Trusting Chris Brogan

trustagentsEven though I haven’t read Chris Brogan’s new book, Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust, co-authored with Julien Smith, I know it will be good excellent. Because Chris doesn’t do less than excellent.

So what is this “trust agent” stuff? The blurb on Amazon helps out:

The book shows how people use online social tools to build networks of influence and how you can use those networks to positively impact your business. Because trust is key to building online reputations, those who traffic in it are “trust agents,” the key people your business needs on its side.

Chris is a good person to write about trust and social tools.

I’m sure there are blogger parents out there who say to their kids, ïf you pay attention at school and eat your greens, one day you might get to be nearly as good a blogger and all-round social media wiz as Chris Brogan”.

Get the book. I will, once I work out how to get a copy here without the usual caper of paying twice the US price.

(Those are Amazon affiliate links above – if that’s a bother, the unaffiliated, basic link is here.)

Gary Vaynerchuk Videos as Social Media Consulting Filter

By way of a chance conversation after a Toastmasters meeting at which I was a guest the other night, I’ve found one way to share some information about social media in business without getting into lengthy and potentially confusing explanation.

Namely to point people to a couple of videos of the amazing Gary Vaynerchuk, @garyvee on Twitter.

During the conversation after the Toastmasters event, and in response to a question from the business owner with whom I was speaking, I started to explain about social media, then noticed a puzzled frown appearing. Rather than ploughing on, as I’ve done in other such situations, I suddenly had a brainwave, to send him a link to the recent Gary Vaynerchuk CNN interview on making money doing what you love.

To whet his appetite, I mentioned briefly the Gary Vaynerchuk success story, that he took a $4 million wine business and used social media to turn it into a $45 million business and that I saw and heard him speak last year. I told him that anyone who wants to know what’s going on should watch the video.

Not surprisingly after that, he said he would like to see the video. Yesterday I sent the link.

My new rule

Then today I had a Skype call from a colleague about introducing me to some IT people who want to get into the local market. I checked out their site – very smart looking but no sign of social media – started to ask some questions, then thought “Gary Vaynerchuk video”!

So I immediately made up a new rule which I communicated to my colleague: “I’ll only talk to people about how social media can help them grow their business after they’ve watched the Gary Vaynerchuk video and are willing and able to talk to me intelligently about that.”

I’d sent him the link, he was watching while we chatted and he said he thought that was fair.

Then I added to the rule another Gary Vaynerchuk video, short and to the point, about social media and demonstrating ROI .

It’s so quick that it’s easy to miss what Gary says, which is:

I’m just not intrigued, or interested, or in any shape or form motivated to convince big companies that they need to do this. The smart ones will and then they’ll win. The dumb ones won’t and then they’ll lose. I really don’t care who wins and loses.

Having this filter is not about being arrogant or not wanting to talk about one of my most favorite topics, social media. I can talk about it till the cows come home, as some long-suffering friends and family would no doubt attest.

It’s about getting an idea of who is likely to be genuinely interested in knowing more and possibly applying it, and thus, to be frank, a potential client or co-venturer, as distinct from someone who is just making polite conversation or picking my brain, without any evident likelihood of that turning into business.

Naturally, depending on the circumstances, I may well continue to have a chat with someone on the subject before they have had a chance to watch the videos. But my thinking just now is that that will be the exception rather than the rule.

One thing I may do is to offer the following short links to the videos, which I can write, say on my new business card : and

If I feel there are signs of a possible business collaboration I could get their permission to call them in a couple of days to see what they think. Case by case judgement.

But I am seeing this more as a filter than as part of a pitch.

Twitter-Generated Business: China Travel 2.0

I have to admit I have no idea how pervasive the online social networking site, Twitter, is in China, let alone its current relevance for doing business in China. This post is about one instance in which Twitter seems to have served a good business purpose – i.e. putting a couple of entrepreneurial people together, who then developed a big picture project, combining online social networking with the offline world of business.

