Building your Social Capital - what to do?

“You are the sum total of the people you meet and interact with in the world “

“The central premise of social capital is that social networks have value that can be mined.”

Think of Social capital as the collective value of all ‘social networks’ [ people you know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other [‘norms of reciprocity’].”

As the world slips inadvertently into individualism, that favors freedom of individual actions over collective actions, the goldmine to be mined within the social networks has been badly undermined and relegated to the background for only a knowledgeable few.

Isn’t it an absurdity that we stay glued most of the time to our mobile handsets, “participating” in conversations on social media platforms without taking advantage of the “capital” that can be mined from these interactions?

Our networking efforts are mostly social and haphazard, as a result is ineffective because we make friends and connections, but these people are not always in a position to help us further our careers or business or most importantly, they may not be willing to speak for us.

What capital you ask?

If you like to get an insight into how much social capital you wield, try any of these three activities;

  • Try requesting for information about “anything you consider valuable” on any of the social media platforms you belong to. (for instance you could ask for the phone number of your senatorial representatives and see how well this works)
  • Try starting a business, an idea or an innovative gig, then seek for people in your circle to join in or provide human resource to complement your venture
  • Try organizing a fund raiser for a cause and see how well you perform.

PS – you will notice that all the examples are tailored towards the benefit of the requester.

So what then is this cliché about?

First, social capital is a relatively new concept, but it does not represent new ideas. It is basically a different way of thinking about the importance of sociability that has always been important to humans.

In fact, from an evolutionary point of view humans could not have survived without what we now call social capital. The ability to work together and cooperate for mutual benefit was essential to survival and continues to be vital to the functioning of our society and economy.

In the world of business, there are three distinctive types of “capital” that largely determine the success of individual companies. The first two are financial and human capital and they are both important to business success.

Social capital is the third type but because it doesn’t always produce tangible business results, businesses often neglect it for more measurable forms of financial wealth. But it is the most assured of the three and guaranteed to lead to business successes.

For individuals however, social capital is important because it is a source of power and influence that helps people to ‘get by’ and ‘get ahead’.

The adage: “it’s not just what you know, but who you know” relates to the powerful effects and importance of social capital.

Social capital is massively important and when built and used correctly, it can make a very big difference to one’s quality of life. It can save you money, make you money, get you a better job, make things easier and safer, it can save you from prison, or save your life: it can save you time and effort, and make life more enjoyable and productive.

Social capital is a lubricant that facilitates getting things done. Not bribery and corruption!

It allows people to work together and to access benefits from social relationships. Our society, economy, institutions, and political system could not exist without social capital.

Social capital is not built overnight; it is reciprocal and does not need money to build. It just needs being sensitive that people have emotions and that you can’t sneak into their lives only when you need help.

How then can you build or mine your social capital?

For individuals, social capital can be found across a wide range of social networks in their lives. Depending on the person, they may have social capital in not only their network of close friends and work colleagues, but also in the connections they make in schools, clubs, associations, and churches.  

One of the most important things each of us can do is to begin looking at networking as an everyday opportunity. Instead of limiting our professional connections with others to networking events, we can begin to approach each day with the goal of increasing social capital.

A strong network is like money in the bank. Your network can help you build visibility, connect you with influencers, and open up doors for new opportunities. Building and nurturing a network is one of the most powerful things you can do to support your career or business.

Social capital is about knowing a lot of people well, but it’s more than that. It’s about having strong positive relationships embedded in positive social structures with a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds and positions.

Do this;

Network proactively.

Networking proactively is important. What happens if you don’t have a strong network, and suddenly you lose your job? If you don’t have a network to tap into, you’re out of luck. It will most likely take you much longer to find a new position. And how can you get information about a hiring manager or new boss if you don’t have a network of people to provide that information?

If you doubt, ask anyone who was out of jobs for several months and kept applying for jobs on LinkedIn repeatedly and other internet sites without success until someone referred them to their present jobs!

Yes, I am aware that some will still get jobs from these online platforms, but you will get it faster if you mine a network that you have developed.

Be Deliberate about how you build your social network

Strategic networking is more than socializing and swapping business cards, it’s creating solid relationships to support your career and business aspirations. It takes focus and intention to build such a network, but it’s invaluable for your professional development.

Identify who you know and who you need to know to help you reach your career goal and build a power network to support your advancement. To do this you need to move out of your comfort zone and identify people who can help your career, not just those people you like.

It is on record that highly open networks, a diverse set of individuals who don’t know one another, is often associated with faster promotions and better opportunities.

Set aside specific times in the week to network. How to do this?

Schedule at least one networking meeting per week. Make it your intention to have lunch or coffee with colleagues and key stakeholders. Put it on your calendar or it won’t happen!

Then find those organizations/groups that align with your values and offer you the best opportunities to build powerful relationships. Join the Lagos Country club or Ikoyi club or any of these highly socially grounded and networked groups so you can get into the thick of things.

Pay it forward and leverage relationships.

Many young people only want to “take/receive”. Giving is not something they are accustomed to especially when it is without expecting anything in return.

It is therefore important to develop the habit of giving organically and to remember that who you know isn’t nearly as important as who knows you. Giving in this instance doesn’t have to be monetary.

The process is to identify the right people, those people who have power and influence and who are willing to recommend/speak/assist/refer/advice/guide/support etc you, is the first step. Building and nurturing relationships of trust is next. The third important step is to leverage the relationships by paying it forward, being willing to help others, giving and asking for assistance when you need it.

You simply can’t jump on people when you are in dire need of assistance when you haven’t built the network to support such frivolities. If you have been doing this, you will only get away with it the first time. Keep the fore aglow and watch as your network come through for you.

If you don’t believe me, ask those who get turn-out at their personal events or gets immense love and support for anything they venture into. There is no magic people!

Keep in touch with former colleagues and alums.

While it’s important to build a network of contacts to support your career and business, it’s equally important to nurture the relationships you have. Former colleagues, bosses, alums already know the value you offer and can recommend you for new opportunities. It pays to stay in touch.

I have enjoyed immense value from my social network and although I consider that I arrived the party late, I have learned so much from keeping in touch no matter how little. Turn to your network for support for new business ventures, promotions, and connections to influencers and you will be happy you did.

For small business owners and entrepreneurs, you can build your social capital in three ways.

First, it can be useful for organizations to actively give back to the communities they serve, as this will help to build social trust.

Second, businesses can target specific services they need and work to form relationships and service exchange partnerships with companies that specialize in those areas.

Third, it is important for organizations to become an active voice in their give professional arena by promoting open and honest dialogue with similar companies in a way that advances the larger field’s capabilities.

 I hope I have provided some clarity. You can share your stories on how you benefitted from mining your social networks in the comment section. It would encourage a good many reading this post right now!


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7 thoughts on “Building your Social Capital – what to do”

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  4. AbdulSalam Rukayat folake

    Social capital is d most important, it ll in turn birth human nd financial capital which ll lead to business capital
    I agree that one needs to strategically form his social capital so as to be successful in one chosen endeavour, this also doesn’t come free, sacrifice is a major role to play
    Personally I jus started building my social capital home nd abroad, there re alot of sacrifices to make so as to enjoy future benefits nd am not relenting, te future looks brighter wit this
    This piece is really thought provoking
    Thanx ore mi

  5. Francis Falola

    Thank you for this piece on how to strategically build a quality social network to earn social capital. I honestly agree that Sacrifice is the ticket to earning this.
    I need to begin to do more in this area.

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