Online Social Capital and Influence

Posted on June 9, 2008
Filed Under Musings, Offline social, Social Captial, social media marketing, Social Web, Strategy | Comments Off on Online Social Capital and Influence

What is online social capital? It’s a new term that contains an older term. The wikipedia definition of social capital refers to gaining influence (access to power) “through the direct and indirect employment of social connections”. Offline capital has been around for thousands of years, and extends beyond personal into business, political, and religious. But online, the effect is different, and it creates a different dynamic.

The modern version is quasi-physical, in most cases, as there are real people with real names that are linked together via relationships. Whether poking each other on social networking sites, or chatting via instant messaging, there is a basis in real relationships with real people in the majority of one’s online social wealth.

A bit more on defining the term, via what it allows… on Scales for Social Capital in the Online Era there is the indication that it creates benefits derived from relationships created by interactions of social actors. These individuals form “a network of individuals—a ‘social network’—resulting in positive affective bonds. These in turn yield positive outcomes such as emotional support or the ability to mobilize others.”

This type of capital is not limited to one network, as it can bridge social networks. Bridging’s basic definition applies to when individuals from different backgrounds connect, and this is also extended to cover those that occur between social networks.

Utilizing tools such as facebook may have taken off in part because building social capital takes time, and it is easier to leverage the base of a large social network. Other newer tools allow quick building of the same. Even within networks, there is contrast between “introduction-model” sites such as, and microblogging sites such as, The first is designed for real-world useful social interaction and one for, well, short bursts of content (useful or otherwise).

The relationship networks that are built through different types of sites are not the same. It is useful to recognize how they are different as you consider the effort expended in building personal or organizational capital.While smart people such as Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam are focused on real-world social capital, there is the hyper-rapid growth of online social capital, as reported in this article.

Online Social Capital and Reputation Managment

Once you have online influence, it becomes as asset to manage, in the sphere of online reputation management. Newbies – people have a handful of online friends and a small network – have less to worry about than people with 5,000 or 10,000 people who are tuned into their online activities & ideas.

Can celebrities really do social media & networking? No, not in the current “traditional” method of social networking, or at least not for the long-term. It’s not really feasible, because as a personal-interaction-based form of communications, it requires hundreds of responses per day. It is possible to engage, but not via having others post for the person, as that quickly becomes apparent for it’s “fake” quality.


There is no “Central SocialCapital Bank”, and one’s network is quickly spread across the hundreds or thousands of sites. As opposed to the bank model, you can’t build up this type of wealth and have it sit. It exists by being used, but necessarily by being spent.

[More on this to come – this post will be continued and expanded with content that was not ready at the time of publishing ]


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