Trust Agents 3a – How Trust Works

I explored Amazon in preparing this post. I am reading Trust Agents on my Kindle. But I was in Chicago earlier this week and left the kindle in the rental car. I was caught up, but hadn’t read my part yet. So I discovered that you actually can read a whole chapter (once you close it and open it a couple times) through the “Look inside this book” feature. I am not going to make a habit of it, because it is a pain, but it is nice to know that the option exists.

I dropped off the rental car, took the shuttle to the airport. The shuttle driver asked me (the only one in the bus) if I had been sure to check for keys, glasses and in the glove compartment. I had. I just hadn’t looked in the armrest where I had the kindle stashed. I have always liked that by the time I get to security, if not before, I have an email thanking me from renting from Alamo and a copy of the invoice. Within another 15 minutes I had a phone call from the office, an offer to drive the kindle over to me. (I was on the plane by this point and didn’t have time to go meet someone to get it. But they FedExed it to me. They have my phone, email, address and billing info already and I expect to get it on Friday.

I have recommended Alamo to lots of people when they are renting from Midway in Chicago. They are almost always the cheapest, you can check in online, print the agreement, pick out your own car and be on the road way quicker than anyone else. Are they perfect, no, have I had issues with them, yes. But I rent 8 to 12 cars a year in Chicago and I have been very happy 95% of the time.

So I am recommending them to you (they also have send me a drivers license and a credit card that I also left in the car another time. I am usually in a hurry and often forgetful when I fly.)

So at this point you may laugh at my mistakes, you may use Alamo in the future, you may think that this blog post is already too long. This chapter tries to explain that reputation and trust are built, but are different in the real world and online. There is a nice little formula, but that isn’t all that important to me.

The part of the chapter that I really like is about the idea of “half-strangers”. I have been interested in the particularly online strength of tools like twitter and facebook to get detailed information about people that I really don’t know. Rhett Smith had a post in July about Ambient Intimacy that I really liked. Ambient Intimacy is a great phrase to describe the inverse of “half strangers”. So while I agree with Trust Agents, that we are always “half strangers”. Because of the Ambient Intimacy that comes about from knowing many things about the personal, daily lives of people that I have never met in person, I actually feel like I know them more than some people I have known in person for years. So I trust them. My wife bought a camera this month based on the advice of several people that I have never met in person.

Trust is developed when you feel like you know someone. This is why celebrities are great spokesperson for brands, because we feel like we know them. The chapter does go on to show some limits and cautions but I will allow the next person to take on that part.

Adam Shields is a non-profit consultant living in Marietta, GA, working primarily in Chicago, IL and nanny to an almost 2 year old and her 4 month old sister.  He blogs at

A non-profit consultant and full time nanny for a 2 year old and 7 month old.

9 Responses to “Trust Agents 3a – How Trust Works”

  1. Adam, you gave a great review of Alamo that makes me want to consider them for my next trip.

    Reviews are just one more way of establishing trust.

    We have all checked reviews of books and movies before plunking down the cash. Whether the review comes from a friend (a real living friend) or from a professional reviewers, we look before we leap.

    Through various social medias, reviews of other products are becoming important as well.

    I recently bought a new backpack. After reading all the technical specifications, I then looked through the customer reviews. I eliminated a couple because the reviewers, people I don’t know, commented on the some aspect of the bag I was concerned about.

    Why did I trust these reviewers? I don’t know. Maybe because they took the time to write a review. Maybe because the spelling and grammar weren’t perfect, so I thought they must be real people. Maybe I’m just a trusting person. And, these reviewers weren’t even “Half-strangers.”

    The way trust works (or not works) has been changing with instant friends online. Will this mean more trust or less trust in the future?

  2. Hmmm, Developing a level of trust with people that spread all over the world is a strange thing; I find myself holding back because I don’t like assumed familiarity. It is kinda like considering ppl as half-strangers. maybe that’s a glass-half-full-half-empty kind of thing.
    But the one thing that rings true in developing trust over the interwebs and that is consistence – especially consistency of personal branding.

  3. Phillip, Do you think half-friends would be easier?

  4. I think the point of the authors is that we can never really trust unknown reviewers, or even known reviewers. But we give them some trust because we tend to want to trust people until we have reason not to. So Susan trusts people she doesn’t know to help her decide on a backpack.

    I think Phillip brings up a questions about how much might be cutural understanding of familiarity and trust. When we think of social media as world wide there are some real differences in the way that we will have to modify these strategies.

  5. Chris knows that we are on this topic 😉 with his post today: Ways to Be Human at a Distance, lol. I would find it easier to be on the friend side of the stranger-friend scale for online connections if there were more human aspects of the person. I just can’t trust a twitter user with no bio, an obviously random generated name and obscure tweets. But a full profile with all sorts of diverse connections and profiles – that are consistent – and interests that are common with me; that I find easier to trust and be friends will (well when the interaction is reciprocated)

  6. Phill, continuing your thought, I think for anyone looking to establish themselves online as a Trust Agent the “Signals of Trust” part of this chapter (p83-84) is gold.

    – Having a site with a good design
    – Longevity
    – Productivity
    – Number of comments
    – Number of links
    – Domain name
    – An about page with a picture
    – Having a Twitter and Facebook page

    These are things every blogger should strive for.

  7. so true, and is it not interesting that most of those are completely within the domain of the Trust Agent? Number of Comments and Link are the two that are kind of the evidence of the rest – but the most frustrating and hardest to obtain because they are in the domain of everyone else.


  1. Tweets that mention Trust Agents 3a - How Trust Works « Christian Web Trends Blog by OurChurch.Com -- - Oct 23, 2009

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