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LinkedIn Wants You to Learn Social Capital Theory

Written by: Bill Sherman on Thursday, 10 July 2008, 9:07 AM

LinkedIn wants to be more than your digital Rolodex. They’re interested in network mapping and even leveraging some aspects of social capital. To achieve this result, they need to educate people about social capital.

Dr. Nan Lin,  professor of Sociology at Duke University, defines social capital as the ability to locate and mobilize resources within your network. It’s not just who you know, it’s who will actually invest effort to help you towards your goals.

In this video, Common Craft teaches the basics of social capital theory. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear aspects of Nan Lin’s social capital model, Ronald Burt’s structural holes theory, and Mark Granovetter’s “strength of weak ties.” I don’t know how successful LinkedIn will be with their education campaign, but it’s good to see such a savvy attempt.

Thanks to Matt Homann who pointed out this video in his blog, the [non]billable hour.

11 Responses to “LinkedIn Wants You to Learn Social Capital Theory”

  1. Graham Southwell Says:

    Hey Bill,
    Trying to contact you via this blog but the contact me page seems to have crashed. I love your blog and was wondering if you woudl be interested in posting articles from time to time on my blog – Changing the Way the World Does Business. In particular I am looking for someone to contribute to the Social Capital section and your articles would be perfect :-)’


    July 10th, 2008 6:16 pm

  2. This Week’s Links on Ma.gnolia | ::HorsePigCow:: marketing uncommon Says:

    […] LinkedIn Wants You to Learn Social Capital Theory : aha-moments […]

    July 27th, 2008 1:59 am

  3. Michael Cayley Says:

    Hi Bill & Graham,

    I have developed Social Capital Value Add based upon Nan Lin’s network theory of social capital.

    You can read about it at

    It will be released as a manifesto in September.

    I hope that we can connect.


    July 27th, 2008 6:58 pm

  4. Bill Sherman Says:

    I read the PPT deck, and I’m interested in seeing the manifesto. Definitely shoot me a copy.

    It’s nice to see work that fluidly cites Burt, Lin, and Krebs.

    July 27th, 2008 8:38 pm

  5. Stephen Collins Says:

    Bill, thanks for this great analysis. Your thread-drawing with Granovetter’s work really resonated with me.

    Indeed, I highlighted Granovetter in my recent talks on participatory culture and weak ties – Slouching Towards Intertwingularity.

    July 30th, 2008 7:14 am

  6. Bill Sherman Says:

    I watched the presentation on slouching towards intertwingularity . . . . (although, I’ll admit, I had this delightful vision of a mashup between Yeats and Lewis Carroll with that title)

    I especially liked the statistic that North Americans could create a Wikipedia each weekend instead of watching commercials. And your comments about millenials and participatory culture is spot on.

    In my perspective, I’ve seen a lot of people rush to social media without thinking about what it means to them. For example, people connect on LinkedIn with the same degree of casualness that they exchange business cards. However, there’s very little social capital involved in that exchange.

    The current trend (with much social noise) is to connect with anyone “friend and forget.” People are, sadly applying the same mindsets for building local social networks to building global social networks . . . a strategy that doesn’t really work well.

    My interest revolves on creating mindsets that allow people to build meaningful connections across the globe . . . creating a new vocabulary of relationship building in the global age.

    July 31st, 2008 11:30 pm

  7. Stephen Collins Says:

    Bill, I entirely agree. Too many people build their social networks on volume rather than quality. While I have a largish network on a number of social sites – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook particularly – I think my quality outweighs my quantity. I’ve had the privilege of meeting face-to-face most of the people in my metworks and maintain contact with almost all of them on a regular basis.

    Yes, there are a few that are purely business acquaintances, but I’m comfortable with those very weak ties. There will come a day…

    July 31st, 2008 11:44 pm

  8. Bill Sherman Says:

    We share a very similar mindset. We both think for the future and invest in long-term relationships (rather than transactional relationships). That makes a huge impact.

    Every network will have strong ties (bonds) and weak ties (bridges). Many people think that the global network is now a giant “cocktail party on steroids” that will lead to fame, success, and easy money.

    If it were only that easy . . . 😉

    I believe people have to be willing to invest in people and your network–nurturing both homogeneous strong ties as well as those very valuable heterogeneous weak ties.

    More importantly, people need to think about their network in terms of their long-term goals. A commercial real-estate agent will need a very different social graph (and social capital) than someone who’s a world-class academic.

    Homogeneity/heterogeneity of profession, geography, and affinity become very significant dimensions.

    BTW, you’re now etched into my brain as “the speed-talking Aussie who can boldly say “I can give that presentation in nine, count ’em NINE minutes.”

    August 1st, 2008 12:00 am

  9. acidlabs » This Week’s Links on Ma.gnolia Says:

    […] LinkedIn Wants You to Learn Social Capital Theory : aha-moments […]

    August 3rd, 2008 2:00 am

  10. frogpond » Social capital theory - nicely explained Says:

    […] Bill Sherman I stumbled upon a CommonCraft video, that I missed upon at first […]

    August 19th, 2008 3:35 pm

  11. Michael Cayley Says:

    The manifesto went up today Bill:

    September 10th, 2008 4:47 pm

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