Note: The following article is based on an excerpt from the newly published New York Times best-seller Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley and Sons (www.wiley.com).
Whom we trust has changed. We know from personal experience that this generation and the next aren't blindly trusting information from just any random source.
In fact, upon conducting research in this field, IBM discovered that 71% of 18-24-year-olds spend more than two hours online per day, compared with only 48% of the same group who spend two hours watching television. One-third of them (32%) received advice about where to go on the Web mostly from friends.
Consider your own behavior: You'll likely realize that your own skepticism is also on the rise.
We are living in a communications environment where there is a trust deficit. As a society, we no longer have confidence in advertising. We are hostile to those who appear to have ulterior motives, even if they're just selling themselves.
The result is our tendency to join loose networks, or tribes, that gather based on common interests. We are suspicious of anything that comes to us from outside our circle of friends. We form groups of like-minded individuals around those topics, products, or news items that interest us.
For example, the news-sharing site Digg.com reports news quite differently than Reddit.com, the London Times, or the Wall Street Journal. And that news might be suspect in certain circles because the stories on Digg that reach the top of the landing page are sometimes moved there by dubious means, such as voting campaigns, robotic algorithms, and so forth. So, whom should you trust?
Trust agents have established themselves as non-sales-oriented, non-high-pressure marketers. They are digital natives using the Web to be genuine and to humanize their business. They're interested in people (e.g., prospective customers, employees, and colleagues), and they have realized that the tools that enable more unique, robust communication also allow more business opportunities for everyone.