Social Capital is What We Really Want

What if I told you that one day money could be matched by a new form of currency?  Crazy you say.  Sounds like something out of a science fiction novel.  Actually that’s correct.  Cory Doctorow coined the term whuffie in a 2003 science fiction novel and marketing guru Tara Hunt uses this term as the title of her book called The Whuffie Factor.

“Whuffie is “social capital” that is lost or gained based on positive or negative actions, your contributions to the community and what people think of you”.

What is Social Capital?

Social capital, or whuffie, refers to the value and collaboration created through social networks and human relationships.  In this world where everyone wants whuffie in their wallets, the strategy is to participate in the community and make connections in order to establish credibility.  Generally speaking, the way to gain more whuffie is by building and maintaining these connections through continued positive involvement.  It’s just as easy to lose whuffie, so it’s important that these interactions are meaningful and genuine.

Tara Hunt comes across as personable and unafraid.  And I think it’s safe to say that this author practices what she preaches.  Right now, Tara is taking a karaoke trip across America and the website devoted to this trip has pictures, tweets and tour information…yes, I’d say Tara Hunt is personable and fearless!  But the best part about this book is that it’s smart and straightforward, making it a fun read.

The Whuffie Factor and The K.I.S.S. Factor

There is a quote that’s mentioned from Marissa Mayer, Google’s I/O at the time, where she states that the “simplest design is probably the right design”.  This relates to building whuffie because it supports the importance of having a low barrier of entry in order to encourage openness and collaboration, which should be the intent in building an online community.  Of course, this means encouraging the good, the bad and the ugly.

But whereas other authors may simply state that the payoff for embracing online interaction is the ability to be innovative and understand your customers, Tara Hunt takes it one step further declaring that the ultimate payoff for embracing the chaos is that you become the ultimate influencer who is able to shape history and inspire others.  Wow, that’s powerful stuff.  And the simple explanations on how to do this are nothing short of inspiring.  The advice is practical.  I’m going to touch on two discussions that I found valuable.  They are how to handle negative feedback and how to build whuffie through twitter.

How to Handle Negative Feedback & Build Whuffie

Building whuffie requires building relationships, one person at a time.  Building an online community allows you to reach numerous people, build a customer database and to increase revenue.  Opening up a personal exchange has many advantages over using a bullhorn technique, as long as you know how to handle negative feedback:

We do not want to ignore this feedback, get defensive, or act emotionally.  We also want to avoid engaging with unreasonably negative critics, or “haters” as Tara Hunt refers to them.  It’s impossible to please every individual.  Here’s the best way to handle negative comments:

  • Be level-headed and kind.  Don’t take it personally.  Answer when you feel cool, calm and collected.
  • Show empathy by acknowledging and naming the emotion.  “You sound frustrated” for example.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions for clarification.
  • Reflect on what you can learn from your critic.
  • Explain your response.
  • Offer an alternative solution.

Even if a solution is not readily available, acknowledging feedback, both positive and negative, is the first step in any strategy because it shows you’re listening.  Similarly, the key to building whuffie through Twitter is also by listening.

How To Build Whuffie Through Twitter

This book offered some great tips on how others have built whuffie through tweeting:

  • Share your personal reflections about your cause, company, service etc.  This creates real conversation and greater trust.
  • Discuss events that your audience may find interesting.
  • Host contests to encourage more followers and interest.
  • Public reply to other’s comments.  The more you interact with people, the more they will interact with you.
  • Direct reply to another’s comment.  This creates an even deeper bond.
  • Promote others’ blog posts and keep new blog posts to one per day at the very most.
  • Interesting announcements
  • Tweet an “overheard” comment that is entertaining using OH: [comment]
  • Post links to funny videos or photos
  • Tweet lyrics and quotes
  • Link to media that you’ve created
  • Give shout-outs like @twittername rocks!
  • Tweet both the humorous and the thoughtful…

These are great tips to start building whuffie using Twitter.  As the author of The Whuffie Factor says, however, “Twitter takes time”.  It seems that all too often, results are expected overnight. A better attitude, however is to start influencing your community one by one.  This is the beauty of being able to adopt a marketing strategy that takes time but in the long-run, it is a low cost, high energy strategy with lasting implications.  Building whuffie through personal interaction as opposed to bullhorn techniques is what the whuffie factor boils down to.

The necessary first step in building whuffie is finding your higher purpose.  Approach communities from the perspective of building whuffie instead of selling or acquiring more viewers.  Promote something bigger than yourself…how’s that for a challenge?

This entry was posted on Monday, August 3, 2009 and is filed under Social Media in Marketing.

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