Some experts, including Tristan Claridge, say that social capital is what distinguishes successful companies from the rest. I think Tristan is onto something. That’s because when a company possesses social capital it posses a network of supporters. Those supporters can come in a verity of forms from partnerships, employees and investors to press, influencers and, most importantly, paying customers.
Let’s dive into the bigger question, how can a small company build and cultivate social capital?
Set yourself up as the leader
Companies are seen as leaders when they set an amazing example in innovation, customer experiences, values and the like. Branding definitely helps them stand out from the crowds but it’s the day to day follow through that defines a company as an industry leader or a pioneer.
A light level answer on how small companies can start building social capital is to treat your audience – not just the paying customers – with genuine care. There are multiple ways to go about this but the companies with the best results are ones who keep a two-way dialog open with their audiences and those who are more giving. Combine the two and you’re a powerhouse in social capital building. Providing advice, answering questions, sharing helpful resources, listening to customer feedback and iterating, showing how your company makes decisions in relation to its audience and so forth…
Giving to and supporting others builds trust and establishes your reputation as an upstanding person who is skilled in your field — two qualities that are critical for buyers looking to engage.Chris Cancialosi, 4 Reasons Social Capital Trumps All
Chris Cancialosi has a few great suggestions on what a company can do to gain leadership in a niche such as:
- Be honest with your team and audience. Sharing difficult truths and scenarios will yield greater respect and trust then hiding them.
- Connect people with others or recourses that would be best suited to help
- Supports people, companies or causes – even if it’s just with advice or sharing their contributions with others.
- Contribute to dialogs and debates.
- Provide value to your audience especially through social media, one-to-one and in-person.
- Above all, be an active contributor to your field.
These actions will undoubtedly make you stand out from the crowd which would allow more of your target audience to connect with your company. In turn, you build social capital.
Focus on contributing
I genuinely don’t want this point to be overlooked.
Being an active contributor in your field is paramount. How you do it, doesn’t matter; but, let me give you some ideas.
TOMS gives back one pair of shoes for each pair purchased – it’s a 1:1 model. They do shoe drives in underprivileged communities such as in Argentina. They are vocal about their contribution to society without being obnoxious about it because they’re genuinely focused on helping instead of improving their public image.
Gary Vaynerchuk publishes an obscene amount of free content daily to help other entrepreneurs. He also accepts interviews from almost everybody including unknown publications, hosts or entrepreneurs because he believes that everybody is worth speaking to and having a moment with. It’s his way to pay it forward.
Jenna Kutcher publishes a weekly podcast, numerous blogs as well as free (and paid) resources such as downloadable PDFs and webinars that aim to help others run their online businesses. In her content, she shares the lessons she learned along the way and interviews a slew of other professionals providing great advice in their respective fields.
Busy Phillips gained a lot of popularity over the recent years because of how she used Instagram Stories to basically share her life with her followers. She’s a great storyteller and an extremely likable person who gained so much popularity on Instagram it led her to her own late night talk show on E!.
The world is your oyster whether you want to be featured in online publications, interviewed on podcasts, conduct research or studies, create resources, run your own podcast or blog … It’s up to you as long as you’re contributing.
A word of caution
With this in mind, I want to point something out. Posting on Facebook just to post something twice a day isn’t contributing. What you put out has to have value whether you’re publishing something once a month or 10 times a day.
Yes, it has to be regular enough. You can’t conduct a single study on a relevant topic in your niche, call it a day and wait to reap the rewards of recognition. You shouldn’t be exhausting yourself either on the other spectrum.
Frankly, it’s why I’ve been missing so many articles over the last few months (for which I apologize, I’m trying to get ahead of it). I’d rather not post anything at all than to publish something just to keep up appearances. These blog posts take time and even though I know they are not perfect – I am a one-woman show after all – I try to put as much valuable information into them as possible. Unfortunately, that takes times and when I don’t have said time, I can’t publish.
As Chris Cancialosi advises, be patient to let the relationship with your audience grow and mature organically. Be honest and be authentic. Show that you value your audience and others and your social capital will grow before you know it.
Company culture has a big impact on social capital
The reasons companies like TOMS or entrepreneurs like Jenna Kutcher can be great contributors is because these people keep their teams accountable to their respective companies’ values. That’s because whether you’re a company of one or many, many more, it’s the people who work for the company that set the tone for how the company is viewed by the public. Providing value is easy if you’re encouraged to do it. That in itself is a whole other topic but the bottom line is this: courage your employees and contractors to act in a compassionate, genuine and valued-filled ways with others on behalf of your company. Without it, it’s going to be difficult to build social capital for your company.
The secret to building a wealth of social capital is to contribute to your niche, cause or industry. It’s to strive to be a company that’s seen as genuine, helpful and valuable by your audience. Take the time to invest in relationships on behalf of your company. Doing this takes time and dedication but can be an invaluable asset in growing your company beyond your wildest expectations.