Avatar, Trust, Community, and Social Media

Have a blue Christmas?

James Cameron’s masterpiece, Avatar, has been garnering rave reviews and I recently had a chance to watch the movie with @waynesutton and @misskatiemo.  I’m not writing a movie review, but I think Avatar is definitely worth watching and there are several themes that led me to this blog post (much to Wayne’s initial laughter).

Trust and community are two common themes and buzz words in social media and there are tons of knowledgeable folks in each area (e.g. @chrisbrogan and @waynesutton).  Avatar’s story is guided by these two concepts.

Possible spoilers below, I recommend you watch the movie before reading this post.


This is pretty simple:

  • Earning trust is not easy.
  • Losing trust is very easy.
  • Regaining trust can be near impossible.

When there is a tightly bound community with shared values, beliefs and perceptions, it can be difficult to join and become a contributing member.  This is the first major struggle in Avatar as the entire project’s goal (at least from one side) is to gain trust and enter the private world of Pandora (not the music sharing site).  Much like social media, there are common challenges:

  • Transparency
  • Honesty
  • Genuine Relationships
  • Essentially…be a real person, avoid spam, listen, learn and engage

The path of Jake Sully throughout the movie shows us the difficulty of earning trust, how quickly that can disappear, and how it takes a well-organized, well-coordinated action plan to regain trust.  I’m sure my PR friends can contribute real life examples if we need to add those in (United breaks guitars for example).


At its essence, a community is a group of people with similar interests.

I explain social media to my parents by saying: “Think about gathering everyone you know in one room and you can talk to them about anything you want.  Ask questions, seek advice, offer insight, brainstorm together, whatever the case may be.  Social media is basically the ability to do that with people from all over the world on a much larger scale.”

Becoming part of a community usually just requires interest and participation.  Over time, by providing value you can earn trust and become an influential part of that community.

This was another critical element to the story of Avatar.  Jake Sully joined the Na’vi people by infiltrating them…not exactly the most trustworthy entrance.  As he passed their tests, learned their ways, and more importantly understood them…his motives become much more honorable.

There were still skeptics, but before he could prove them wrong, he had already blown his cover so to speak.

Reconnecting with the community and earning trust was literally equivalent to slaying a dragon.


  • Social media and what makes it tick isn’t just online, look for ways to find that connection.
  • Be honest and genuine because building a good reputation is easier than mending a bad one.
  • Participate in communities and build relationships and you’ll accomplish much more than you could alone.
  • Go see Avatar. :)


Some inspiration for this post is from Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith (link to Amazon is NOT an affiliate link).

Thanks for reading this post.

Follow me on the rest of the webs.

Still not sure who wrote this post? I'm Chris Moody.


  1. Though I might be one of the few people who didn't particularly care for Avatar, I did rather enjoy this post. Not that I ever planned on building our brand on dishonesty, but it's a good perspective on what I'm now experiencing. I'm not just marketing my company, but also entering a community to whom, and rightfully so, I'm still an outsider… now I just need to slay a dragon.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Joshua! It seems like most of the times, common sense will get you where you need to go (most folks wouldn't be dishonest as you mentioned).

    Good luck “slaying the dragon” in your marketing. :)

  3. Nice recap Chris and I was looking forward to your post. Just to explain the laughter, I just thought it was funny because, as soon as the movie was over you were like this is a “blog post on social media”. Your points are dead on though about trust and relationship.

    The part I really loved was the “slaying a dragon” part for reconnecting. Something Jake had a chance to do that is extremely hard if you damage your relationship with the community. I wished they would have showed that part in the movie too.

    So when are we going to see Avatar in 3D imax? :)

  4. Thanks for the comment Wayne!

    I knew that was why you were laughing, but the idea of the post kept smacking me in the face. :)

    As for Avatar at IMAX…I think it is sold out until 2010 in Raleigh…:(

  5. Chris,

    I have to admit, when you declared that you were going to blog about Avatar, I was more curious than skeptical. I also have to say, you hit the nail on the proverbial head. Trust is exceptionally hard to gain, and very, VERY easy to lose. I think more companies could serve to learn that, as some “get” that, and some don't.

    Looking forward to seeing if you gain any additional insights when you and Wayne see it in 3D IMAX! :D

  6. Pay attention to what James Cameron has done with his truly spectacular looking Avatar. This, my friends, is the right way to create a 3D film experience.

  7. Pay attention to what James Cameron has done with his truly spectacular looking Avatar. This, my friends, is the right way to create a 3D film experience.

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