve Jobs’ heart attack which knocked Apple stock by almost $10 a share.

Quite naturally, this power of online groups and ease of information distribution makes the Web, social media, and social recommendation a force to be reckoned with in building influence.

After decades of industry and marketers creating “bigger and better” we find that cultural tastes are shifting to appreciating products that can be more personalized, more “me.” With this trend is the shift to seeking more personalized interactions for marketing and influence which can include social media. Brogan and Smith make a very good point when they challenge us to realize that mechanizing your online presence can in fact cause your message to take on the very tone you are trying to avoid by using social media. You will present your message with a very different voice in a truly personal note versus a newsletter or larger scale email.

The key to building an army is in capturing the attention and influence of people passionate about your cause.

If you do choose to scale things to keep in mind:

  • simple gestures matter
  • participate in others’ sites and make it about them
  • give to your community and help the people involved feel part of the core experience.

Building an army on the Web is not as much a give and take process. If your emphasis is on giving you will go farther in building your army. Cast your vision but in a way that is personal, compelling and gives value:

  • write blog posts that equip others with the concepts you are trying to spread
  • share liberally in online spaces
  • contribute to shared collaborative environments
  • discuss and extend ideas on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • write and distribute free e-books that equip others with your idea

While this emphasis on giving may seem counter-intuitive to good business sense, the value is not found in the idea only, but in how each individual and/or circumstance makes use of the idea.

With this in mind, what can you do to increase the level of what you “give” in the online groups in which you participate? How can you create spaces that share your passion, challenge and goal but that do this in a way that consistently adds value to others in the group?

[image by MarcelGermain]

Deana Kistner is discovering the joys of organizing artists and chasing toddlers. She blogs at The Organized Artist.

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  • This kinda brings me back to Seth Godin's book Tribes.

    What is a Tribe? Correct me if I am wrong ..

    A group of people with a shared interest lead by someone who champions that interest.

    Building a Tribe in the context of Social Media and the Web is probably what differentiates the Kings of Social Media from the paupers (note that the King reference comes from Chris Brogan's post that Content is NOT King).

    A good King looks after his 'Tribe'

  • In an online writers' group there has been a debate about giving away product. The discussion boiled down to "what can I get out of giving away my product?"

    This thinking is contrary to what Brogan and Smith, and others, are telling us about our new audiences. Giving is more important than getting. Ultimately we will receive back in a greater, but maybe different, way.

    Isn't this what the concept of serving others is all about?

    Slightly off topic: Is anyone else working through the Action lists? I'm going slowly through them and have found most valuable.

  • Susan, I think the discussion about giving away product is extremely important. I think we all believe it's better to give than receive, and genuine giving is done without expectation of receiving something in return. The challenge is that most of us would like to be able to have things like food to eat, clothes to wear, and a place to live.

    A person can't give everything away for free (unless you make your living from sponsors, advertisers, or other work). One way or another you've got to do things with the hope that it's going to earn you an income.

    Ultimately anyone who leads a tribe, does it for a reason. It could be a very selfless reason like feeding the hungry, but a tribe never exists just to serve its members. It exists to accomplish something. I think the key is for the leader to build the tribe with people who want to accomplish the same thing he or she does and then serve them in a way which enables them to accomplish that goal.

  • I’ve recently seen the “giving product away” technique in action in a very smart, strategic way. Several creative types recently decided to start a tribe of church artists who are responsible for planning their church’s Christmas services. The folks at are a part of this group and to get interest stirred in group participation they offered a free t-shirt to the first # of folks who contributed suggestions to the group. I can’t speak for everyone in the group, but I can tell you that when I needed to look for a supplier for custom print marketing materials, they were on my short list for bids. I can’t speak to whether they have gotten orders out of this technique, but it is doing a great job of getting their product and services on the minds of people who can use it.

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