Build Your Social Capital – 28 Tips

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I am seeing a growing trend in interactive media that is bothering me. Unfortunately, user engagement from social media is on the decline. I know many industry folks will challenge me here as the registration numbers to social media services are in hockey stick growth mode (as of this post.) However, the percentage of registered users engaging in the services as measured by clicks, time spent, comments, etc. is on the decline. I understand the argument that this is a natural trend as the early adopter “geeks” have a high penetration of engagement and newer social media adopters are more lurkers and generally have less involvement.

I don’t totally buy that argument. I believe there are several reasons for this user engagement downward trend and one of which is a lack of individual social capital.

Ask yourself a simple question… when you look at your Facebook News Feed or Twitter postings – how many posting do you ignore vs. read/respond/forward?

More now than in the past? Is it one in five, one in ten, or one in twenty?

Wikipedia provides more of an academic definition of social capital. In my layman terms – it is the authority others give individuals based upon their knowledge/experience/interactions with the individual. If your social capital is high then your blog post/comments/articles are likely read and esteemed by many. If you are an unknown to some – your social capital is in heavy evaluation mode by that some. If your social capital is rated low by certain individuals – you are likely ignored by those individuals.

I think the success of your social media experience is heavily dictated by your social capital. It is my belief that significant improvements in individual social capital will improve overall social media engagement metrics. For me, this is an industry-wide issue.

Given my experiences, I’ve compiled a streaming consciousness list of 28 Things to Boost Your Social Capital:

1. Have a Unique Voice – Don’t be afraid to stand out and speak your mind. Be willing to challenge conventional thinking – just use your experiences and become the voice.

2. Be Respectful – Always remember to respect and appreciate different opinions and points of view. It’s a good thing and it challenges smart thinking. As an old boss of mine once told me, “Say what you mean – mean what you say – and don’t say it mean.”

3. Generate New Ideas – I will often say that in technology “nothing is really new, rather a novel approach to the same thing.” It’s the same in media. Novel approaches are great and allow innovation. If you are good at generating novel approaches to business problems – people will listen.

4. Talk About What You Have Experience in – Self explanatory. If you are reading this post it is highly likely you have a decent amount of experience in something. Figure it out and stick to what you know. Authenticity is critical for success in social media.

5. Create a Trusted Relationship – Social Media has done a great job enabling the development and nurturing of faceless relationships. Do the right thing to develop these relationships as there is much responsibility there. This includes distributing accurate information, enabling conversation, responsiveness, etc.

6. Be Positive – There is enough negative going on in the world and your social interactions should avoid the negatives associated with that. This doesn’t mean you should only talk about good things, rather keep the tone positive even when talking about challenges. I am a believer that giving off positive Mojo brings back positive Mojo.

7. Listen – Remember you are a focus group of one (unless of course you are referencing research data.) This is not lip service – make sure you read postings and absorb what others have to say. Everyone is busy and if someone takes the time to post – make sure you hear what they are trying to say. Social is all about different POV coming together in a conversation.

8. Be Socially Sustainable – Make the commitment to social communications right away. Too many folks get-in, get-out, and then back-in, etc. Social media is not going away anytime soon so get used to it and figure a way to sustainably incorporate that into the balance of your life.

9. It’s a Process – Building your Social Capital takes time and lots of resilient effort. Don’t give up. Do what any life coach will tell you… create a plan, set attainable goals, and make it like brushing your teeth – something you incorporate into your life. Trust me – over time you will see the benefits.

10. Be Naked – Be willing to reveal yourself to your audience, even if that means sharing your idiosyncrasies or mistakes with millions of people. Jeff Bezos did.

11. Be Honest – It will feel good.

12. Resist Unimportant Chatter – This is a big one. Many folks post too much unimportant information (Ex. my dog took a pee,) private jokes, or every turn of their life. Resist the urge to share topics or issues that are likely not to have meaning to most of your audience. The reality is that most folks don’t care about your dog going to the bathroom and if you continue to post useless information you will be ignored when you want to be heard when posting something important.

