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Social Capital vs. Social Media

Although they sound the same and appear to be similar, these are two very different notions that are often confused and combined with costly results.


Although they sound the same and appear to be similar, these are two very different notions that are often confused and combined with costly results.

I was reading the recent white paper The Future of Meetings: The Case for Face-to-Face, written by Christine Duffy of Maritz Travel Company and Mary Beth McEuen of The Maritz Institute. This is a good read and will help you understand why and when events are the best medium versus virtual meetings.

The white paper delves into Social Capital and it occurred to me that this often gets confused with Social Media. Social Capital is the value of human relationships, communities and social networks within an organization (or industry). Physical Capital and Human Capital are often associated with productivity; however, Social Capital is the collective resilience, agility and will to succeed that is necessary for business success.

Social Media gets a lot of publicity, and, according to our 2010 Meetings & Incentive Travel readership study, 79 per cent of Canadian planners use social media for either business or personal reasons (specifically Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn).

The problem is, most people attribute Social Media with developing your network and staying connected. After all, it’s reassuring to see that you have 553 friends on Facebook or see that your LinkedIn network is 2,889,500-plus, three degrees away. These stats trick us into believing we have a high net worth of Social Capital, when in fact, we can have big stats and potentially have zero Social Capital value.

We need to remember that Social Media is only a tool that supports Social Capital. Face-to-face events, whether internal to an organization or an industry, allow us to develop relationships, social networks and sense of community. Social Media simply provides a medium to continue developing your Social Capital, just like the telephone can.

Organizations that mix these two notions up and don’t invest in Social Capital will find themselves at a significant business disadvantage. With regards to our business-events industry, this means you need to get out from behind your computer (and BlackBerry) and interact with your peers. If you don’t know where to start, check out the industry associations who supported IncentiveWorks; they are all very good at developing your and your organizations’ Social Capital.



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