By Tara Lane, Staff Writer
Social capital, a term that was once limited to and only understood within the field of social science, is now a common term among those in communications and technology fields. Referring to the network of people and the connections between them, social capital is a key tool in social media today. Some people spend much of their time online building and creating strategic networks that will benefit them in the future, while others spend time breaking into the these networks not for social purposes, but for employment. Now more than ever, members of Gen Y are looking for jobs online – and hearing time and time again how important one’s network is to this search. Today, we’re exploring five easy ways to build one’s social capital in order to get maximum results.
Look In Your Local Community
Sometimes, the best place to start building connections is right in your own backyard. Even if you don’t know the people personally, it doesn’t hurt to get your name out there and become familiar with your peers. Some places to start exploring include your local chapter of Social Media Club, getting involved with, or even organizing a Tweetup or Twestival event, listing yourself on Twitter directories such as Nearby Tweets or WeFollow, and inputting your city into a Facebook or LinkedIn search. Other sites like Craigslist also provide a great way to find and build a community through forums and organizing events using the site as well.
Connect on LinkedIn
LinkedIn provides fantastic opportunity to build social capital, because that is really the site’s main goal. In addition to making connections with co-workers and friends, you can also reach out to others within groups you are a part of through the network. There are thousands of LinkedIn groups, ranging from industry-specific, recent graduates, job hunters, alumni associations, and more. A quick search can bring up dozens of results on any of these topics – though it’s up to the user to connect from there. These connections can be helpful and extremely valuable when looking for information about a certain company, industry, or area of the country you may be moving to. The Q&A portion of the site is also a great tool to get your name out there on the site and for finding others in your field as well.
Join Twitter Lists
Twitter may be a small and simple service, but it provides tremendous value in the way of networking. One of its newest features, Lists, enables you as a user to categorize connections into useful personalized lists. You’re also able to follow lists others have created, and others can follow yours as well. For instance, say a major influential marketing guru has created a list of people he thinks are valuable to his industry and pass along good information. Instead of seeking out each user individually, you can use the expertise of others and follow an entire list instantly. Through lists, you can benefit from their expertise and easily connect with them if needed. Users can utilize the real-time results feature to join in on chats and conversations happening through hashtags. Some popular chats that happen each week include #journchat, social media for small businesses (#sm4smb), and #brandchat. You can find a larger list here.
Comment Like You Mean It
Comments are an easy and fast way to get your name out there while finding like-minded people and sharing opinions on an open platform. If you’re like many blog readers, you may often read a post, take in the information, but fail to give feedback or share your thoughts. Next time you’re reading a blog post, think twice about leaving before commenting. Not only is the author able to get feedback, you can also engage in conversation with other commenters along the way, learning and building upon each others’ knowledge and thoughts. If someone likes what you have to say, he or she may start reading your blog. Not only are you helping out a peer, commenting is an easy way to market your own Web site and to make connections with others – just be sure to add a link to your Web site in your signature.
Participate and Give Feedback
The “Re-Tweet” feature on Twitter has been popular for a while – and is something users came up with, not the creators of the site. Re-Tweeting enables you to share something interesting with your followers and pass along valuable information. It can also help you connect with others and befriend them online. By Re-Tweeting, the original user can see who is sharing their content. Often, they’ll send a message along thanking you for doing so. This act “breaks the ice” and allows for more communication down the road. There are also weekly Twitter “events” like Follow Friday and Music Monday where users can find out about users who may be of interest to them. Participating in these events helps build social capital at its core, and helps to expose emerging leaders in many industries at the same time.
Between Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, and more, it can be easy to get caught up in the numbers game, aiming for quantity over quality. Although you may have hundreds of followers, how many of them are really of value to you? Think about social capital like real money. Your higher quality connections are those of the same currency, while the less valuable connections are of a currency from a different country that isn’t very useful. If you use social media to build relationships, it’s hard to maintain quality relationships with hundreds of people each day. If you’re strategic about the way you network, who you are virtual friends with, and those you follow, your efforts can go much further.
Image by B S K from Stock.Xchng