Social Capital – How to invest

“J. A. Barnes in the 1950s defined a social network as ‘an association of people drawn together by family, work or hobby.’ In the digital age, social networking websites amplify opportunities to associate and grow our social (personal and/or professional) capital.”

This is the start of an article by Renee Barrett, a marketing consultant, in her recent article about LinkedIn, entitled “Linked: Social Capital Invested Wisely.”  Renee continues, “… I’ve realized that when strategically managed, LinkedIn is an invaluable business development and marketing tool with limitless potential for growing my social capital.”

However, there may be a natural limit to the number of “friends” we can have. In 1993,  Robin Dunbar, an Oxford anthropologist, suggested that the magic number is 150. Dunbar concedes that technology may increase that number. But, there is still a natural limit to the number of  close relationships, whatever that number may be, to whom we can turn in times of stress.

Most relationships start off-line. Technology may provide an easy, inexpensive way to maintain relationships; yet, it is essential to continue a dialogue (communication) in order to start and maintain a meaningful relationship. Saying we know someone doesn’t mean that person is one “to whom we can turn in time of stress” and legitimately expect a response.

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