Tara Hunt is all about inspiration in '10.

“…If your job is to dance, do your dance… If the divine cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed for just one moment through your efforts, then olé. And if not, do your dance anyhow and olé to you nonetheless….just for having the … stubbornness to keep showing up.”

– Author Elizabeth Gilbert at TED, on finding inspiration

A 21st century renaissance woman if ever there was one, Tara Hunt is an entrepreneur, pioneer of Web 2.0, public speaker, author, mom, admitted karaoke addict, Twitter-holic and one of Fast Company Magazine’s most influential women in technology.


Tara Hunt

And if she could wish for one thing in 2010, it’s probably as much inspiration as she can muster. We caught up with her during a quick timeout from her computer.

“I write business books. You’d think that’s pretty straightforward,” Tara says. “You have the research, you fill in the blanks. But it takes me so long to get that piece of inspiration. And usually it’s at the worst possible time. I’ll be grocery shopping and I have to rush home so I can get in front of my computer and start typing.”

What’s she’s typing about these days is her message to businesses to think a little less about what they can get out of online social communities and a lot more about what they can contribute.

It’s something she’s dubbed “the Whuffie Factor” in her last book of the same name. It’s social capital, or a culture of generosity that can’t be measured in ROI or PR, but in loyalty, trust and admiration from customers.

It’s not a new idea. First nations of the Pacific Northwest called it “potlatch” and it was a central part of their culture.

“A chief gave riches away so that when it came time for him to rally tribes against invaders, they reciprocated because they admired him so much,” Tara explains. (A modern day example of this kind of fierce loyalty? Maybe ask an Apple customer why s/he owns a Mac or iPhone.)

Tara offers inspiration of her own.

So while Tara toils on her latest book, we asked her for how small businesses can start using social media tools like blogging to create and nurture a generous corporate culture and build social capital in 2010. It turns out it’s something like putting together a cultural business plan.

1. Define the culture you want. What’s your company about, what’s its higher purpose? Who are your customers and how can you make them happy?

2. Align your company to that culture. Build your team with people committed to the same goal: to deliver an experience that makes your customers happy. Think about what you can give them, instead of what you want from them. Be real, she says. Your customers can smell fakeness a mile away.

3. Learn and be patient. Developing your own social capital will come together over time. You’ll learn and make mistakes and you’ll need to be patient. You won’t be able to measure this through traditional ROI. What you’re looking for is a way to gain power and loyalty by giving. The getting will get there soon enough.

What steps can you start taking right now to make your customers happy in 2010?

By Adam

January 07, 2010