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Share This Too: More Social Media Solutions for PR Professionals by Stephen Waddington, Rob Brown, Chartered Institute of Public Relations

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Chapter 6

Understanding Social Capital

Adam Parker

Platforms such as Klout, Kred and PeerIndex seek to provide a measure of social capital based on social media data and are a novel addition to effective influencer relations. However, these relatively new tools require human, real-world awareness and an understanding of the limitations of an algorithmic approach.

What is social capital?

Social capital is not new, nor is it something that relates specifically to social media; it has been the subject of academic study and debate for decades. There are two key perspectives on social capital; one is that it is attached to an individual and the other that it is attached to society as a whole. The UK Office for National Statistics, for example, considers social capital a measure of society's collective “health”.37 A noted collective definition is by Robert Putnam, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University:

“Social capital refers to the collective value of all ‘social networks’ [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other [‘norms of reciprocity’]38

An individual view, as described by Nan Lin, Family Professor of Sociology at Trinity College, Duke University, defines social capital as:

“…investment in social relations by individuals through which they gain access to embedded resources to enhance expected returns of instrumental or expressive actions.”39

What Lin calls “embedded resources” are the amount and variety of wealth, ...

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