Author Tara Hunt, in her book The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build your Business, introduces us to the concept of social capitalism (a.k.a. “Whuffie”) as the ticket to success in a Web 2.0 world. Hunt presents us with a charge to build Whuffie for your organization by dedicating yourself to as many substantive relationships as you can build through existing social media tools. In turn, by amassing as many of these relationships as you cam build, you will build trust. Trust then flows into “capital” by referrals, consumer choices, and repeat business. This is the difference between reading a company’s “FAQ” list on a webpage and interacting with the company through the exchange of “Tweets” and getting quick response in an informal setting.
Answer a student concern about an orientation mailer via Twitter? More Whuffie. Get into a dialogue about a controversial blog post that one of your students wrote? Big Whuffie. Host a website that still lists your Fall 2007 campus events? Deduct Whuffie. Invest time only in “taking” from an online community without contributing anything yourself? Negative Whuffie. You see how the pattern goes.
The development of relationships goes to the core of of student affairs work and at the heart of every personality inventory I can take, so I immediately latch on to this idea and want to talk about its application to student affairs. One of the biggest fears I hear expressed about some of the new Web 2.0 tools in higher education is “what if I get a really negative comment posting on my residence life office’s blog?” or “things like Facebook or twitter take too much time to maintain.” Using Tara Hunt’s approach, it is time for us to “turn around the bullhorn.” Instead of broadcasting our words out to the students, let’s use Web 2.0 tools to let them broadcast back to us. Hunt’s charge to organizations everywhere is not to create new tools, but instead to meet “customers” where they are and play in their playground.
With students this is no different, but college students adopt tech tools in a different pattern. As previous posts have stated, students are slow to sign on to Twitter and sometimes can resent the non-student presence on Facebook. In addition, discussion about sites like Flickr or other photo sites raises the issue of what we would do if the wrong photos fell into the wrong hands. We have spent the past few years on my campus exploring the “what if” of social media tools. How about spending some time on the “Why Not?”
I’d love to hear some success stories about using Web 2.0 tools to promote student engagement, or deposits to your “Whuffie” account on campus. Have you had positive experiences where you feel your office is building Whuffie and engaging students?
I’ll post next time about her thoughts on “embrace the chaos.” It was one of my favorite sections!