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What is Social Capital? How Online Influence Leads To Real Wealth

January 30, 2015 1 Comment
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In my previous article I discuss personal branding and only very briefly discussed the concept of social capital. I ended with the thought, “Where financial capital fails, social capital performs tremendously well.”

It’s certainly an enticing thought for me that one can brace for economic shock through the development of your personal presence on the Internet – something I’ve been doing for over 15 years!

What is Social Capital?

I define social capital as the overall value you gain from your own personal network. It’s value is derived from the number of people in the first few tiers of your relationships (“a friend” versus “a friend of a friend” or “a friend of a friend of a friend” kind of thing), what they can do for you and their willingness to come through when you ask. It’s a measure of how well you build rapport.

It really is about, “Who you know!”

Social capital cannot exist without having an active social network with a real affinity for you personally, hence the need to work on building your personal brand. I often refer to this as social wealth because we’re really talking about the value in your existing social connections and how that value can be leveraged if needed. The question here is, “What is the “worth” of each person in the personal social network you have built?” If your network has a small number of influential people or people that can bring you opportunity when you need it most, then you’re not making a lot of progress (if your goal is wealth).

Before I offer some tips that will help you build your brand and get the most out of your newly found social wealth, I want to clarify the differences and advantages of focusing on social capital over financial capital:

  • Both financial capital and social capital can coexist without negative consequences – they haven’t figured out how to tax social wealth yet either.
  • In YOUR reputation “market space” there is less competition! It seems that people have no time to seek other valid means of increasing their earning potential but through working for cash, which makes gaining attention a lot less competitive.
  • The more social capital you have gathered, the greater career security you enjoy. Think about it. If you have a large social network that believes in you, your thought leadership and professional abilities, will you be unemployed very long?
  • Social capital doesn’t need a strong financial economy to grow in value and the value derived is less sensitive to economic fluctuations.
  • You don’t need financial capital to amass social capital but you will need time, energy and a plan. Social capital can be a fantastic foundation upon which to turn your attention to building financial wealth.
  • The value of social capital opens up streams of opportunities money cannot buy! The bigger your personal brand is, the more likely it is that you will find partnerships and deals otherwise unavailable to others.

Together we are better, stronger, smarter and more capable of achievement. Capitalize on exactly that!

How Do I Build A Social Capital?

Acquiring social capital isn’t really all that hard as long as you have mastered the basics of building your personal brand through your personal social networks (covered in my previous blog post). Nevertheless, there’s certainly a bit more to it! Depending on your own skills and goals, there could be a lot of ways to build and access social wealth. Here are four sure ways that I think will help you achieve this:

  1. Find Your Area Of Expertise. When you are venturing into a new business, you must be extremely knowledgeable in your niche. If you want to stand-out from other competitors, you need to become an adept personality. Your success will not only be determined by what unique ideas, services, products and other creations you offer but by how well you have been able to communicate your expertise through them. Your goal is to lead your market by the quality and example you set. Your social network will amplify your reach.
  2. Advertise Your Ideas. An idea will never come to fruition if it remains a secret. Talk about your ideas, write about them, tweet them, whatever… but get them out to your social network! I cannot tell you how many amazing opportunities I’ve been afforded simply because I expressed my ideas with people who’ve shown the desire to listen and be supportive. Oftentimes, opportunity doesn’t become clear as a result of my initial idea or goal. Opportunity and success instead grows out of the many ideas that develops from conversations I have with interested connections who have a different set of experiences, skills, connections and opinions than my own!
  3. Add A Personal Touch. No matter how professional the topic is, those in your social network will appreciate you more if you always add a personal touch and maintain a conversational tone in your communication. You’ll be more approachable, too. Keep in mind though, that many people in your social network are not experts in your field and may not even really be all that interested! Don’t talk over them or use too much jargon; reserve that for times when you are among those who can truly relate.
  4. Relate Yourself With Other Influencers. I talk about the halo effect one gets when associating with other personalities and influencers in my article about how to really make money in an online business, the same holds true for building social capital. Social wealth can grow exponentially based upon the number of responsive influencers are in your personal social network, especially if their following is in a niche that’s different, but similar, to your own. You can very quickly grow your network by adding a portion of another influencer’s network to your own through a positive (and public) relationship. I see this sort of advantage being leveraged through joint venture partnerships all of the time.

Building an effective personal brand relies on your interaction with real people. You have to put in real time, effort and most importantly, INTEREST in others. Each relationship you develop opens up new ways to grow and take advantage of your social wealth through a powerful human connection. Remember, personal branding uses your personal social network as a platform upon which to establish yourself – you have to be genuine and it takes effort.

Social capital provides very real opportunities. Spend it wisely.

About the Author:

L. Scott Harrell is a noted private investigator, startup founder and mentor. His passion lies in competitive business strategies and being an insatiable entrepreneurial animal.

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