By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer
A former TV star versus a multi-billion dollar news network. Who would win in a popularity contest? You would imagine the international news network, but you’d be wrong. How was former the MTV Punk’d star, Ashton Kutcher able to surpass one million Twitter followers and win-out over news giant, CNN?
For most of us, building global networks of followers would require tirelessly working for weeks, months or even years to even come close to such six figure Twitter followers. Whether it’s through higher education and cultivating new skills or developing relationships (think politics), most of us aspire to be something great. We look to cultural icons for guidance on how we can forge our own path to greatness. Though not everyone aspires to be Ashton Kutcher, his influence–through his global network of followers–is a much sought-after asset for businesses and professionals alike. We will explore how human and social capital intersect to create such far-reaching influence.
Social capital is defined by the connections between online and offline networks. In the digital space, social networks enable users to connect with millions of others on a global scale, as the Ashton / CNN social media battle illustrates. While social capital is about networks and groups, human capital is about the value of an individuals cumulative knowledge, experience and talent.
Social Capital + Human Capital
Human capital and social capital typically follow each other. Consider the Barack Obama’s path to the presidency. Before his seat in Congress, he built his human capital through getting his law degree and publishing several books among many other accomplishments. He leveraged his human capital to then build his social capital. It was when he started getting more involved in politics that he developed a large network. In his presidential campaign, he accelerated the growth of his social capital. He was able to tap into the collective support of millions through smart offline and digital strategies. It is in this way human and social capital can work together to build influence.
Conversely, we can take a look at how social capital reflects on human capital. Take Darren Rowse, for example. In 2002, Daren was so influenced by an article he read about the emergence of blogging, he started one of his own. Darren grew ProBlogger into the number one blog about blogging. His sizable user base enabled him to publish a book about blogging. It was in this way that his digital / social clout built his human capital.
Just as Darren Rowse leveraged the powerful tool of blogging, Barack Obama followed a similar digital path (though on a greater scale). Obama used social networks as a means to connect with and engage millions of his supporters while capturing new audiences. By election day, fully 25% of people who pulled the lever for Obama were already connected to his campaign digitally, reports New York Magazine. From everyday people like Darren Rowse to political heavyweights like Obama to pop culture figures like Ashton Kutcher, the web is a powerful tool to develop social and human capital.
If you’re a “Darren Rowse,” you might want to consider focusing on your social capital and on the sidelines start thinking about your human capital (speak at conferences, and engage in other authority / credibility-building strategies). Or, if you’re already a cultural icon with strong human capital, you might want to consider building only your social capital. As you’ve already built your human capital, the web is a powerful tool to extend your social reach (think Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign). The web can help you accelerate your capital-building efforts, whether you’re a “Darren Rowse” or “Barack Obama.”
Image by Shlomit Wolf from Stock.Xchng