13. Be First – Being first to report industry news, an upcoming product launch, competitive information, etc. is great way to build social capital. Simple rational – if you are on top of what’s going on in an industry, others will rely on you for more of this insight in the future. A more sophisticated and sustainable approach is to provide strategic commentary on the news. If your users like your strategic commentary they will always come back for more, regardless if you are first to report it. A simple strategy here is to setup Google Alerts with industry keywords. You then find out the skinny when it happens.

14. Learn SEO Right Away – It is critical you understand the basics, have a keyword strategy, and know how to quantitatively monitor performance. Your acquisition investment in traffic from social media needs to translate into a retention strategy and growth via search engines (Google, etc.)

15. Learn the Credibility Pyramid – My favorite commentary on the topic comes from Darren Rowse at Problogger.net where the pyramid is explained in more detail. For me, the most interesting part of the pyramid is the 50% at the top attributed to your care and concern for your audience.

16. Update Your Social Profiles – Make sure your profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, etc. are current and express what you want your audience to know about you. They will go there first to get an understanding of who you are.

17. Start a Blog – Among other things, starting a blog is a good way to communicate your thoughts and build an advertising-free audience via social media and SEO.

18. Don’t Let Social Media Take Over Your Life – Another big and difficult one for many. Resist the temptation to let social media take you over 24/7. Enjoy screen-free time with family and friends. It will make you a better person and, at minimum, it will provide you with more interesting things to write about. Audiences love anecdotal stories about life experiences.

19. Incorporate Offline – Even with the great Social Media tools that exist today – online relationships are limited and can feel one or two dimensional. It’s OK to start with an online relationship, yet once you’ve developed a Social Media relationship with a respected peer – meet face-to-face. Meet-ups are becoming popular and typically enhance your Social Media capital. Disclaimer: Of course, be safe and careful as there are many weirdos out there.

20. Don’t Be Too Personal – This is self-explanatory. People don’t care about your athletes foot fungus unless it is in the context of an academic health conversation. It is too much information and you will be considered a bit weird, thus lowering your Social Capital.

21. Do Posts Yourself – I know this is a controversial topic as many executives have shadow writers that write blogs/Tweets/etc. under the executives name. The argument is that the executive is too busy to write themselves. If you are not writing under your name, as yourself – my position is that it is not authentic. If you tell your audience that others are writing for you – that is OK. Although, having others write under your name can reduce your Social Capital. By nature folks are not trusting and they smell inauthentic behavior from a mile away. They will call you out and then the hammer drops – it’s a bad situation… I’ve seen it. More importantly for executives, personally writing and engaging in Social Media conversations provide the opportunity to speak directly with customers, prospects, peers, and friends. A very different experience than the Ivory Tower.

22. Include Links – When posting (via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) it is important to include links to the resulting articles, blog posts, video, etc. as users are materially more engaged when links are available. Additionally, if the links are set up correctly they are quantitatively traceable providing key metrics for you.

23. Provide FREE Value – I know this is a hard one for many professionals/consultants that expect to get paid for their grey matter. Get over it. It’s the old cliche – if you give – you will get.

24. Follow Through – If you become an active participant in Social Media you may find that folks are seeking your help and advice aside from quick comments or answers to questions. Take the time and go out of your way to answer them promptly – be helpful. The majority of folks are respectful of people’s time and effort. You will make some friends, boost your Social Capital, and the payoff will come over time.

25. Be a Good Social Media Citizen – Get out there and comment, write, post, re-tweet, and share your views with other Social Media evangelists. Don’t just spend time on your own blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account. Just like you want folks to come to you – they want the same.

26. Remember This is Networking – Be professional. Act as if you are in a face-to-face networking experience.

27. Seek Industry Leaders – Do your homework and find your niche and the associated voices there. You need to understand the conversation and challenges. Read, write, and engage other voices in your niche – it helps to build Social Capital. If you prove yourself they will quote you and want your feedback on issues.

28. Practice a Good Value System in Controversy – It’s the obvious. Expect controversy to happen – it’s just a matter of time. Deal with it with respect and good values. Lots of folks are listening to your every move so don’t let the heat of the moment change who you are. If being right compromises the integrity of others – resist explicit comments or postings and handle the situation privately. The old cliche, “treat others as you want them to treat you.”

What Social Capital tips can you share?

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