Are You a Social Capitalist?

Glenn Mangurian

January 31, 2022 Submitted by Glenn Mangurian

No, not a socialist – a social capitalist. Social capital is the breadth, depth and value of your networks and relationships. A reservoir of social capital is like a bank that can be used to strengthen existing relationships, build new relationships, broaden perspectives and create new opportunities. It gets accumulated over time and gets used to create value for you and others. You probably know people who you believe “know everybody”. In business these colleagues were known for having a large “rolodex”.

Some of you may have read “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcom Gladwell. Gladwell wrote: "Ideas, products, messages and behaviors spread like viruses. The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.” Gladwell describes two types of people as important social capitalists: Connectors and Mavens.

Connectors are the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. A Connector usually knows people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and makes a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles. Gladwell characterizes these individuals as having social networks of over one hundred people. He attributes the social success of Connectors to something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy. I identify as a connector. I have built networks of friends, colleagues and special interests. When I meet someone new, I instinctively think who I can connect that person to for mutual benefit.

Gladwell’s second group of social capitalists are Mavens. Mavens are people who connect others with new information. Gladwell says that Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know or have recently learned. Mavens accumulate information from different media and sources. They then share that information with people in their network who are likely to value that knowledge.

I have some Maven tendencies. It is common for me to forward a blog link or article to someone I know, with the comment – “I thought you might be interested.”

Both Connectors and Mavens are “hardwired” to be helpful. Being helpful through shared information or valuable introductions strengthens a network and builds social capital. Essentially increasing your social capital is about generating trust and sharing your goodwill.

“Tipping Point” was published in 2000 when television, radio and print media were the primary forms of mass communication. Some celebrities (and others in the “public eye”) were paid (and continue to be paid) to endorse products with the expectation that those endorsements will favorably affect consumer purchase decisions. With the advent of social media e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts etc. virtually anyone can make regular posts on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of engaged people who pay close attention to their views. These influencers include authors, journalists, performing artists, politicians, professional athletes or anyone with a provocative opinion that creates a large following.

As Gladwell noted in 2000, opinions, messages and behaviors can spread like viruses. With the click of a button, this is even more true today. Sadly, we live in an epidemic of misinformation, disinformation and rumors. While Influencers should have an obligation to be accurate and truthful, misinformation attracts followers who choose to believe those things that confirm their own biases. Be aware of the dangers of misguided Influencers.

Pushing the Edge of Your Thinking

  • How do you relate to your network – Connector, Maven or Influencer?
  • Who are your key Connectors or Mavens?
  • How do your social network friends or those whom you follow influence your thinking or behavior?

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