social networking technology

Trust Agents 5b: Agent Zero

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“First, you must build awareness of who you are, … Next, you try to grab their attention… [by being] entertaining, informative, and/or useful. Then you develop that awareness across several groups until you are considered an authority in as many of these groups as possible.”

In order to be an affective ‘Agent Zero’ we must follow 5 simple, yet very important steps. Many Agent Zeros will naturally do these steps without realizing it. That’s what makes them so good at what they do. As you read through my explanations of these steps think about your own position within your church and make a list of how you apply each step to your specific area of ministry.

1. Awareness

Bottom line… we have to make ourselves known. The simplest way to make yourself known is to answer the simple question, “What are you doing right now?” As we continually update our online statuses each day. We are getting our names “out there” in a simple, non-intrusive way. The strategy that I’ve chosen to attempt to follow is to leave messages all over the place. I’ll post twitter and facebook updates but I’ll also comment on some of my favorite blogs and interact with other readers of said blogs. Another strategy I use is having the same avatar across the net. I use the same silly looking picture of my face on twitter as I do for Intense Debate and Gravatar.

Another great way to gain awareness is to keep hanging out at the same place. In the same way that Julien hangs out at the same cafe working on his laptop… I hang out in the same Starbucks and the same blogs. The baristas at my Starbucks are all facebook friends with me and they trust me. I’ve made some friendships with people through blogging and twitter, one of the ways I was included in on this group blogging project!

2. Attention

In today’s day and age, which is an old saying but you know what I mean, there are many different forms of media vying for our attention. The average time a person spends watching a YouTube video is 30 seconds. So by this principle, if you can’t get someone to be interested in you in 30 seconds, you’ve lost them. The point here is that in order to gain the attention of others and make them interested in us, we must first be interested in others. We’ve all been following this principle in our offline lives for years. Think about why your friends like you. It’s probably because you’ve shown a mutual interest in them. I have a number of people I call my “close friends”. Sometimes we ask each other to help us with something. We call it… pulling the friend card. There’s a give and take to any relationship in the ‘real world’ so why would it be any different online?

One other thing I want to focus on real quickly is the face-to-face ‘meetup’. I recently had the opportunity to go to Cultivate and STORY where I was able to shake the hands of people I’ve been friends, or twiends with online for a few months. The meetup is important. It goes back to the whole concept of getting your name out there and gaining attention.

3. Influence

What kind of influence do you have on your friends? Do your friends trust your opinion? This all depends. For example, my friends and my online twiends might trust me when it comes to worship planning and using the power of social media to work for a church. Those same friends and online twiends however would never trust me on the subject of horse racing. I know nothing about it. It’s important to have a relationship with the people you’re trying to influence. As I previously mentioned, we need to build awareness of ourselves by being a constant presence in many different networks. When we consistently preach the same message within the many different networks we’re involved with people will start to trust us. So be true to yourself and be true to others. We need to not pretend to be one person with one group and another person with another group. Consistency in message and consistency in presence is important to building influence.

4. Reputation

We need to make sure that whenever someone does a Google search on our name, the stuff that pops up is current. The cool thing about the web is that it keeps a history of who we are. So in the same way that consistency in message is important for building influence it’s equally important because years from now… a blog post you wrote, could find itself getting some attention again. We’ve all heard stories about people who have not been hired, or even fired, because of a scandalous image of them posted on the internet. It’s important for us to manage our appearance online. Get those images of you taken down, or even better… don’t put yourself in positions where those types of pictures of you can be taken in the first place!

5. Authority

I’m currently the Tech Director at my church. That means that I’m also the IT person on staff. I’ve been going through the long process of changing our church’s website and looking at different email hosting options. The first thing I did when I started this process was search twitter for other church media gurus. I went through the people I follow, people I trust because of their previous updates and blog posts on similar subjects. I searched their blogs for recommendations. I quickly came to the conclusion that a “Clover site” and Google Apps were both good solutions that I needed to look into further. Without trusting others who have similar positions in their churches as I have in mine, I was able to quickly narrow my focus. I consider the church media guru people I follow on twitter authorities on the same field that I am.

The bottom line to being an effective Agent Zero is that we need to keep connecting to and building a consistent presence on a number of different networks. Only then can we grow our own knowledge on a number of subjects but we can also help others get the answers they’re looking for.

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Graham Brenna is tech Director @OSLC, Blogger, Tweeter, Facebooker, Techie, Geek, White Sox Fan… etc… He blogs at

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Graham Brenna


  • I’ve been vacationing on a cruise ship so am a week behind in my reading. Even though I haven’t read this chapter yet, Graham has brought a couple things to mind for me.

