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A short course in trustworthiness from Guy Kawasaki

Great advice from Guy Kawasaki’s excellently useful new book, What the Plus!, about how to be great on Google+ (get it here). The book is about Google+, but the advice applies to any online community.

You need to project trustworthiness. Here are the best ways for doing so:

Show up. You get points on Google+, just as in life, for showing up—that is, for sharing, commenting, and adding to the flow of information. You don’t need to pen Pulitzer Prize-quality stuff—sharing posts two to three times a day and commenting on three to five posts of other people for a few months allows people to get to know you. Familiarity breeds consent.

Make the community better. People trust folks who add value to the Google+ community. People distrust people who don’t. It’s that simple, so try to help someone every day. This can take many forms: technical assistance, pointing to online resources, and even simple empathy for the plight of others. Give without expectation of return, and ironically, you’ll probably increase the returns that you reap.

Don’t be an orifice. If you want a trustworthy reputation, don’t attack folks or denigrate their efforts. Stay positive. Stay uplifting. Or stay silent. Let someone else be the orifice—there are plenty of volunteers. Like my mother used to say, “If you don’t have anything good to say, shut up.”

Keep it clean. There’s a high correlation between being an orifice and frequent swearing. My advice is that you should hardly ever swear—once or twice a year for the rare time that you need to make a profound impact. Frequent profanity is the enemy of trustworthiness.

Trust others first. If you want to be trusted, you have to trust others first. This isn’t a chicken-and-egg issue—there’s a definite sequence: you trust, then you’re trusted. Give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are good until proven bad. For example, I trusted 240 strangers with the manuscript for this book.

Disclose your interests. There’s nothing wrong with making a living and using Google+ to do so. What’s wrong is if you don’t disclose conflicts of interest or if you are promoting things more than 5 percent of the time. For example, when I shared three posts about Microsoft Office templates for raising money, I added the text “Promotional consideration paid by Microsoft.” I took some heat for doing a promotion, but not for trying to hide it.

Gain knowledge and competence. People trust experts, so discuss what you really know or become an expert and a reliable resource. Or, make people aware of what you know if you’re already an expert. Don’t jeopardize your credibility by expressing yourself about topics that are outside your expertise.

Bake a bigger pie. There are two kinds of people: eaters and bakers. Eaters think the world is a zero-sum game: what you eat, someone else cannot eat, so they eat as much as they can. Bakers think that the world is not a zero-sum game—they can just bake more and bigger pies. Everyone can eat more. People trust bakers and not eaters.

Resist bad means. The use of bad means to achieve good ends is a slippery slope that has caused the downfall of many people throughout history, not just in this era of social media. When you find yourself justifying actions—for example spamming people—for a good cause, double-check what you’re doing.

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