In today's online world, it's your social capital that matters most, or what social media expert Tara Hunt refers to as whuffie. What is whuffie? In short, it's your overall reputation and influence in the community.

You lose or gain it based on positive or negative actions, your contributions to the community, and what people think of you, says Hunt, whose book, The Whuffie Factor (Crown Business, 2009), reveals specific tactics for success with online communities such as Facebook and Twitter. She was one of the Entrepreneurial Excellence Series speakers at the 2009 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

Whuffie should be easy for practitioners to embrace if they're already building social goodwill in their communities, Hunt said. That same kind of mindset should be transferred to the Web. By increasing your social capital, people find you more easily, Hunt says. You become very reachable and Google-able.

Here are some ways you can start building up your whuffie:

Turn the bullhorn around: Stop talking and start listening. Don't treat Facebook like a megaphone to promote yourself and your listings.

Be transparent: Create a single profile on which you communicate honestly with your entire network. Share tidbits on the vacation you just took, the challenges you're facing in the market, and exciting moments for your family.

Collect customer feedback: Social media is a free way to do market research and connect with clients. Ask customers to tell you what they think of your services.

Be notable: What do other members of the online community think of you? Do they think of you at all? Find ways to make a memorable impression on your network.

Track your progress: It's not just about how many hits you get on your blog or Web site. Some important metrics include the number of referrals you've received from your network and how often people redistribute information you've shared.