What does it take to succeed in the social networking space? Lots of people have theories, but have you heard of "Whuffie?"

As I was browsing through my Twitter feed, I noticed that there was a live feed from DaknoTV (@rewebcoach) for the Real Estate BarCamp in Virginia Beach. If you’re not familiar with the BarCamp concept, it’s a face-to-face meeting for those who have formed social and business relationships online. The first BarCamps were composed of bloggers who wanted to connect in person with other people who shared their love of blogging.

BarCamps can include formal presentations. They can also be quite chaotic, with informal groups forming to discuss various issues of interest. They may or may not have an agenda. Participants are free to pursue their personal interests. For example, if someone is doing a presentation, there are usually a number of side conversations taking place simultaneously on Twitter. At the time I tuned into the Virginia Beach BarCamp, there was an ongoing Twitter discussion about "What is Whuffie?"

The first question was how to spell it and where the term came from. Bill Lublin, who was co-leading the discussion with Inman News Community Manager Daniel Rothamel, defined "Whuffie" as social capital. According to Wikipedia, the term "Whuffie" originated in Cory Doctorow’s book, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom."

A person’s Whuffie is a general measurement of his or her overall reputation. Whuffie is lost or gained according to a person’s favorable or unfavorable actions.

Tara Hunt elaborates on this concept in her book, "The Whuffie Factor." According to Hunt, the five steps that you must take to create Whuffie for your business are:

1. Stop talking and start listening.
2. Become part of the community you serve.
3. Create amazing customer experiences.
4. Embrace the chaos. Communities are made up of people, and people aren’t predictable.
5. Find your higher purpose: What can you give to others and still be profitable?

This approach represents a sea change in terms of marketing. It’s no longer about driving your marketing messages to as many people as possible. In fact, when you use blatant marketing messages, you lose Whuffie. Today’s consumer is looking for connection and trust.

In other words, rather than asking, "What can I sell you?" the question today is, "What can I do for you?" The more you do for others, the more Whuffie you build. This in turn increases the probability that people will want to do something to help you. As Julie Escobar put it, "Make a friend now; make a sale later." …CONTINUED

In their book, "The Go-Giver," Bob Burg and John David Mann argue that "stratospheric success" is based upon how well you serve others: "The number of people you serve determines how well you will be compensated." The authors encourage readers to "look for ways to serve others, whether it’s your family, your friends, your clients, or people you don’t even know." Saying this a little differently, stratospheric success results from Whuffie.

Lublin and Rothamel also argued that you must be authentic. You don’t do things for others just to build your business. You do it for the sake of doing something good for others: "The biggest mistake that people make in terms of social media is thinking it’s about the technology. What it’s really about is being a good human being."

In the "Law of Authenticity" chapter, Burg and Mann echo this point: "The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself. If you want great people skills, then be a person! It’s worth 10,000 times more than all the closing techniques that ever have been or will be invented."

What can you do to build Whuffie in your business? Lublin and Rothamel recommended the following:

1. Write recommendations for others on LinkedIn. This is especially true for someone who is new to your community or that you might be able to help in some other way.

2. Post positive comments on sites such as Yelp.com. For example, you might post a review of a new restaurant on Yelp. If someone gives you great service, post that on Yelp as well. The point is that your actions help to build Whuffie. When you help others, most people want to do what they can to help you.

3. Avoid using real estate as a way to connect with others. Instead, connect with those with whom you have mutual interests — it could be sports, collecting comic books, or any other topic where you have a deep and abiding passion.

4. Build Whuffie by posting comments on other people’s blogs. Most will return the favor by posting on your blog.

Real estate has always been about building trust and long-lasting relationships. Today, much of that trust-building is occurring online, but the core concepts haven’t changed. When we build Whuffie by helping others, we’re creating the foundation for long-term, sustainable business success.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.


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