Connect with us

Social Media

Building social capital



Question: What do you call someone who joins communities, adds friends, and then uses social media tools to promote only his or her own interests?

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!

Continue Reading


  1. Daniel, The Real Estate Zebra

    April 29, 2009 at 11:38 am

    I’ve been talking about whuffie ever since I heard about it a few months ago. I think that the implications of the concept are enormous, and it is one of the reasons that I lead a discussion on it at RE Barcamp VA. I think the guys at Dakno have a recorded version of the discussion.

    There are plenty of great examples of folks who use whuffie in the real estate business, many of whom either write for or frequent AG. We can learn a lot from these examples.

    Whuffie rocks!

  2. Missy Caulk

    April 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    I just got my three decks of Akoha !!

    Can’t wait to get started, reciprocity rocks. Andy was great at that session.

  3. Bill Lublin

    April 29, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Daniel; You are a prime example of someone who understood the concept of social capital and created whuffie for yourself by doing the right thing in the right manner

    Missy, I ordered Akoha decks, but found myself in Fan Francisco before they arrived – then I got here and @andykaufman dropped a deck on me yesterday so I was able to play when we had lunch together, and to introduce Matt Fagioli to the game – reciprocity does indeed rock!

  4. Tim O'Keefe

    April 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Bill this is well good advice and, well…… common sense I should think. But common sense is also not so common I suppose. Your pay it forward is nothing more than being a good netizen.

    We all have blog posts that say “good one”. Which is sad that someone actually took the time to type that in. One almost would respect the commentor more if they would have done it with an autobot .These things makes for a lousy web experience that I would think no one wants on their site or in their dialogue.

    The challenge most face is to forget that we are not dealing with machines. The recipients of our brilliance or junk are people. What we do to help one another can certainly be a hinderance or boon to our business.

  5. Bill Lublin

    April 30, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Yesterday at the Inbound Marketing Summit, Tim Young said “we’re not addicted to Facebook or twitter, we’re addicted to our friends”

    But even saying that doesn’t address the need to be mindful of our social capital – who is making deposits and who is making withdrawals – in the physical world or the virtual one. Your making a comment is a deposit – my responding is likewise – it shows attention and respect

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Social Media

BeReal: Youngsters are flocking in droves to this Instagram competitor app

(SOCIAL MEDIA) As Instagram loses steam due to its standards of “perfection posting,” users are drawn to a similar app with a different approach, BeReal.



social media - bereal app

BeReal is one of several “Real” apps exploding in growth with young users who crave real connections with people they know in real life.

According to, BeReal ranks 4th by downloads in the US, the UK, and France for Q1 2022 to date, behind only Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

BeReal flies in the face of what social media has become. Instead of curated looks that focus on the beautiful parts of life, BeReal users showcase what they’re doing at the moment and share those real photos with their friends. Their real friends.

It’s real. And real is different for a generation of social media users who have been raised on influencers and filters.

As the app says when you go to its page:

Be Real.

Your Friends

for Real.

Every day at a different time, BeReal users are notified simultaneously to capture and share a Photo in 2 Minutes.

A new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.

BeReal app

The app has seen monthly users increase by more than 315% according to Apptopia, which tracks and analyzes app performance.

“Push notifications are sent around the world simultaneously at different times each day,” the company said in a statement. “It’s a secret on how the time is chosen every day, it’s not random.”

The app allows no edits and no filters. They want users to show a “slice of their lives.”

Today’s social media users have seen their lives online inundated with ultra-curated social media. The pandemic led to more time spent online than ever. Social media became a way to escape. Reality was ugly. Social media was funny, pretty, and exciting.

And fake.

Enter BeReal where users are asked to share two moments of real life on a surprise schedule. New apps are fun often because they’re new. However, the huge growth in the use of BeReal by college-aged users points to something more than the new factor.

For the past several years, experts have warned that social media was dangerous to our mental health. The dopamine hits of likes and shares are based on photos and videos filled with second and third takes, lens changes, lighting improvements, and filters. Constant comparisons are the norm. And even though we know the world we present on our social pages isn’t exactly an honest portrayal of life, we can’t help but experience FOMO when we see our friends and followers and those we follow having the times of their lives, buying their new it thing, trying the new perfect product, playing in their Pinterest-worthy decorated spaces we wish we could have.

