Answer: A community freeloader. Don’t be one.
The little Q&A above is from the book “The Whuffie Factor” by Tara Hunt, and expresses in a simple form one of the key themes of her book, and a central concept of social media, the idea of social capital.
What is Social Capital?
The concept of social capital is not a new one. In fact the concept is as old as the phrase “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. It is the idea that as we do things for others we build capital , and as we ask them to do things for us, we withdraw that capital.
The obvious business examples of social capital are ever present. The tickets to the sporting event a vendor gives out is directed at obligating the recipient. On a more subtle level, the person who picks up the check and gives you a free lunch or dinner obviously expects you to feel obligated to him in some manner. The sponsors at our association events or ReBarCamps hope that they are building capital with the participant, as indeed they should.
The idea that we owe someone when they lend us money, pick up a check, or give us something for free is not deplorable, and the obligation to feel the debt is only what we make it to be, but having a sense of who is doing what for whom is really important in social media and in real life.
Gratitude is an Attitude
When someone builds their social capital by helping you, or you help others, the expectation of some reciprocity is implicit. That doesn’t mean that they expect you to respond to them immediately or in like kind, but it does mean that on some level we expect the other party to the event to feel kindly towards us, or our product or service.
All of us have people in our lives that run to pick up a check, or help out when we need them, or pick up something when they come to dinner, and we (hopefully) value those people for themselves, and for their contributions, but we also have some of “those people”. And you know who they are.
They are the ‘takers’. The people that never reach for the check, or wait to see if someone else will. The ones that borrow stuff and never return it, or ask for favors, when they are hesitant to return them. These are people with little social capital in their lives, and when they try to make a withdrawal, they often find they have nothing to withdraw. And obviously, when they make requests, we either don;t fulfill them or do so grudgingly.
So What do We do?
Everyone wants to be perceived as one of the good guys. We want to think that others are willing to help us if we ask them. And We all know what the right things are to do. On some level. Maybe Mom or Dad or that special Aunt or Uncle showed us when we were young. But Tara Hunt does such a good job listing some of them that I wanted to give you just five of them;
- Volunteer at Events
- Help others promote their events
- Introduce people for no personal gain
- Share your work process with others
- Offer to help someone new
And stuff to avoid? the lovely @Missrogue gives them to us too;
- Promoting endless events
- Only being interested in promoting the work you do and in your company
- Keeping secrets and being closed
- Continuing to ask for favors without thanking people or performing favors
- Expecting people to go to your events when you don’t go to theirs
Let me Help You Get Started
At ReBarCampLA Andy Kaufman introduced a game called Akoha during his presentation on Social Media. The motto of this web site is “Play it Forward”. The game consists of a set of cards that give you missions like “”Thank Someone”, “Invite Someone for Coffee”, “Make Someone Smile”, “Send Drinks to a Couple in Love”, or ‘Give Someone a Surprise Gift”. When you give someone a card, they go to the website to enter the details, and they earn points in the game. When you confirm the mission, you get points as well. Now, not only do you get to do good, you get to play a game with your friends. Go check it out, find me and make me a friend.
Go out and do well by doing good – its fun and fulfilling!