Today, I spoke to Julien Smith, Julien is an author, consultant, and speaker who has been involved in online communities for over 15 years– from early BBSes and flashmobs to the social web as we know it today. He was one of the first people on the web to use podcasting in 2004, as well as being one of the first web personalities to get broadcast by traditional radio. He has since worked with and been interviewed by numerous media organizations such as CNN, CBC, CTV. Julien is co-author of Trust Agents, which was written with Chris Brogan. It hit: – the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller list, and the Amazon Best Books of 2009 list.
Mohammed: If social media is all about building trust, how would you explain companies that specialize in building online identity and corporate brand coverage – doesn’t that conflict with authenticity?
Julien: I don’t think it’s in conflict at all. The best brand identity firms would focus on figuring out what the authentic culture is and portraying that in a genuine way. That said, the people are who will really make the customer feel good/bad so there’s only so much that an identity firm can do. Congruence is key here — the way they portray themselves is one thing, the way they actually ACT is another.
Mohammed: Dale Carnegie in his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People way back in 1936 encourage us to genuinely care about people and their feelings to build influence and earning trust. How Trust Agents explain that in Web 2.0 and what people still don’t know about online social networking?
Julien: The core of the thing is empathy. We can’t act like we feel for people when we genuinely do not — it shows when we’re not really paying attention or caring, and it will impact our brand and the way people respond to us.
The problem is that a lot of what we do may not be known to us – this is what I like to call digital body language — the stuff we’re saying without even knowing we’re saying it, not to mention the things we are doing having unknown repercussions.
The key to figuring this out is experimentation. Remembering that we don’t know everything, and that the space is changing, will help us with pretty much anything we do.
Mohammed: What are your top three ways to build an online identity? and how you keep it aligned with your offline character?
Julien: (1) Consistent behavior and interaction. (2) Strong personal and editorial voice. (3) Showing occasional vulnerability and humanity in addition to great content.
In terms of it being in line with my offline character, I try to make sure that I do a lot of writing, to help me express myself in a way that’s consistent with my personality.
Basically it comes down to the trust equation.
C is credibility| R is reliability| I is intimacy| S is self-interest
(the only negative) You get those under control and it all falls into place.
Brand Word: A perfect example of what I’m talking about.
Spotlight: I have nothing to sell you. But I’d love if you came to check out my blog.