But Can We Trust the Trust Agents?

I was just getting back to the office yesterday, a Monday morning after a week away — 4 days of business, and 3 relaxing and invigorating days in Yosemite, which is really away — when Dan Levine (@schoolmarketer on Twitter) suggested I read The social media country club on Mark Shaeffer’s businessgrow blog.

Yes, I’m a sucker for contrary points of view. Get a group going, approach consensus, and I want to read the one who’s out in left field. If everybody else is right and this one’s all wrong, so what, I can work that out. But then how often is left field the right place to be?

Mark starts out objecting to rave reviews of Trust Agents, the book by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. It’s subtitle is “Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.” I haven’t read it, but I’ve read a lot of favorable comments. Mark, however, says those favorable comments are the result of group think and myth making:

The “thought leaders” of social media marketing are a country club fearful of saying anything negative or controversial about another club member. The real commerce of social media is trading favors and a negative comment breaks the favor chain.

He paints a picture a lot like the fable of the emperor’s new clothes. You can see with this quote, under the general heading of credibility, that at the very least he’s making his position clear:

Take a close look at the credentials (if you can find any) of nearly any leading social media marketing “expert.”  How many have ever had a real sales job or have been actually accountable for delivering new value in a marketplace by creating, testing and distributing a product on a meaningful scale?   Very few.  Yet these are our marketing “gurus?”  In a communication channel already dominated by porn-peddling, get-rich-quick nimrods, it simply doesn’t help our collective credibility to have our most visible advocates spouting incredibly naive statements about marketing fundamentals they know little about.

I don’t know that I agree; it seems too harsh to me. I don’t think expertise is measured only by job history, or sales history, or middle management in a big company history, which seems to be laying just under the surface of the blogger bashing. And I wish Mark had said which statements in the book are naive. But it’s certainly a very contrarian point of view. And worth considering. So I’m sharing it here.

(Photo credit: STILLFX/Shutterstock)


  • Curious Case of Experts vs. Managers says:

    […] this quote? This is Mark Shaeffer about social media experts, in this post. I quoted him in my post here yesterday: How many have ever had a real sales job or have been actually accountable for delivering […]

  • Thursday Bram says:

    I had the pleasure of reviewing “Trust Agents” — and it was a pleasure. While I agree in general that many social media experts have trouble backing up their claims, that argument doesn’t really hold water for people like Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. They aren’t new to social media — Chris Brogan in particular has been blogging on sites that have impressive traffic for years, started PodCamp with a few other podcasters and generally has plenty of experience that shows his expertise in both social media and marketing.

    The question of expertise aside, I do recommend the book and think it’s worth a read.

  • Chris Brogan... says:

    Always worth considering. : )

    I don’t know that social media = sales, but I do know that’s how I like to help businesses use the tools. We use it for wide area funnel enhancement, from the awareness stage of the buying cycle into the whole process as a series of touchpoints (even into support, if the client goes for it).

    As for credentials, I guess it’s always individual. Depends who you’re asking about. My client list is pretty decent, and you can reach most of them via Twitter. They’d vouch, I guess.

    Have I held a sales job in a big company? Hell no. I’m not a salesman. Instead, I’m someone who equips salespeople with new tools to drive to value. I’m a hell of an opener, and decent with the first 2/3 of the cycle, but if my kids had to eat on my ability to close complex sales? Hell no.

    Interesting perspective. Can you trust me? Beats me. I’ll let my work stand for itself. : )

    • Tim Berry says:

      Thanks Chris … seems like you go straight at what most caught my eye in Mark’s comments — and I noted that in the post — the assumption that social media or marketing expertise is suspect without that sales or middle management job. So only former line managers can be experts? I don’t buy that either. I’m going to post about that tomorrow. Tim.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *