Social capital used to be the concept where an entrepreneur, political figure, or someone in society gathered goodwill from different areas of their sphere of influence and could then mobilize that goodwill when the time came. With the Internet being our social lives in many cases these days, social networks become the place that we build our social capital.
Building a strong social network either online or offline is like having money at your disposal. The people in your network will go out of their way to help you by sharing resources, connecting you with people, and opening the doors you need to gain opportunities. Spending time and energy planning and building these relationships can be the best investment you ever make. It’s not always easy to go about this process though. It takes doing things in a planned, human way, and not just making friends and connections without any value.
In this piece, we will explore different ways that you can build a proactive network that actually helps you when that social capital needs to be mobilized
Be a prolific networker
It’s crucial that you become a prolific networker and work hard at the activity. Everyone has a network to begin with and everyone has opportunities to meet new people. It’s what you do with the situations you encounter, and where you put yourself that makes the difference. Have conversations with people that might have influence in the future but with no plan to get anything from them right now. Speak to people and offer help and guidance around your areas of expertise. Become a giver and you will receive when the time comes.
Have a strategy to your social activity
Many people think they are building social capital when they swap business cards. Business cards are useful, but the value comes when, on the downtime hour, you phone the people whose business cards you have with something to offer for free. It may be that there is an event coming up that you think they will love. It could be you read an article and it reminded you of a challenge they mentioned. It’s when you do these things in a human way that you are becoming a strategic networker and, at the end of the day, doing the right thing to help others.
Part of the strategy is also around putting yourself in the right place to meet the right people.
Communicate with your friends and networks
As well as phoning contacts on an ad hoc basis, you should be having regular contact with your friends and network followers through the social platforms that you use. Think about ways to add value to different groups that you have in your network. When you do things for other people, by giving your time for free or your resources, you gain deposits in their emotional bank accounts.
There’s been research done where people on the street have tried to give money away for free. A lot of people were reticent to take the money because they didn’t understand the transaction. As species, our brains work through a transactional basis where those of us who are healthy in society, expects to receive something for what we give and give something for what we receive.
When you do good things for other people you are creating that reservoir of goodwill and transactional weight that will be returned to you with interest.
Spend time with important and authoritative people
It’s easy to end up spending time with people that aren’t going to end up adding anything to your life. If your goal is to have fun spend your fun time with fun friends. When you are networking for business, sure find fun people, but focus on the people of influence and power that you can find in your networks and interfacing with your networks.
Have conversations with people that will have the potential to benefit you if you invest in building social capital. Remember, the old maxim, show me your friends and I will tell you who you are. When you associate yourself with people of influence others will see you as a person of influence, and will want to spend time with you.
Create diversity in your network
There are lots of different places you can network. You may want to go to a training event focused on developing business leaders and where you could be meet like-minded future-fit leaders like you seeking to improve their competencies.
You could go also to conferences, events and workshops where you can meet potential prospects and also build relationships with people in the same business or industry or similar vision as you.
Build a network from different sources and bring people together. If you are the hub of a network of diverse people all interfacing due to your activity, you’ll be amazed at the power of the social capital you hold in your hands.
People are always talking about networking. “I’m a terrible networker”. “I go to a breakfast meeting every Friday morning”. But networking is more than attending events and it isn’t all about your ability.
Networking is about being human and communicating with people of influence. Influence doesn’t just mean wealth or power, it could be the hub of another network, or it could be the apprentice of a fantastic mentor. By building your network and giving of your time and yourself, the power you gain is that of friendship. Friends do things for other friends and in business that is a powerful mechanism and one of the most effective strategies for getting work done.