Interview with Tara Hunt, author of The Whuffie Factor

The following interview was published in Italian for the Girl Geek Dinners in Italy: Girl Geek Life website. Below is the original interview in English.

Tara Hunt, @missrogue on Twitter, is a notable Canadian entrepreneur, founder of unconventional marketing company “Citizen Agency” and frequent keynote speaker talks to me about her new book.

SARA ROSSO: You’re the author of “The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business.” What is “Whuffie”?

TARA HUNT: Whuffie is a fun word coined by Cory Doctorow in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom that means social currency. In Cory’s book, he describes a future where there is no money, only Whuffie. One makes whuffie by being nice, networked and/or notable. You can ‘ping’ someone else’s whuffie, getting back a score. A high score means that you can probably trust that person and you may want to get to know him/her. When I read Cory’s book, I thought to myself, “Actually, this doesn’t sound any different from how we relate to one another in online communities.” We are constantly pinging one another’s whuffie.

SARA ROSSO: There are 5 key principles of the Whuffie Factor –

  1. stop talking, start listening – focus on individuals and understand the needs of a community
  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 are not predictable
  5. find your higher purpose – what can you give to the community, and still be profitable?

Which principle are you finding companies are having the hardest time with? What advice are you giving them to overcome this?

TARA HUNT: The principle most difficult for companies to gr0k is Embrace the Chaos. Giving up control of the message and opening oneself up to the vast opportunities presented in building relationships with one’s customer community is a risky thing to do. Of course, everything is a risk, even when tightly planned, so I help coach companies through taking baby steps towards embracing that chaos, pointing out the rewards along the way.

SARA ROSSO: Why do you think that companies should focus on “delighting and enchanting those people already part of your community” first? If there is no official existing community, how do companies start identifying who is part of the “community”?

TARA HUNT: If you delight your current customers, they will go out and tell their friends and contacts about their great experience. This word of mouth is still and always will be the most effective type of marketing. When people give their peers recommendations, it’s much more powerful than a pitch from a company. As far as identifying who is part of the customer community? The advice I give is to step back and figure out what problem are you solving/need are you filling? And then ask yourself, “who has those needs?” Those are the types of questions that will help you identify your customer community.

SARA ROSSO: In Italy BarCamps are very popular – you’ve been very involved in BarCamps from the start in California. What do you think has changed, for better or for worse, in the way BarCamps are organized and executed in these past 4 years? Any advice to share?

TARA HUNT: BarCamp is amazing because, I believe, it is morphing with the needs of the social geek community (who are the ones primarily driving the adoption of BarCamp). I think it is changing around the world. People are getting really creative with the idea of BarCamp, applying it to non-tech questions and industries and seeing really great results. This is bringing BarCamp to a wider audience, so I believe strongly it is for the better. Advice? Only that I think that BarCamp is an awesome model for getting the creative juices flowing. Apply it liberally!

SARA ROSSO: Are there any new and upcoming tools or sites you’re using that might interest the Girl Geeks in Italy?

TARA HUNT: I use an abundance of travel tools nowadays. I really love and (want them to synch together, though). I’m really looking forward to seeing how Open Social unfolds as well to help me solve my social network management issues. Other than that, I’m loving various Twitter applications like Tweetie for my iPhone and Tweetdeck for my desktop. I think there is going to be more ideas and applications to emerge out of Twitter. It’s all in the beauty of their open API.

Thank you, Tara! Her book, The Whuffie Factor” is now available on

Here’s a presentation of hers on Whuffie. There are 261 slides but they FLY!

Image of Tara Hunt from Lane Hartwell
Image of Tara with book from from missrogue

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