Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Social Capital: The Currency of the Social Economy

The convention for creating financial opportunities is evolving and changing the way we seed prospects, promote our expertise and prowess, and connect with those who can help us learn and advance through the facilitation of strategic and mutually beneficial alliances.

Digital capitalization is laying a foundation for expanding the need to cultivate and participate, not only in the real world, but also in the online networks and communities that can benefit us personally and professionally.

In an era of democratized publishing and equalized influence, it can be said that engagement and participation are a new, powerful and effective form of “un” marketing. At the very least, this is an epoch of empathy.

Social capital is a strong ally, an elite catalyst for lucrative relationships, and now a metric for qualification, consideration and ultimately success (however you define it).  This is a state of human economics. Our social capital and intellectual assets are defined by both online and real world conduct and its “balance sheet” is available for anyone with a web browser to review, assess, and analyze.

Reputation, trust, and relationships, are each earned at varying levels, through our action and words. Our interaction reinforces impressions and engenders experiences. As such, our personal and professional brands are essentially reflections of our contributions. In the end, we get out of it, what we invest in it.

By participating in relevant online communities and publishing content that promotes our expertise as it empathizes with those seeking information and direction in a way that literally speaks to them, we begin the process of building and shaping our online reputation, brand, and persona that traverses virtual, augmented, and actual realities. The ideas and wisdom we share and the relationships we forge only fuel its proliferation and stature.

Like any form of capital, Social capital rises and falls with the market and the individual to which it’s governed by the state of the industry and affected by the state of corresponding affairs. As it escalates, however, it unlocks opportunities that are commensurate with the community’s assessment of its value. In the same regard, the community will not support or reward lackluster, opportunistic, also-ran, or hollow engagement in the long term.

Again, social capital is measured by individual value and collective perception.

The Human Algorithm

But trust and reputation are only as valuable as their ability to represent you in your absence. And as in anything online, perception and presence are the focus of proactive programs that enhance the discovery process and steer recognition and stature in your favor.

As search plays an increasingly important role in the investigation process of surfacing qualified candidates and social objects around relevant topics, we quickly become brand managers for our intellectual and personal assets. Our livelihood now pivots on our ability to connect dots between who were are, what we stand for, and the value we offer.

You will be Googled.

You will also be Twittered, Flickrd, YouTubed, Facebooked, and LinkedIn’ed.

While Google is the standard by which all search is measured, those active in defining their presence in traditional search will do so through organic as well as through optimized techniques such as SEO. However, as search becomes social, the role of queries disseminates beyond Google with content sought and channeled directly within Social Networks as well as new breeds of real-time search platforms. As such, prominence is then ascertained by the digital shadows we cast across the traditional and social Web (yes, there is a difference) and also through our investment in driving strategic visibility. Essentially, our brand as defined by our views, opinions, thoughts, observations, and actions, becomes a social object that requires dynamic cultivation and placement.

The Human Algorithm becomes our lifeline to regulated exposure while also providing a foundation for constructing and enhancing our presence directly within the channels where prospects are seeking information.

Social Customer Hierarchy

As social media becomes ubiquitous, businesses will no longer possess the means to effectively scale and sustain participation across all conversations on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other online communities. Whether you agree with this or not, brands will face the need to prioritize who they engage based on what I refer to as the Social Customer Hierarchy. The level of influence and authority a customer or prospect holds determines their placement in the chain of preeminence.

Yes, we earn prominence and amass social capital through productive contributions to online societies. In the process, we increase our stature and amplify our voices and it will escalate consumer matters when other traditional means are exhausted. Brandishing this distinction however, erodes value, and over time, ranking and credibility are diminished.

Our online reputation and the activity that contribute to its definition are investments in our social capital. The return on these investments is evident in the opportunities and relationships that ensue and proliferate. Our social graph, the connections we forge and actively nurture, represents a very public testimony. If you’re not actively investing in its significance, you may actually take away from its net worth.

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227 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Social Capital: The Currency of the Social Economy”

  1. smallbusinessmarketing says:

    WRT the social customer heirarchy, I think that if businesses focus on using social media to collaborate with their target markets, then the whole issue of customer heirarchy settles itself. Businesses can not be everything to all customers and so they ultimately must zero in on their favorite customers and social media is a prime candidate for making this happen.

    • briansolis says:

      Absolutely…as well as hitting those individuals who can in turn serve as an ambassador for solutions. As Jim Long said, customer service in social media must transform all channels of service instead of playing favorites on twitter.

  2. Keenan says:


    You are spot on. I call this the “Asset of the Future” I posted about it 7 months ago. Our online presence, our social graph is quickly moving from a nice to have or competitive advantage to a must have.

    In the not too distant future, the jobs we have, the people we date, the schools we attend, the neighborhoods we live in will all correlate with the strength of our online social presence, as you put it our social capital.

    I am currently writing a book; Online Presence: Asset of the Future – Why your social graph will be worth more than your home, that lays out this future state, which is coming to age now.

    You can check it out here:

  3. One important point about digital & online social capital, as opposed to traditional offline face-to-face social capital, is that we as humans are still figuring out how to manage this when we don't get the benefit of actually meeting these people in person. Call it the “smell factor” but I think human beings still have an intuition or first impression about people we meet in person, that is sorely missing in digital online encounters.

    • briansolis says:

      Yumio, interesting…there is indeed an energy that doesn't necessarily precede us in online as it does in real life. The chemistry check is powerful and telling.

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