Social capital is to social media what a Google page ranking is to search engine optimization. The difference is that a high Google page ranking means that – if people are looking for a company that does what you do – your company can be found. It infers a level of popularity and increases the chance that people will check your company out. This is fine, and if your company website makes a good first impression, you then increase the likelihood of someone making direct contact with you.
However, we know that personal referrals and networking are how most business is done. This is where social media excels. In the social media, your company (and its employees) can build those connections that can ultimately turn into business relationships or referral sources.
This is where the concept of “social capital” comes in. It is not a new concept – sociologists were using this term long before social media came into being. It refers to the value of social networks and their ability to create bonds and support reciprocity among people.
But how do you measure this concept of social capital? At the Social Media Academy, the NCP Model was created to do just that.
The Network is the sum total of all of the people that your company is connected to in the social media; it is Fans on Facebook, Connections on LinkedIn, Followers on Twitter, Subscribers to YouTube Channels, those who have registered on your corporate blog, etc.
Contributions come from a subset of your Network, and they are the most active. These are the people who take the time to contribute to your company’s Facebook Fan Page with new posts, not just comments to your posts. They retweet your tweets and actively promote you. They post news to and start discussions in LinkedIn Groups started by your employees. They post videos to your YouTube channel. They write reviews.
Participation comes from those who comment, Digg you and bookmark your posts on Delicious.
When your company puts in place a social media program, creating goals that fall within this NCP Model will help make sure that what you do actively increases your social capital. It should also help inform some of your implementation decisions. For example, making sure that tweets fall short of the 140 character limit – making it easier for other to retweet. Allowing Fans to post on your Fan Page to increate contributions. Encouraging others to upload videos to your YouTube Channel. Providing the ability for your network to write reviews. And participation can be encouraged by a “Share This” or a “Retweet” button.
I recently participated in a webinar and gave some case examples of how the NCP Model of measuring social capital works in real life. You can download it from my SlideShare page.