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Pinged Any Good Whuffie Lately?

I met Tara Hunt, author of the new book “The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business” through Brian Obkerich’s podcast and was so taken with her, I was compelled to ping her whuffie. 

Now when I was a kid, if you pinged a girl’s whuffie without asking permission first, you’d have gotten smacked across the face.  But nowadays, you can ping anyone’s whuffie, and all it takes is a couple strokes of your keyboard. 

Whuffie isn’t what it sounds like.  It’s social capital, or online reputation, and it has real value.  According to Tara, who borrows the term from a science fiction novel by Boing Boing blogger Cory Docotrow, whuffie is currency in digital world.

When I pinged Tara’s whuffie, which in this case just meant that I Googled her name in quotes for an exact phrase match, I found all kinds of content she had created, and that others had created about her.  And those search results formed the basis of Tara’s reputation.  According to research [PDF] from Tom Smith, search is now the most popular way people source opinions on products, brands and services.  But in this case, my perception of Tara’s personal brand was shaped by an amalgamation of blog posts, podcasts, video and other tidbits, all of which I found through search.

The fact is, someone’s probably pinging your whuffie right now, and you don’t even know it.   Because in the digital world much of what you’ve done, and how others feel about it, is being collected, stored and made public.  The only thing you can do about it is be nice, so there’s not that much bad stuff people can say about you.

It all made good sense to me, and I was so intrigued by Tara, aka @missrogue’s way of looking at social media that I placed an advance order for her book (it wasn’t out yet) and invited her to present at my New Media Master Class via Twitter, which she graciously accepted.  When she showed up, she was so compelling that I recommended her to PRSA  to speak at the Digital Impact Conference (#PRSAdi)  as well, which is where I am now, and where she has just completed giving the afternoon keynote about, what else, but The Whuffie Factor.

Here are some things she said that caught my attention, which we’ll talk about more at today’s strategic recap session:

  • Turn that bullhorn around.  People don’t want to be treated like numbers, which is why they go to their friends for advice.  It’s about trust.  Your friends aren’t trying to sell you something.  Friend aren’t impersonal.  Your firends care about you.
  • Turn it around now, because news travels faster through social networks than any other channel.  Check out Direct2Dell, which turned the whuffie deficit from the Jeff Jarvis Dell Hell blog storm, to a whuffie making machine.
  • The web is killing mass marketing. because you can’t effectively address the interests of individuals with a message that appeals to the broadest possible audience.
  • These are my words, not hers, but my take way is that when everyone’s an influencer, how you do business is more important that the business that you
  • Inject fun into the experience people have with your brand.  Hide hypothetical “easter eggs” on your website for people to find, and talk about.  Do something like Flickr’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

This session, and others from the PRSA Digital Impact Conference will be available as podcasts in the coming weeks and you can stream them online, subscribe via RSS or pull them right into iTunes.

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