Social Capital in the Social Age

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I’m just finishing the Social Capital unit of Julian Stodd’s Foundations of the Social Age MOOC on Curatr.  (I know, I’ve fallen woefully behind in my MOOC studies.  Perhaps a topic I should pursue in another blog post.)  The final activity for this unit is to reflect on what Social Capital means to me.

The first thing that popped into my head is the quote from Jeff Bezos of Amazon regarding brand:

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Stodd’s conceptualization shares this simple belief that we don’t control our worth in the social world.  Certainly, we can work at crafting our personal brands and doing things that build our social capital, but in the end, it is the impression we leave with others, the aftermath of our presence that really determines how we are respected, valued, and trusted by others.

There is no place where this is more visceral and day-to-day than in outside sales.  Having spent much of my career in one sort of sales or sales support/management role, I learned the hard way, and the easy way, that people are always assessing us for our authenticity, confidence, competence, dependability and a host of other characteristics.

People buy from people whenever they can.  You might have a second rate product to sell, but if you customers know how to reach you and are certain that you will assist them, no matter the situation, they will buy from you and be loyal.  There is an old sales adage that you build greater customer loyalty than resolving a difficult or mission critical problem than you do by having everything go smoothly from start to finish.  (The corollary is that you don’t go out and create problems just so you can fix them!)

Social capital is really what runs the world.  Just because the head of sales has “Vice President” in his title, that’s not a guarantee that his team will be out there an extra hour or two a day calling on those extra potential customers.  But a sales manager who has shown humanness, compassion, patience, authenticity?  Well, 9 times out of 10, she’ll end up with impressive sales and maybe a Manager of the Year or two awards because her team will move heaven and earth to make it so.  Senior Executives see pet projects go down in flames because of a lack of social capital when others have employees banging down their doors to volunteer for “whatever they’re working on.”

Social capital is critical now and will only grow as the workplace becomes more fluid the ability to lead will be highly dependent upon one’s ability to gather resources, often very quickly, to make projects work.

What do you think?  What is the role in today’s workplace for Social Capital?  Does it replace traditional hierarchical power?  Or supplement it?  Please add your thoughts to the discussion by using the comment section below.


Featured Image provided by under a Creative Commons Zero license.


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