Social Capital: Use It Or Lose It

Researching for my book, I came across this quote:

“Unlike other assets social capital doesn’t depreciate with use. It depreciates with LACK of use.”

– Adler, Kwon

It’s absolutely true and it’s getting even truer with the rise of social media.

A friend of mine was telling me the other day that since getting married and having children she’s let her network get away from her. What prompted her to tell me this is she is ready to change jobs and realized she has very few options. She said she doesn’t have the social capital she once had. She’s struggling to find opportunities. When she does, she is just another number as she has no relationships or contacts with in the company.

My friend is finding out the hard way, what happens when you don’t maintain your social network and manager your social capital.

I think the importance of a social network is becoming increasingly important to success. In the past, networks consisted of the people we worked with, our clients, our school buddies and our neighbors. Those who were really smart extended their networks; they joined clubs or associations. The difference between then and now, however, is networks of the past were heavy. They had a lot of friction. Information moved from person to person via phone or in person. It was slow and lumbering and had to forcibly be put into action. Information stayed locked in the network until it was actively released.

Networks were an advantage in the past, but they weren’t critical. Today, they are quickly becoming critical and they will be online social network. I think those without online social capital will be at a decided disadvantage.

Everything is online today; the jobs, the people, the information. This is creating tremendous velocity. Information moves from tribe to tribe and person to person with little friction. Recruiters are finding potential candidates without ever having to place an ad. Companies are hiring their fans and followers, those who participate and engage with them long before they need to hire. Companies Tweet an opening and receive hundreds of responses. Companies and hiring managers are no longer comfortable without online information to vet candidates. They look for candidate’s blogs, tweets, LinkedIn profiles, forum participation etc to get to know them. Not finding information on people is becoming less acceptable.

Traditional networks just can’t compete. The old network is quickly being moved online and it’s changing everything.

If social capital depreciates when you don’t use it. I can only imagine what happens if you don’t have any social capital at all.

My friend has learned the hard way. I wonder how many others will too.