A personal story on bringing social capital into a new world

This entry is a bit of a follow up of my post looking at the ills of social media on creative art.  I want to look at the concepts of social capital and apply it away from a whole of world concept.

The traditional thinkers on social capital or Coleman, Bourdieu etc look at social capital as

“networks and the associated norms of reciprocity have value. They have value for the people who are in them, and they have, at least in some instances, demonstrable externalities, so that there are both public and private faces of social capital.”

                            Putman (p1)

There is much research suggesting social capital as a tool for societies to move forward, churches, associations and even governments taking networks, taking people’s behaviour and even wealth for the betterment of them, and maybe others.

The problem is that the definition and research around social capital is still quite new, still quite elastic so to transfer it to individuals or groups of people can be difficult.

In my last post, I mentioned that social media has made it easy to take people’s creative products and use them for their own gain without payment or even thanks to the creator of the product.

In one way, that was a bit of a personal gripe – and one that is shared by many of my photographer friends.  Conversely, social media has allowed be to gain work – infact, it has probably accounted for 80% of the work I have ever had.

Granted, I do (even if I say so) great work in motorsport media.  But so do many people so why do I get jobs over someone else?

This is where I come to social capital.

Over my decade in the sport, I have dedicated much of my time to learning the sport and helping the sport.  I worked for cheap or for free for the young guys, the struggling car clubs, those who didn’t have big media coverage.

I never really talked about my work online – I gave out links, advertised the people I was working for.

This allowed me to build up a sense of trust, of goodwill in the industry.  Importantly, people had seen that I wasn’t a fanboy, wasn’t there to get rich, and obviously seen the quality of my work.  Built up capital that I could spend elsewhere.

That is where the work came in and came in via social media.  80% of my work has come from social media, most of that from Twitter.  Most of it coming from people I have never met.  The payback was biggest when I was putting more in.  In 2012, the payback dried up a little as my focus was on the day job and study.  The more I put in, the more came out – again offers from people I don’t know – just know me from my efforts in the sport.

The links to social capital may be tenuous and it is difficult to explain it in a short blog post but social capital is something that we can interpret and use beyond large and obscure political theory.

It is also where social media will influence social capital.  The world is changing faster than some can comprehend and faster than research can view.  A PhD is a minimum of three years – in that time behaviours come and go – although we may now reach a plateau to better look at social capital in the 21st century.  It will function differently with different tools.  It won’t have to be marketing – infact marketing may lessen your social capital.  It will be genuineness and sincerity to your cause, to your virtual community.

No longer will people have to talk in a church or community hall to build social capital.  They can do it from the comfort of their living room with people they will never meet.


A quick read on building social capital through social media

There are many tools out there to build social capital through social media.  Any picture that you may find through a social media Google image search will show dozens of platforms, and will almost certainly be out of date.

There are tools to blog, to connect with friends, to connect with professionals, to connect with strangers, to push out visual media, to show your event live across the world, to game, to collaborate and more.

In your working environment, you may have access to programs that allow discussion across the organisation without the need to resort to meetings, phoning or emails.  Programs that allow interaction like this include Yammer, SharePoint, and even private Facebook pages.  If you find you don’t have internal social media channels, check out these sites, you might discover that you do.  Otherwise, check it out with your workmates and management, creating these channels is often free – and increasingly, management are often less fearful about social media than they once were.

Whatever the channels of social media and other interaction you have how you behave on those channels is what builds your social capital.  Joining in conversations, offering ideas, offering to join in on committees or working parties  can all come through social media channels.

Essentially, behaviour on social media sites – when used to build social capital – is not essential different to building social capital in the non-digital world.  You are still interacting with people – and you’re still trying to achieve a common cause for your organisation.

A few tips, however on how to build social capital within your organisations

–       Ask and answer questions regularly

–       Join conversations and bring your voice and your experience into it

–       Always be friendly and courteous

–       Check your facts before posting

–       Make sure you’re not working outside your company’s policy

–       Have fun.

This might seem daunting at the start but the benefits can be wide reaching.  You will be able build your profile, build your expertise, gain answers and insights to problems you were experiencing.  You might also even gain new friends and the impressed eye of management – both valuable commodities in themselves.

I hear questions, though, of what happens when your company doesn’t have any of these resources.

Well, every company needs a champion.

Exploring social capital in organisations: Policy

Today companies have the power to allow their employees to connect, sharing experiences, ideas and friendships from between offices, states and countries.

Social media has allowed them do to this better than ever before.

To take advantage of social media within an organisation – to use tools like Facebook, Twitter, Yammer and more you must have a policy and guidelines in place.

These should cover any legal obligations you have as a company in your jurisdiction.

This can include:

–       Copyright

–       Harassment

–       Who is allowed on corporate channels

–       Discipline

–       And more

It is important to have a robust policy to protect the company and its employees.

More and more, organisations without a robust policy are finding themselves at the mercy of the courts and are often on the receiving end of harassment complaints and unfair dismissal.

These aren’t a reason to stay out of social media though. Like challenges before, these can be overcome and great advantages can be gained from social media.

Social capital, innovation and employee morale can all be boosted.   Tools like Yammer has allowed employees in decentralised or siloed companies to connect like they never have before, sharing ideas and innovation that would have been previously unknown to the company.

There are many exceptional examples of policy around.  The landscape is consistently changing but here are some good resources:

Victorian Justice (Australia)

Online data base of policy (International/USA)

10 Must Have Elements (USA)

How to write a social media policy (USA)

– I will post about mine (Australia) when it is approved.