    Awareness — Graham mentions using the same avatar everywhere. I’ve chosen not to do that. I have personal accounts at several social media sites, and separate business accounts. My personal avatar (cuddling with my granddaughter) is appropriate for the business side. My business photo is too, well, too business for personal.

    Reputation – Keeping things current for the Google search is something I hadn’t thought about. I’m sure others have cadavers of blogs, websites, etc. that were started with good intentions but didn’t go anywhere. I’m adding to my Things list — give those things a decent burial.

    (Graham — White Sox Fan?? Really, come over from the dark side. Go, Cubbies.)

  • I use the same avatar everywhere, except on Facebook. That network is a little more personal for me so I tend to rotate my picture on there frequently.

    And yes… White Sox fan. Die hard. 🙂

  • Thanks Graham. A couple of things that stuck out to me from this chapter were the ideas of reputation and authority.

    Managing your online appearance is something that I don’t think a lot about, but should. I am a sarcastic person, and unfortunately, sarcasm doesn’t come across on the web very well. Only people who 1) already know me, or 2) are sarcastic themselves really get my sarcasm. I probably seem like a jerk to about half the people who read my tweets or comments!

    As far as becoming an authority, that takes some time and actual wisdom or experience. I am not an authority on anything just because my bio says I am. People will respect me as an authority on something because I have proven it. So far, the only thing I am an authority on is confusing online sarcasm.

  • I think consistency is key. To be a trust agent, even an effective agent zero – people need to (to a certain extent) be comfortable with you. Which comes with the application of the points that you mention. Although some can be applied and some have to be earned. For me the hard thing to do is that face2face meet up that will cement trust and influence – not so much because I am afraid of it – just that 90% of the people I engage with are on the other side of the earth.
    MAybe I need to start locally (well I did try at a new media event once) must try hards tho 😉

  • @Everett – You’re right. You’re pretty much a jerk online. I’ve put you in the “nitwit” category on my seesmic desktop.

    [that was sarcasm] 🙂

    You’re right… it doesn’t come across very well on the web. Reputation and authority are definitely prevalent in this chapter. Good work!

  • @Phillip – yes… it’s going to be difficult for you to engage on a face2face basis with many of us on this side of the earth. But that’s why we’ve got skype and things like that too! I know you’ve found the web to be a helpful way for you to connect with people in America.

    You’re presence on a lot of the same blogs I follow is not lost on me. You have become a “trust agent” in some respects for me. 🙂

  • Loving this book. Just want to affirm the points in this post. One thing tho… it might be a good idea to ask for feedback on how we’re doing on the steps above – from trust agents of course. =)

    Go Sox!!

  • I want to piggyback on something Phill said: Consistency is key.

    This is so true because being a Trust Agent is about developing relationships and relationships require consistent interaction.

    I am not very consistent at reading & commenting on blogs, visiting forums, and checking in with the people I’ve connected with online. It’s probably because up until now I’ve really considered those things non-essential, or even worse – distractions from my “real work.” And I’m my own boss. If you work for someone, it’s probably even more challenging because your boss probably thinks social networking is a time-waster. You may even get written up or have social media sites blocked at your workplace. (Is this true for any of you?)

    Anyways, if I believe being a Trust Agent is important, then that requires a fundamental shift in how I think about my use of Twitter, reading & commenting on blogs, visiting forums, etc. And it means scheduling time to do those things so they actually get done rather than sneaking them in between tasks.

  • Graham – I didn’t set out to be a Trust Agent, just wanted to connect with people that had similar passions, interests.Share information across what would typically be boundaries. I’ve been richly rewarded with insight in areas like leadership, social media, tech and small groups. Mostly free.

    I am not shy on twitter, update often – helpful links and personal tidbits. Would like to think my reputation is clear. Not so sure about the influence/authority aspects.
    Guess I need to ask a few friends for feedback. Any other ways to measure influence or authority?

  • @Paul – yes… my boss(es) definitely consider social networking a time-waster. The bottom line is that we all have “real work” to get done throughout the day. I’ll be honest… I’ve been a little distracted today. Many things are on my mind and it’s not all social networking’s fault.

    I have been asked by my employer to take down a blog post in the past. But other than that… things are going smoothly. I continue to use twitter, facebook and blogging as a tool to connect with others. And the rest of the staff that I work with doesn’t. (for the most part).
    @Mary Beth – I believe the most effective “Trust Agents” never set out with that goal in mind. It is just something that happens. Keep doing what you’re doing. Asking friends for feedback is one way to measure effectiveness. Another way would be using analytics on your blog to find out how many people have made navigated to it and to find out what they’re looking at. Hard data is always the best.

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