By Brandon & Angela Forder, on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce
Social capital refers to the networks we create within a society or community that enable it to function effectively. These networks have a strong foundation made up of interpersonal relationships based on shared values, beliefs, identity, reciprocity, and more.
Social capital can advance the productivity and performance of community groups, commercial enterprises, entire industries, and even communities.
While social capital may seem like a relatively new term, it actually dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries. However, since the mid-1990s, the term social capital has become increasingly popular and now plays an important role in how brands and individuals interact with one another.
In small towns like Meaford, where everyone knows each other, social capital becomes increasingly significant.
Community connectedness is not just about warm fuzzy tales of civic triumph. In measurable and well-documented ways, social capital makes an enormous difference in our lives… Social capital makes us smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy.
~Robert D. Putnam
Investing in social relationships, whether in person, over the phone, via email, or even through social media, can grow social capital. It widens your net of followers, customers, business partners, referral partners, and even friends.
Any good businessperson knows the power of building meaningful relationships. This harmony can lead to heightened brand awareness and sales growth with impressive momentum. Additionally, creating meaningful relationships with others makes daily business operations more fulfilling, and more purposeful.
What are the best ways to increase social capital?
Get To Know Your Business Partners
You are the sum total of the people you meet and interact with in the world. Whether it’s your family, peers, or co-workers, the opportunities you have and the things that you learn all come through doors that other people open for you.
Take time to build relationships with the brands you work with, the distributors you purchase from, and even the delivery drivers that bring physical goods or raw materials to your business.
The stronger the relationship between your brand and these individuals ultimately sets the framework for exponential social capital growth. Establishing a positive reputation throughout the supply chain can go a long way towards getting better referrals, special offers, favourable treatment, and more.
Grow Your Social Media Presence
In reality, quitting Facebook is much more problematic than the company’s executives suggest, if only because users cannot extract all the intangible social capital they have generated on the site and export it elsewhere.
With more than 25 million Canadians using the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, social media is easily the most effective means of connecting with a wide, targeted audience.
Social media is the ideal setting to share important industry news, sales and promotions, new product alerts, and to engage in a meaningful, open conversation. Regularly posting fresh and engaging content helps to keep your brand relevant among your audience, contributes to greater brand awareness, and increases brand loyalty.
When it comes to contacting businesses, consumers are quickly ditching phone calls in favour of messaging over social media. This feature is becoming the preferred go-to for consumers looking for a quick response from social media-savvy businesses.
Whether you’re connecting via social media, email, or phone, businesses that promptly respond to customer inquiries help strengthen the consumer’s trust in your brand. The greater the trust, the greater your social capital.
Newsletters – Newsletters can be in the physical printed format, or in the form of digital email blasts. In today’s digital world, e-blasts are much more popular. To begin, start collecting and populating an email list from your current customer base, and continually grow that list whenever possible.
A noteworthy benefit of e-blasts is the ability to communicate directly with your customers without paying for a middleman (i.e. paid social media ads, newspaper ads, etc). A well-executed email marketing campaign will help save you money and increase your social capital at the same time.
Participate in Local and Larger Events – Every community, big or small, has their share of local events. Participating in community events is a great way to contribute to local initiatives that can help expand your reach within the community. Oftentimes, these events include advertising opportunities, as well.
Consider volunteering for local events, too. Your actions should represent a commendable show of support for your community.
Volunteer In Your Community – Volunteering is an important way to contribute to the betterment of the community where your business operates. Plus, you’ll get to know a lot of local community members, too.
Volunteering can take many shapes and forms, such as sitting on the board of your local Chamber of Commerce, collecting goods for the local food bank, or even participating in park clean-up events.
Learn Continually/Remain the Expert – Industries change, technology changes, and scientific advancements continually influence industry change. Customers expect the businesses they support to be up to date on the latest products and advice. Ultimately, this consumer demand only reinforces the impetus for continual expansion of skills and abilities. By establishing yourself as the expert in your industry, referrals will continue to pour in.
Social capital is among the most important sources of prestige and influence for businesses and individuals alike. Without social capital, society as we know it would not exist. It affects everything, from our economy, our political systems, our institutions, and our relationships with everyday people and businesses.
If you are looking to get ahead in either your personal or professional life, start by growing your social capital.