This might not be a story you would pick up from the online media. As far as the mainstream media goes, Twitter gets plenty of flak, for being trivial, time-wasting, lowbrow – you name it. As an example, you could read Stephen Matchett’s less than subtle piece in the Australian newspaper this week (I usually enjoy reading Matchett who has a great sense of irony, but this was apparently an irony-free day for him).

Is there a lot of trivia on Twitter? Undoubtedly.

Is there a possibility of serious business on Twitter, or enabled by Twitter? There are two guys in China who would say so.

Winser Zhao and Peter Davison met through Twitter and have now launched an ambitious venture under the banner China Travel 2.0.

China Travel 2.0 is a two week tour of China, from June 1st to June 14th, for travel editors, and aims to incorporate an understanding of how travelers learn about possible or planned destinations. The tour is framed in a perspective of “past, present and future” – looking at historical China and also at the changes taking place.

There are six editors listed by name so far on the site, with a strong presence from the social networking field: Julie Schwiertert Collazo from the Matador Network, Maria Kosmatos from Offbeat Guides, Donna Airoldi from TravelMuse, Craig Martin & Linda Martin from IndieTravelPodcast, and Janelle Nanos who runs the Intelligent Travel blog at National Geographic TripFilms will also be represented. There is an impressive list of sponsors.

As the website explains, the China Travel 2.0 logo incorporates “YouYou” the Panda. The logo is intended as a reflection of modern Asia, with China as its biggest country and “YouYou” the panda, with suitcase and lantern, is ready for travel and adventure.

Chalk one up for the Twitter-helps-business records.

Social Media Case Studies: Patrick O’Keefe

Yesterday I led a session at the Social Media Telesummit, on the topic: Why Building Traffic Isn’t Enough: How to Become an A List Blogger in Your Niche

I focused on how blogging can be and is used for business, rather than blogging as a business.

This is how I described the session in the promotional material:

This session is about blogging for business, not blogging as business. It’s about why the usual story, that blogging is good because it increases traffic, is only one part of the big picture of blogging for business and not the best part. It’s about how blogging well, blogging as the successful bloggers do, will renew your spirit, rekindle your creativity, make you stretch, give you bigger goals and help you enjoy the journey. You and your business will be more successful, and better equipped for the long haul.

I needed some case studies to help illustrate the main points I wanted to make and some colleagues were kind enough to oblige. I sent some questions and they responded via email. There is some great information in what they provided and as there was simply not enough time to go into all of it yesterday I thought it would be good to post the full documents here.

The first is from Patrick O’Keefe, author of the book Managing Online Forums, which I reviewed here last November.

What I love about Patrick’s responses is that they are so not your regular social media expert’s take on what to do in the social media sphere. This guy doesn’t follow the crowd and he marches to the sound of his own drum. Enlightening, thought-provoking.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

D.   Has blogging been a key driver for your marketing strategy or just a minor component?

P.   I’m not a huge marketing guy, to be honest. I might not be giving myself enough credit, as a lot of things I do are surely marketing related, but I spend my time, primarily on developing and managing the websites and blogs themselves.

For me, a big part of “marketing,” is creating good stuff and trying to make sure that people can find it.

The blogs in my network are definitely a part of that. I wouldn’t call them a “key driver,” (the top 3 traffic sites in my network do not have a blog component) but I wouldn’t call them a “minor component,” either. They are somewhere in the middle.

D.   How has blogging helped you build your business? Or not?

P.   My business is managing a network of websites. As I have multiple blogs in my network, the answer would be yes, that they have helped me build my business. They have helped me, at times, to grow my business through growing my knowledge or through promotion, as well.

D.   What is the business/product/service you aim to promote through blogging/social media?

P.   I would say that, at this point in time, I have four key things that I am promoting through my blogging and through social media.

The first would be the content of my network. This is blog posts, yes, but it is also forum posts, downloads and other content. I want my sites to have useful content and that, in itself, is something to promote.

