Writing About Social Capital: A Halloween Nightmare
Posted on October 29, 2010
Filed Under General
Every week at PR News I’m tasked with coming up with two lead stories. Ideally, Lead 2 should be a tactical tome, like How To Send Tweets. Lead 1 should be a more strategic, Harvard Business Review-like piece (which is tough because I’m a People kind of a guy). So for the 11/1 issue, I decided to tackle “social capital” as the first lead. Knowing close to zilch about it, I called a friend, James Fowler, a professor at UC San Diego, who does a lot of research in social networks and co-wrote a popular book on the subject, Connected. James was busy when I called him. He and a colleague had just published a paper identifying the gene that causes people to be liberals. Needless to say, Fox News and others were all over him for interviews. James did manage to give me a few nuggets on social media (overrated) and social capital (hard to define and measure).
Later I called Don Bartholomew, VP of digital research at Fleishman Hillard and author of the MetricsMan blog. Turns out Don had done some consulting for a company whose model revolved around social capital. Later, however. the company decided that social capital was too “ethereal” and changed its strategy. The problem with social capital, says Don, is that there’s too many “intangible benefits.” I was beginning to believe the “ethereal” part and question the benefits of writing about social capital, but I did write about it, and you can read the story next week. You can also catch Don at our How-To Conference in D.C. on Dec. 1. He won’t be covering social capital—tying PR to sales is much more interesting. Have a safe Halloween!
–Scott Van Camp