Relationships with members of our target engagement groups are the key element in gaining loyal advocates, yet at the same time the lack of or low quality relationships can create activists who speak out against our brand or cause. We need to treat the relationships we build just like our finances; be careful to not overextend ourselves and dip into the red.
In today’s social environment news and even rumors can spread instantly through various channels, at times creating a monumental publicity hurdle to overcome. If we are investing time building networks of engaged customers and investing capital in those relationships we have a base of loyal advocates to work with in crisis. However if we do nothing to build capital and have liabilities then it is easier for activists to rise up against us because we have only a small group of loyal advocates interested in our brands or causes. By no means am I an expert on this topic however it is something I have paid close attention to over the last few years as I have become more actively involved in agricultural advocacy and watching the social business evolution.
Imagine you plan to embark on a bike ride across the USA. The budget is tight, and you have no way to carry enough food with you for the entire trip. To survive you work with your network of friends and devise a plan to help you find places to stay & eat along the way. Many examples of this have happened in real life and one of those examples is Nathan Winters who leveraged his social capital several years ago to journey from coast to coast on a bicycle.
Social Capital is how you create, maintain and develop social connections both in real life and online. Social capital is the positive energy built within a social network. The inverse (negative energy) would be Social Liability and can work against you in time of crisis.
- Engagement (note: Employee engagement is referenced as emotional in this link. Personally I feel it is a social component and a key to combining emotional & social capital which we will touch on in the next post.)
How Social Capital can be built: Conversations > Relationships> Trust > Influence
Does your network respond to you, your brand/cause with loyalty? Does that loyalty resonate both in the first relationship ripple through the extended ripples after that? Community spirit is another gauge of your Social Capital. Have you spent time engaging and building relationships to grow your social network?
Imagine a connection to a certain brand from the moment of birth. Your connection to this brand grows over the years and your dream is to one day own your own branded item. Just as many people are very loyal to the brand of automobile they drive in Agriculture brand loyalty to farm equipment is more than just skin deep. Similar to the automotive brand debate many a good natured ribbing has happened over the years based solely on color of equipment. For a great example of how this emotional capital is starts young look to none other than Jenn Keller and her son Henry who as an infant started his lifelong loyalty to “John Deere Green”. Another great example of emotional capital is Apple and the connection their customers have with the brand. Apples announcement today of the new iPad has many a person checking their bank accounts twice even if they already own the iPad2.
Emotional Capital is the positive feelings you create toward your cause that is held by those who interact with you either internally (employees or close friends) or externally (customers and stakeholders) If the feelings about you are negative then it is Emotional Liability and as with Social Liability can be called just like a bad loan, negatively affecting your business pattern or your engagement goals..
Do your values, beliefs and ethics make people feel good? Are you good stewards of the environment? Are your employees happy and does that happiness makes its way to customer engagement? Are those in your circles proud to be associated with you?
Bottom line if we grow the culture in and around our business’ then emotional capital will grow yet at the same time we need to engage with our brands or cause communities so they will know our brands and become a social asset.
Over the course of a few posts we will look into what can happen in different scenarios such as high Emotional Capital combined with Low Social Capital and the opposite.
- Avocate or Agtivist?
- Market with culture, Manage with Science
- Relationships Matter
- I think the core issue is trust