Following that, we have the environment of my sites, specifically my communities. My communities are built upon kindness and respect and are generally family and/or work friendly within their specific niche, as much as they can be. I work hard to create a certain environment that is welcoming and structured and I believe that that is a big selling point.

Those are the two big ones, really. But, there are two other things I promote, as well.

The third would be my book “Managing Online Forums”, as the website dedicated to the book is a part of my network and is something that I am constantly talking about.

Finally, we have my personal brand, as a writer, a speaker and an entrepreneur.

D.  Would you recommend reading your competitors’ blogs, even those of your rivals, and if so why? Do you do this and if so does it help and how?

P.   I’m not all that bothered by “competitors.” Everyone is a competitor, whether directly or indirectly, because what we’re all competing for is someone’s time. Some people get so concerned with their perceived competitors that most of what they do is worry about them and not their own offering.

I’ve seen some people so infatuated with what someone else is doing, that they never do anything on their own account. Even if you are never number 1 in your space, there is most commonly a lot of room below number 1, for other people to succeed and thrive.

Would I recommend reading a competitor’s blog? Depends. Are you interested in their blog? Do I do it? Yes, if I am interested in their blog. Time is short, spend it on stuff you like, if you can. I have probably checked out a competitors blog numerous times, even if I didn’t like reading it, and I’ll do it in the future, that’s natural and can be good for you, to see what they are doing. It can help you to come up with ideas and to see things that, perhaps, they have missed. As long as it doesn’t become an obsession. But, generally, I’d only regularly read a blog if I liked it.

Let me give you an example. I blog at, where I talk about online community management. Community Spark is a popular blog that talks about the very same thing. Some might take us as “competitors,” since we are talking to the same people… but I’ve developed a friendship with the author (Martin Reed) and I genuinely like reading his stuff. I don’t read it as him being a competitor, I read it as two people talking about the same subject, putting their own spin on it (though, most of the time, Martin and I simply agree, to be honest). So, yeah, focus on yourself.

D.  Have you ever had blogger’s block and if so how do you beat it? Any tricks of the trade?

P.   I’m sure I have as it’s a natural thing. If you can, I would say to take a break – do something else. Get some fresh air. Play a video game or some sort of activity that is fun for you, that isn’t work. If, for some reason, you can’t take a break (even a short one, like 15 minutes to an hour), maybe take a look at what other people are writing about and see if that gives you an idea. Credit any sources you use, of course.

D.   We all talk about being transparent and authentic in our blogging – have you found that something that came easily or has it been a learning process: or don’t you bother? 🙂

P.   I think it came easily, in a sense. How I write is how I write. It changes, it evolves, it improves. I’m an honest guy, anyway, but I don’t use my honesty as an excuse for being rude. I don’t call people names and then say “hey, I’m just keeping it real here.” You can be honest without being a jerk. And that’s what I try to do, if I can. The thing about transparency is that it’s great, but it also has a limit. Not everything should be told, not everything should be shared. You have to be able to find the balance.

D.   If someone wants to be an A-list blogger in their chosen market niche, do you have any tips or advice, what to do, what not to do?

P.   Prefacing this by saying that I am not an A-list blogger by any stretch, I don’t know about the whole A-list blogger thing, really. I’ve met numerous supposed A-list bloggers online and offline and the fact is, they are just people. The same goes for celebrities, they are just people. Sometimes it’s lost in our crazy, gossip driven society, but… Britney Spears is just a person. Paris Hilton is just a person. Corporations are just people. Microsoft is just people. Apple is just people. That’s not an excuse, but the fact is… A-list bloggers, for the most part, are just regular folks that have taken their talent, nurtured it and worked hard. With a little bit of luck, they are A-list. That’s the recipe, I think. Some (or more) talent plus a lot of hard work and drive plus a little bit of luck. The key component, though, is work. Finally, you should actually enjoy what you are doing. Find what you like talking about, what you can talk about all day, what you know about… and just go in. Dedicate yourself and work hard. That’s what I say.

