Interview with Julien Smith, Co-author of Trust Agents

Julien Smith
Photo credit: Bryant Hill

Today, I’m interviewing Julien Smith. Julien is a New York Times Bestselling author, speaker, and blogger.

An early adopter of social media, Julien has become an authority on the subject with his popular podcast and blog. Here’s our interview:

Jeff: With Trust Agents and your blog, you’ve become an authority in social media and blogging. How did you get started?

Julien: I started pretty much through podcasting. I was one of the earliest podcasters in the world, and was one of the only ones to make some money off of it.

Right from the beginning, I went to a ton of events and met everyone very early on. The network I developed then has brought me pretty much everything.

Jeff: According to Chris, you two are working on a new book. Other than what Mr. Brogan has already shared with us, what can you tell us about this new project?

Julien: We’re actually working on two. So I don’t know which he’s talking about, but I’ll say this: We’ve got lots of material we’ve touched upon already, social media and not, in my back archives.

Without knowing it, I’ve sort of been building these books accidentally for the past two years.

Jeff: You’ve gone from talking about social media and business on your blog to sharing health tips and encouraging people to quit the internet. Is this indicative of a personal values shift in your life? I’m really interested in what led you to go on the pilgrimage — something I’ve always wanted to do.

Julien: The pilgrimage route was actually my girlfriend’s idea. I’ve always wanted to do the Appalachian Trail, never got around to it, and then she proposes the Camino to me, so of course I loved the idea.

I’ve never really shifted that much, I just slowly allowed myself to be more “myself” online, and the audience followed. Chris writes very well about social media, so it would be weird to try and compete with him (and every social media douche out there).

Jeff: How was El Camino de Santiago? Any major spiritual breakthroughs?

Julien: It’s hard to say. Stuff simply does not happen in “spiritual experiences” for me. It happens in slow realizations that give me a better grasp of how life works.

Jeff: Would you ever quit the Internet completely and permanently?

Julien: I dunno. I don’t think so. I learn a lot from being online. I just feel like it’s very easy to lose your whole life in it.

Jeff: You did a post awhile back about not settling for what you called 7/10 posts, which I thought was genius. I think Tim Ferriss has adopted a similar blogging strategy. That sounds like a great approach for someone who is already established, but what writing and blogging tips do you have for people who are just beginning?

Trust AgentsJulien: Your writing will spread exponentially with your audience, so it’s key at the beginning to make lots of friends. Thankfully, I did that before I ever wrote any great content.

But often, and this is a side note, we think our content is great when it in fact is not. Think harder about your content until you can think of NO OTHER WAY to improve it.

Jeff: You pretty regularly challenge people (at least, on your blog) — do you ever worry about pushing people too hard or offending people to the point that you might lose your audience? How do you balance serving your readers with calling them out?

Julien: I did a kind of exercise a long time ago where I figured out who my “ideal reader” was or whatever. The result of that was that I realized that most people who would read my blog were not interested in bullshit or being complacent or being told platitudes.

Another way to see this is that I don’t insult my readers’ intelligence by assuming that they can’t see the nuances in what I’m saying.

Jeff: What’s on the horizon for you?

Julien: Building a channel I own, whatever that is, that’s always the cornerstone of what I do. Because then I can support any adventure I want to take and bring people with me.

Jeff: Any other random tips for how to be awesome?

Julien: That article you’re referring to is about to appear in a major magazine, I can’t say which yet, but it’s big. And the reason that’s the case is because I looked at the article, again and again, and thought, is there any way I can make this bigger, more catchy, more interesting? What’s one more thing I can add? How can I make it more memorable and have people think it’s amazing?

And I don’t mean little changes, I mean radical changes or big additions. After I did that a few times, that’s when I finally knew that the article was right. It caught fire pretty much immediately.

All things on the web must be awesome enough to fly on their own or they will die, eventually. The machine must run while you sleep, or you are working too hard.

Jeff: What’s next for you, in terms of new projects?

Julien: I plan to copy a Hunter S. Thompson book word for word.

Jeff: Nice.


For more on Julien, follow him on Twitter or check out his blog. If you like this interview, feel free to share the link.

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Recommended reading: Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust [Affiliate link]

*Photo credit: Bryant Hill