The Social Capital Of Relationships, Reputation, and Trust

December 31, 2010

Your ability to earn, maintain, and leverage social capital is crucial to your personal and business branding. Social capital develops through reputation and reciprocal relationships built on trust.

In Web 2.0 relationships develop around remarkable content and worthwhile conversation.  I don’t have many errant conversations online. I focus my effort on exchanging valuable content and engaging in conversation around that content with influential people in my areas of interest. It does take time, but it’s worth it.

Relationships are built on trust. Relational trust is an attitude people develop about us over time that represents their willingness to make themselves vulnerable to us. People find us worthy of their trust to the extent we pass their evaluation of the following:

1. Ability. Do you have the ability to do with excellence the things you say you can do? Don’t just tell us what you can do, show us the evidence. If you don’t practice what you preach and have a portfolio of content to support your claims of ability, you have little credibility.

2. Integrity. When people look at us to determine if we have integrity, the key thing they are looking for is the alignment of our values with theirs. Do we speak and act in ways consistent with what they value? Even if we have impeccable honesty and do what we say we will do, if the things we say and do are not what others value, then we have not passed the integrity test in their eyes. So to have integrity, you have to be willing to shut up and listen! If you don’t listen to others you have no way of determining what they really value and your integrity will always be suspect.

3. Intentions. Intentions are even more important than ability and integrity. Have you ever really trusted anyone you knew did not have your best intentions in mind? Over time, people can tell if we do or do not sincerely care about them, and its one of the first and most important things they want to know about us. If you show up in social media circles only selling, I know you don’t really care about me. If you really cared, you would stop spamming and start contributing by making it your intention to help others with issues and problems that matter to them.

Finally, your reputation – the word people spread about you – can enhance or erode your social capital. If people are not spreading the word about you, then your brand has little or no value. Keep in mind that whatever people say about you – good, bad, indifferent, or nothing at all – you earned it. If you are not active on social media listening to what others are saying about you and your business, I think you are foolish. If you don’t like what people are saying about you and your business, then change what you are doing.

Practice good judgment in every thing you post online. In your quest to be personal, don’t throw your professionalism under the bus. Think twice before you post that picture of yourself wearing a Speedo on Facebook (please!). And STOP spamming people! I hate to break this to you, but I don’t need your help deciding what I want to become a fan of and I really don’t care that you just became the mayor of a place I will probably never visit.

Social capital builds over time as people learn about who we are, what we can do, and the manner in which we do it. Social media is both shortening the cycle times required to build (or destroy) social capital and extending the reach of how social capital can be leveraged.

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Comments (2)

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  1. ANSHUL GUPTA says:

    Thanks Bret! Specially liked the idea of being professionally personal.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    It’s critical, Anshul. Thanks! Bret