Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is "trust" about to jump the shark?

As I have declared repeatedly, I am not trendy. But I think I was saw a vision of a future trend, and it is not pretty.

Perhaps it's unwise to depend upon Google - this week's Gmail outage demonstrates that - but I checked a couple of phrases through Google Trends. The first phrase that I checked was social media:

As you can see, the use of the phrase "social media" has trended upwards in the last 12 months, to the point where (in my opinion) social media has become overused. How many "social media experts" have you encountered who have merely created a Twitter account, followed a bunch of people, and loudly proclaimed that if you follow the guidance of this self-proclaimed "social media expert," you will roll in cash? It's gotten to the point where people who could truly call themselves "social media experts" are avoiding the term like the plague.

OK, let's check out another term - trust.

Now you can see that this term has been relatively flat over the last twelve months, but I suspect that the term is going to take off quickly. Why? Because of the stuff that I've been reading.

Let's start with Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. They have recently written a book entitled Trust Agents. Here's part of publisher Wiley's description of the book:

In Trust Agents, two social media veterans show you how to tap into the power of social networks to build your brand's influence, reputation, and, of course, profits. Today's online influencers are web natives who trade in trust, reputation, and relationships, using social media to accrue the influence that builds up or brings down businesses online.

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.

Now I'm sure that Brogan and Smith aren't the first people to use the term "trust," but the book has generated a lot of discussion and praise. And perhaps it's just because of the people that I read, but I see a lot of people that I respect using the term "trust" these days. For example, here's something that Duncan Riley recently said:

“We talk about influence, but influence does not exist in a vacuum without trust… If you build trust with your audience and you betray that trust, then you lose influence.”

Now I have the greatest respect for Brogan, Smith, and Riley. But when I looked at the future, I realized that while Brogan, Smith, and Riley may be the people using the term "trust" today...some less credible people are going to be using the term "trust" tomorrow.

I've already joked about the advertising that such people will do. Here's part of what I wrote to Duncan Riley via FriendFeed:

I'm afraid that some people are going to start bandying the word "trust" about just to bandy it about. You know, the "trusted social media expert with no trans fats."

Since I wrote that, I've refined my delivery and am now ready to start my sleazy career as a


And because I don't have time to rip off - I mean leverage - the knowledge of others, I'm simply going to plunge ahead with my pitch. And then I'll subsequently work on my pitch 2.0, because 2.0 is cool. And then, of course, I'll work on my pitch 3.0, because 3.0 is even cooler. By the time I get to pitch 128.0, I'll be the coolest trust expert on the tubes. And of course, by that time I will have amassed millions of TRUSTed friends, all of whom are realizing DIZZYING RECOGNITION, INFLUENCE, AND PROFITS just by mastering the EMPOPRISES TRUST FORMULA (ETF). ETF will teach you how TRUST is able to BREAK BARRIERS to CUSTOMER RESISTANCE. In short, ETF will UNLOCK WALLETS and let you EAT STEAK EVERY NIGHT. Tell your FRIENDS!

Whew...let me get a hold of myself...that was close. At least I didn't start using blinking text or anything like that in the paragraph above.

Yes, folks, the bastardization and shark jumping of the term "trust" is about to begin. You heard it here first...unless I've inadvertently ripped off someone who has already declared the same thing.

But I wouldn't trust that person.
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