Want to see the video – you can go here – http://youtu.be/_OrB5ZwvEQo

Want to see the presentation – go here – http://prezi.com/fslmh7ugakt4/present/?auth_key=8sfgwkl&follow=zxilhiugmnu4#0_4299178

More on social capital to come!

Where to start on social capital

Undoubtedly social media has affected the way we connect, how we keep and develop relationships and how employees in organisations’ can connect.  It has provided a newer set of technologies and as such, has shifted the way the world works and, to an extent, the way we think.

Social media has also brought a renewed interest in social capital – in terms of research into the phenomenon, and how it impacts on our lives.  Organisations using business models or organisational techniques created before the proliferation of electronic media do carry skepticism about social media and building social capital through it.  The scepticism can exist at various levels – including business to business, innovation and internal connection of staff (Kaplan, Haenlein, 2010).  Grounding use of social media tools for the creation and proliferation of social capital through established theory and academic study may be important for some of these organisations to move forward in this field.

First thing is first, what is social capital?

There is no one set dictionary definition for social capital.  While research has been ongoing since the 1910s with LJ Hanifan introducing the term to academic circles – establishing social capital almost as a form of goodwill within social circles – over any form of financial transactions.  (Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol 67, 1916). Quantifiable research was sporadic throughout the next decades until the 1990s and more recently with the advent of online social networking.

Despite the more recent work from Putnam, Ritchie/Robison/Lindon a common definition has not been settled upon but, conceptually social capital has become clearer with people interacting in networks to connect, assist, be assisted in their tasks etc.  It is necessary for individuals and organisations to build a stock pile trust, relationships, skills that can then be used for mutual benefit.

Social Capital has also built on other theories – and the interaction of individuals and organsaitions has seen theories of their own be built.

The theories have largely been drawn from sociological theories – or theories that explain social interaction and social knowledge.

According to the publication – “Linking Social Capital to Knowledge Productivity – An exploitative Study on the Relationship Between Social Capital and Learning in Knowledge-Productive Networks” Structural Hole Theory and Network Closure Theory are the current theories that suggest the future for social capital.

In essence and according to Erik Noyes of Boston University, Structural Hole Theory “predicts that a company’s connections — and more specifically its absence of certain connection — will shape its access to unique information, i.e., information which other companies may struggle to obtain based on their position in a firm network.”  (http://www.bu.edu/tech/research/visualization/about/gallery/structhole/)

Through a study by Ronald Burt, the Network Closure Theory suggest “is that social capital is created by a network of strongly interconnected elements” (http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/gradnet05/burt%20-%20STRUCTURAL%20HOLES%20vs%20NETWORK%20CLOSURE.pdf)

In current day business and in everyone’s personal lives, we accrue and spend a value of social capital.  We do it in the way we connect, interact, innovate and use our individual expertise.  More and more, the world is turning from what you know and who you know – to now, what you are known for.  Additionally, we have more tools to communicate with people across our communities than ever before.  As such, our communities are changing.  It no longer relies on family, direct office co-workers or physical proximity – you can connect with people across the world; across large and decentralised organisations.  Friends are made where you may never meet – may never step foot in the same country.  Through effective use of social media, the tools that are now available, sales, innovation and enduring relationships can be fostered and built on.


Keep an eye out for more videos and posts on social capital, including the tools of the trade.

(c) 2012, Sam Tickell

For more motorsport related posts, please visit www.racerviews.com

Digg and Reddit and the joys of social bookmarking

There seems to be a small and loyal following of social bookmarking – well small in comparison to the might and strength of Facebook.

Once social bookmarking was a bright spot on the internet.  Yahoo were making innovations and making great ground with their Delicious.  It was a great way to share with friends and transport your favourites everywhere you went.

Times have changed.  Delicious seems about as cool as MySpace, Google has gotten a lot more powerful, the blogasphere has gotten a lot bigger – there is more information and it is easier than ever to find it. 

But gems are still gems and should be saved.  And shared.  So these tools still exist and are used but a lot of people.  They can prove to be a handy personal tracker for what you like and handy traffic driver for webeditors.

I have used these tools on and off for a few years. 

I started from scratch again to see how these things worked and how I could integrate into my workflows.

I tried Digg first of all.  I started and linked to my Facebook account.  This was mistake number one.  After a few bookmarks – a friend or two inquired as to what I was researching and if I could keep it off their walls.  Ok. Fair enough.  Problem two was that it would plain refuse to digg some items.  This made me turn to Reddit.

I didn’t link this to my Facebook.  I signed up new.  Or I tried.  It recogised me from before so I continued an old account.  There was no software failures here – everything went up and I could see what I had reddited a few months ago.  That was kind of neat.  The CAPTCHA code thing though was a pain in the butt.  Added too many steps to my process.  And there is only so many times you can type a bunch of random letters – that get refused – before you quit.  Again.

Next on the list was Delicious.

I had, in my mind, written this off after Yahoo! got rid of it at a bargain basement price.  But, how I was wrong.  So very wrong.  It proved to be the most reliable and easy to use.  A simple signup and install – a button to my tool bar and we are away.  Deliciousing many new pages.  No issues.  No unnecessary steps.  I can also share.

I can prove it – click this – http://delicious.com/stacks/view/MLCTNk – unless I am very much mistaken, it should lead to a page that doesn’t contain the words “Error” or “Not found”.  I should contain some links on social capital.  If I am mistaken, please tell me – I’d love to know.

But in the end why would you bother?  Well, you’d bother because it is a great reserch tool – particularly if your research party (work, study, social) is somewhat decentralised.  It is great if you are working on multiple machines.  It is great if you are a webmaster and want to push content out.

It is great because it works.  And it’s free.