None of what we see is actually real on our apps. We delete our media that isn’t what we want to portray and try again from a different angle and shoot second and third and forth takes that make us look just a little better.

We spend hours flipping through videos on our For You walls and Instagram stories picked by algorithms that know us better than we know ourselves.

BeReal is the opposite of that. It’s simple, fast, and real. It’s community and fun, but it’s a moment instead of turning into the time-sink of our usual social media that, while fun, is also meant to ultimately sell stuff, including all our data.

It will be interesting to watch BeReal and see if it continues down its promised path and whether the growth continues. People are looking for something. Maybe reality is that answer.

Continue Reading

Social Media

Team of deaf engineers at Snap create feature to help users learn ASL

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Snapchat engineers known as the “Deafengers” have created an ASL Alphabet Lens to help users learn the basics of ASL.



Snap ASL feature

A team of Deaf and hard-of-hearing Snapchat engineers known as the “Deafengers” at the company have created an ASL Alphabet Lens to help users learn the basics of American Sign Language.

Using AR Technology, the Lens teaches users to fingerspell their names, practice the ASL Alphabet and play games to “put their new skills to the test.”

The Lens, launched last month, is the first of its kind and encourages users to learn American Sign Language.

In a press release Snapchat said, “For native signers, in a world where linguistic inequity is prevalent, we believe AR can help evolve the way we communicate. We look forward to learning more from our community as we strive to continuously improve experiences for everyone on Snapchat.”

Austin Vaday, one of the deaf engineers who helped develop the Lens said helping the world understand sign language is important. He shared his story with NBC correspondent Erin McLaughlin on TODAY after the Lens was released.

Vaday didn’t learn American Sign Language until he was 12. Before then he relied mostly on lip-reading to communicate. ASL changed his life. That life-changing moment helped inspire the ASL Alphabet Lens.

The ASL Alphabet Lens was designed and developed over six months in partnership with SignAll.

There are approximately 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States, according to the National Association of the Deaf.

Vaday said the ASL Alphabet Lens came from the desire to find a way to appropriately and properly educate people so they can communicate with those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Vaday said the team focused on the core values of intelligence, creativity, and empathy while working on the project and it’s a step to opening communication for all Snap users with the deaf and hard of hearing community.

The ASL Alphabet Lens is available to all Snapchat users.

Continue Reading

Social Media

Easily spot if your social media marketing service provider is a con artist

(BUSINESS) When hiring a professional marketing service, did you know there are actual questions you can ask to spot a con artist?




In this day and age the cult of positive thinking and “the law of attraction” are still very much alive and well in the business services industry. Here are a few simple questions that you can ask prospective business service providers to help you gauge if they are the real deal or just caught up in the fad of “say yes to everything,” or “outsource everything” being populated online by countless “thought leaders” and cult gurus. Classic con artist.

Lots of people will ask, “What’s the harm of people trying to make something of themselves?”

Well, I’m here to tell you there is huge harm in taking risks with a client’s money and manipulating people into trusting their “expertise” when they have none.

Business owners: Due diligence is more important than ever these days.

There are whole communities of people helping to prop each other up as experts in fields they know nothing about while outsourcing their tasks with little or no oversight into the actual work being done on your behalf.

It is nearly impossible for you to tell if this is even going on. Don’t worry. I am here to help you avoid a con artist.

How? By showing you how to weed out the bad actors by asking really simple questions.

This set of questions is perfect for people who need to distinguish if the expert they are talking to is really just an expert in bullshit with a likable personality.

Why do these questions work? Because people who are into this kind of stuff are rarely hesitant to talk about it when you ask them direct questions. They believe that what they are doing is a good thing and so they are more open to sharing this information with you because they think by you asking that you are also into similar things.

It is a fun little trick I picked up while learning to do consumer polling and political surveying.

The Questions:

    • Who influences you professionally?


    • Do you follow any “thought leaders” “gurus” or coaches? If so, who?


    • What “school” of thought do you ascribe to in your profession, and where do you learn what you know?


    • Are there any industry standards you do not agree with?


    • How do you apply the services you offer to your own company?


    • Can you please tell me the background of your support staff and can I see their CVs?