I hope that this helps.

It sure does, Patrick. Great sharing of your experience and wisdom.

One statement I liked particularly and was delighted to be able to quote on the Social Media Telesummit call is:

For me, a big part of “marketing” is creating good stuff and trying to make sure that people can find it.

That, my friends, is for me a wonderful encapsulation of the committed blogger’s daily challenge and privilege and responsibility.

Tomorrow I have the privilege and pleasure of bringing you the case study report from Becky McCray from Alva, Oklahoma, rancher, store owner, small business expert and dedicated blogger.

Social Media Resources: Alltop Travel Page

I’ve been a fan of Alltop – “We’ve got all the top stories covered all the time” – from early on and I admit that having this site listed on the social media page there has helped. Alltop describes itself as an “online magazine rack” of popular topics. It’s an amazing resource for finding blogs from a great range of topics.

I had an example just today of how helpful Alltop can be in that regard.

I was responding to a friend who is thinking of setting up a travel blog. I wanted to send her some examples of quality travel blogs and – this is not an area of specialization for me – the only one I could think of, off the top of my head, was Sheila Scarborough’s excellent Family Travel Logue.

Then the penny dropped. Alltop, of course! Assuming they had a travel section, which I quickly discovered that indeed they did. I counted 56 sites listed on the Alltop travel page. Authors included kitchen expose guy Anthony Bourdain who writes about travel and food, Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler, the FareCompare guy Rick Seaney, the dynamic Travelling Mamas and the inimitable Sheila Scarborough as previously mentioned.

Back in November last year there were, according to Alltop co-founder Guy Kawasaki, some 350 topics on the site overall. There are no doubt plenty more now. And there is an email update system so that fans like me or the just plain interested can receive direct notification of new topics when they are launched.

Beating the Drum for LinkedIn Bloggers

Drummer boy, picture by notfilc, via flickr: Creative Commons

Life moves so fast in the online, social media world that three and a half years, which is how long the LinkedIn Bloggers group has been going, seems a very long time indeed. To put that in perspective and according to the fascinating social media timeline produced by Danah M. Boyd and Nicole Ellison, it’s about  contemporaneous with YouTube, about one and a half years longer than the time since Twitter started and about the same length of time since Facebook became available to all. (HT Tran Tuan Tài for link to Boyd & Ellison social media timeline.)

Given the millions of people on LinkedIn (factoid: at the third level of my LinkedIn connections I am currently connected to 8,774,400 other members and I am by no means a mega-connector) and the untold thousands (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of them who are bloggers, the growth of our group to 896 over those three and a half years of dramatic development and change in the social media/social networking sphere is modest indeed.

Not that growth for its own sake has been a priority or is likely at any stage to be a priority.

LinkedIn Bloggers badgeBut we have decided to give the bus a nudge along on the road to sharing what we have with more people who are interested in the kind of conversations we have, broadly about the intersection of social media, especially but not exclusively blogging, with  social networking and specifically with the LinkedIn platform.

In other words, we are working on a strategy for the group to become better known and to continue to grow. We haver been rather quiet, having our chats. We’ll still be having our chats but we are also beating the drum to let the world  – especially via the search engines – know we are here.

Right now, if you Google LinkedIn Bloggers you will get at best a mixed and tangential message about the group – at best. That is about to change. With the strategies we are working on, it will soon be much easier for people wanting the sort of group we have, the sort of conversations we have, to find us.

I’ve posted about this, with more background on LinkedIn Bloggers, at my Thinking Home Business blog.

Thing is, if you are already in LinkedIn Bloggers, I hope you will like the idea of augmenting this little bit of drum-beating with some word of mouth/word of blog of your own.

And if you are one of those who has yet to discover the joys of being a member of LinkedIn Bloggers, please come and check us out. It’s a .net url. If you would like to join, please read the instructions carefully, especially about providing your LinkedIn profile link (it’s explained there).

Picture of drummer boy by notfilc, via flickr: Creative Commons