An Interview with Chris Brogan, Trust Agent

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Image by Bryant Hill

If you’re a creative entrepreneur looking to make connections and promote your business on the web, Chris Brogan is one of the people you need to pay attention to

Chris is an eleven year veteran of using social media and both web and mobile technologies to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations, and individuals. Chris speaks, blogs, writes articles, and makes media of all kinds at He is co-author with Julien Smith of the New York Times bestselling book Trust Agents.

Chris is President of New Marketing Labs, a new media marketing agency, and home of the Inbound Marketing Summit conferences and Inbound Marketing Bootcamp educational events. He works with large and mid-sized companies to improve online business communications like marketing and PR through the use of social software, community platforms, and other emerging web and mobile technologies.

He was kind enough to answer the following questions for Lateral Action readers.

1. Who or what is a Trust Agent?

Trust Agents are those people who’ve mastered the new communications tools of the web to build relationships ahead of the sale. They’re people who understand that the web is just a medium, but it’s the best medium for starting and maintaining relationships that yield.

2. Trust Agents is an ‘internet book’ but it reads more like a guide to social etiquette than a technical manual. How come?

We wrote a book about the soul of the new machine, not a manual for how to use some fleeting piece of software. Trust Agents is every bit a business book, not an instruction manual. Hopefully, it will stand up long after books about Twitter seem dated and silly.

3. When I talk to some of my long-standing friends about my new Internet adventures – working, networking, collaborating, and partnering with people I’ve never met in person – they get very concerned. “It’s all very well” they say, “but how do you know whether you can trust these people?” What would you say to them?

You can’t trust people blindly, just because they’re on the internet. 70% of people believe all reviews they read on the Internet without questioning their source. And yet, we find that it’s easier to agree with these people, because they come off as smart and as someone who has similar views. The net opened us up to find people who think the way we do, and that’s valuable (to an extent).

4. A recurrent theme of the book is that if you are generous and helpful, people are likely to reciprocate, but you shouldn’t just give in order to get something back. How can we get the balance right?

The balance is something only you can answer. If you’re giving to be kind and helpful, YOU know that. If you’re giving to hope and hook someone into giving back, you know that it’s not the best way. That’s a human issue, not a business one, and yet, we put it in because we know that people could use the reminder.

5. Once upon a time artists and other creators had to curry favour with gatekeepers (agents, editors, curators etc) if they wanted to get their work in front of an audience. Now, you’re encouraging people to use the internet to “gatejump” and “make your own game”. How?

How does one gatejump? They create without needing the status. They make their own products, put them out on the net, and direct the right like-minded people to participate. In this way, they don’t need people’s permission to produce something they think is of value.

6. You work famously long hours. How would you answer people who say “OK, I see the value of social media, but I’m already pushed for time just running my business. How will I find time to do all of that as well?”.

We reward those things that reward us. Whenever we start working on our fitness, we tend to go to the gym more often. When we use a pickup line that works, we use that more and more. Spending time on the web is easy, once you see yield. The question might be better asked: “Why do you keep putting time and effort into things that don’t work?”

Chris Brogan uses social media and both web and mobile technologies to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations, and individuals. He’ll teach you to do this yourself via his book Trust Agents, his blog and on Twitter @chrisbrogan.

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Responses to this Post


  1. That last quote is the best part of the interview. Why are you wasting time on things that don’t work indeed…

  2. Nicely played. Chris, I’m glad you mentioned that these are human issues – one should give simply to share, not to get something in return, and those who are truly doing well online are those that are hard-working and genuine, like yourself. The same goes for life. In the long run, those who work hard and are genuinely interested in bettering others for the sake of living in a world with more educated, less bias people, are those who win big.

    Social media networking and marketing is not about following a step-by-step process; it’s about building a life and a brand online, as you would in “real life”, and getting others interested in what you’re doing. This book will be useful for a long time because it looks at social media in this way.

    Thanks for kickin’ butt.