    • Do you outsource or white label any of the work your company does?


    • May we audit your process before buying your services?


    • May we discuss your proposed strategies with others in your industry to ensure quality?


    • Would you be open to speaking with an independent consultant that is knowledgeable about your industry about your proposals?


    • Can you show me examples of your past successful jobs?


    • Do you have any industry-accepted certifications and how many hours of study do you do in a year to keep your knowledge up-to-date and current?


    • How many clients have you had in the past?


    • How many clients do you have currently?


    • How many clients are you able to handle at one time?


    • How many other clients do you have that are in the same industry as my company?


    • How long is your onboarding process before we start getting down to actually making changes to help solve the issues my company is facing?


    • Can you explain to me the steps you will take to identify my company’s needs?


    • Have you ever taken a course in NLP or any other similar course of study?


    • Have you ever been a part of a Multi-Level Marketing company?

Fun. Right? Well, we aren’t done.

It is not just enough to ask these questions… you have to pay attention to the answers, as well as the WAY they are answering questions.

And you also have to RESEARCH the company after you get your answers to make sure they ring true.

You cannot keep accepting people at face value, not when the risk is to your business, employees, and clients. There is little to no risk for a person who is being dishonest about their capabilities and skillsets. They will walk away with your money, ready to go find another target for a chance meeting that seems amazingly perfect.

Do not leave your business decisions to chance encounters at networking events. Research before saying yes.

No matter how likable or appealing the person you are speaking with is.

How do you research? Easy. THE INTERNET. Look at the website of the company you are considering working with.

    • Does it look professional? (do not use your website as a standard for professionals unless you have had it done by a professional)


    • Can you see a list of their past clients?


    • Do they effectively tell their story as a company or are they just selling?


    • What do their social media profiles look like? Do they have many followers? Are they updated regularly?


    • Do they have any positive reviews on social sites? (Yelp, Facebook, Linkedin, etc)


You can also do some simple things like running SEO Website Checkers on their websites. There are tons of these online for free and they will give you a pretty good indicator of if they are using best practices on their websites – you can even do this research on their clients’ websites.

Also, if you know anything about SpyFu, you can run their website through that to see how they are doing their own online marketing (the same can be said for their clients if they are selling this service).

Facebook also has a cool section that shows you ads that a Page is running. You can find this info connected to their business Page as well as the Pages they manage for their clients as well. None of these things automatically disqualify a potential service provider, but their answers to the question of “why” things are the way there are might be very illuminating to you as a business owner.

This may seem like a lot of work, and it can be if you do not do these things regularly and have them down to a system, but the cost of not doing these things is way too high. A con artist is born every day, thanks to the internet.

You have a right as a business owner considering services from a vendor to ask these questions.

They also have the responsibility as a service provider to answer these questions in a professional manner. Sometimes the way in which they answer the questions is far more important than the actual answer.

If all of this seems too overwhelming for you to handle, that is okay.

    • You can ask one of your staff in your company to take on this role and responsibility.


    • You can hire someone to come in and help you with these decisions (and you can ask them all the same questions as above before taking their services).


    • You can reach out to other business owners in your network to see if they have recommendations for someone who could help you with things.


    • Heck, you can even call up companies that look like they are doing as well as you want to be doing online and ask them who they are using for their services. Try successful companies in other industries as your competitor won’t likely be interested in sharing their secrets with you…


What is important is that you are asking questions, researching, and ultimately making sure that you are doing as much as possible to ensure making the best decision for your company.

Final thoughts:

“But, Jay, what’s wrong with taking a risk on an up-and-comer?”

The answer to that is NOTHING. There is nothing wrong with taking a chance on someone. Someone being green doesn’t make them a con artist.

The issue I am raising is in the honest portrayal of businesses and their capabilities. It is about honesty.

I am a huge fan of working with people who are new and passionate about an industry. But I only work with people who are honest with me about who they are, what they can do, and how their processes work.

I have worked with tons of people who are still learning on the job. It can be quite educational for a business owner as well.

Just make sure they are being honest about everything upfront. You are not obligated to give anyone a chance when it comes to your business’s success, and it’s not right that someone might manipulate you into doing so.

Continue Reading

Our Great Partners

American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!