Understanding Social Capital and Its Importance Online

You’ve heard of social media and social networking but are puzzled by the term social capital right?  Are you asking yourself what is social capital?

Here’s the thing about social capital.  You have social capital.  You value your social capital.  You take actions to protect your social capital.  When your social capital disappears, you want it back and have to work hard to restore it.

Okay, so now you’re curious.  You’re asking if you have social capital, why don’t you know about it and why is it so valuable.

Fair enough.

What exactly is social capital?

Social capital has been around ever since people started connecting within their social networks, not just the modern day social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but all social networks.

To understand the concept of social capital it become necessary to look a little closer at what happens in any social interaction and the relationships that evolve from those social interactions.

Relationships are built when you interact with your social contacts that occupy the same social network.  These relationships gradually develop and will eventual spread across other social networks.  This extends your social reach and your social influence but more importantly increases both the trust and credibility within your network.

These social relationships along with this trust and credibility all have a value.  It is this value that is considered your social capital.

The higher your social capital, the better it is for you within in your social network.  The higher your social capital the more authority you have within the niche or network you occupy.

It is a relatively simple concept but has major implications in your online activities.

Is your interest piqued by social capital yet?  You must be asking how this applies to the online world.

If you consider the consequences of your actions offline, what you say or do has a limited reach due in part by our limited number of social contacts.  The relationships you build are not far reaching and you only have an influence on a limited number of people within your social network.

Move to an online world and the playing field changes.  People involved in any online activity, whether as an individual or as part of a business, your social reach is much greater.

If you look at the life of a blogger or social media personality, social footprints extend much farther than in the offline world.  Interact with Facebook friends, Twitter followers or YouTube subscribers on a regular basis increase the number of people within your social network.

Your actions are closely monitored and scrutinized.  Your successes often copied.  Your actions in the online world reach a much larger population.  The speed in which connections are made and information is shared is mind blowing.  Items become viral and within seconds have the potential to destroy the trust and credibility built over several years of interacting with people.

However, don’t confuse social capital with online reputation.

Social capital is impacted by your online reputation but should be viewed as the value gained from social relations.  Online reputation is more about how you and your actions are perceived by others online and may have nothing to do with the social relationships you have built.

The importance of social capital in today’s social Internet has become magnified because of the reach of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.  These services make it very easy to connect with and develop social relationships void of any offline personal contact.

As a blogger or social media personality you have to keep this in mind.  Leverage the relationships built and engage those you interact with.

Spend your social capital at opportune times to increase your social influence and establish undisputed authority within your niche but spend it wisely.

The more social capital you own the more authority you will be seen to have.  The authority you have, the more trust and credibility you will be given across social networks.  The more trust and credibility you have the more social influence you will have.

Make your decisions to leverage your social capital only when the returns will have the greatest benefit for you and every decision impacts your social capital.

It is a complicated existence that shapes every aspect of your online being, whether it is your search engine rankings or your revenue streams.  Gain a greater understanding of what impacts your social capital and you will find yourself on your way to a very successful online presence.

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About Barry Wheeler

Barry Wheeler is a blogger, novice SEO, geek and passionate Newfoundlander. Operating several successful websites and online communities, Barry has started exploring the social internet and its impact on all facets of society including personal life and business relationships. Find Barry on Twitter @barrywheeler and FaceBook or on his website Barry Wheeler - Blogging for Success.
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