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Social Networks vs. Social Capital

Written by: Bill Sherman on Monday, 30 June 2008, 4:00 PM

Social networking tools have become commonplace (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.). While these tools allow people to create a surface-level connnection, they are (at best) tools that create very weak ties.

Imagine a network 5,000 people wide. All of those relationships must be shallow. In fact, if you have 5,000 people in your LinkedIn network, you can’t spend much time with all of your contacts.

Social capital provides a completely different approach. When you have social capital, you have influence. People will take (and return) your calls. When you make an introduction or recommendation, people will eagerly welcome it. When you ask for help (or an introduction), your contacts will gladly help you.

Many people think that by expanding the number of contacts within their social network that they will increase their social capital. They’re making a huge mistake.

  • Your social network represents the total potential size of your network.
  • Your social capital represents your ability to leverage the resources and opportunities within that network.

New technology has made it easy for us to focus on expanding our social network, but it also tempts us to be lazy. We can easily forget the value of building social capital.

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