Capitalizing on Your Social Capital


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Presentation from #Assembled17 on Jan 26th, 2017 and based on the ebook "Tap Into Social Capital to Build Your Brand" that provides guidance on building personal and company "social capital" to build or extend your brand. You can find the ebook at

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  • Brand has tremendous potential to influence. However, I would argue that most brands go about it the wrong way. Not that there is a clear science behind brand – your level of success in building your personal or company brand depends on many different factors. But what I will share today are some of the themes or ideas that I found to be successful in building out my personal brand, and as a technology evangelist and entrepreneur, the brands of some very successful companies (within the Microsoft partner ecosystem).
  • I often use the example of the highly-technical subject matter expert (SME) within your organization who keeps to his/herself most of the time, but when a problem needs solving or a question arises, this person is where everyone turns for the answers. Here is someone who may not be popular (someone who is socially active, generally extroverted, and liked by many) but is influential within the organization. Popularity can be easy to spot in comparison to influential. That schoolyard definition may not be all-inclusive, but I think we can all agree that we’ve had personal experiences with those who are popular, and with those who are influencers in one topic or another.
  • To determine how much you may have influenced my purchase decision, we need to know the effect of your behavior or recommendation over and above my prior probability of purchasing. In practice, that can be extremely hard.
    In a Harvard Business Review study, researchers found that traditional models overestimated the power of influence by a factor of seven, and that half of perceived influence was really just individual preference to associate with similar individuals. They also learned that overestimates of influence were particularly extreme early in the product’s life cycle. That’s because early adopters are more likely to be similar to one another than late adopters are. 

    The debate between influence and popularity is not new. Many believe that one must have earned popularity in order to wield influence. However, influence and popularity can live in isolation from one another. According to participants of the HBR study, 90% believed that influence is indeed different than popularity.
  • HBR
  • Social capital is yet another tool within the “marketing mix” and “influence” has become one of the key elements within our marketing strategies. Whether building an individual brand, or launching a new product or service, building influence -- and the social capital that powers it -- is essential.
  • Conventional wisdom says building a strong brand entails creating a cool brand name, advertising that brand to potential buyers, and enforcing brand message consistency in all customer interactions. However, conventional wisdom is wrong. Brand marketing can neither create nor build nor strengthen a brand. Brand is always a reflection of the quality of the product. There are no exceptions to this rule.

    Your brand is like a bank account. When you impress your customers, it adds value to the brand.  If you have a string of great products, customers will forget the occasional flop.  Think about Apple. Few people remember their failures.

    Similarly, when you fail your customers, it extracts value from the brand, and eventually you end up overdrawn and even if you change your ways and come out with some great products, it may take years, if ever, for customers to forget the taint.
  • all from HBR comments on the rise of dashboards in place of management decisions
  • Great article on LinkedIn by Ron Shaich, founder and chairman of Panera Bread
    Ron goes on to say
    “They collect the data and project into the future, grasping for concrete answers about what tomorrow holds. They make decisions believing the numbers of the past loaded into the spreadsheet foretell future outcomes, when in reality their trust is completely misplaced.
    I understand why they do this: The future is filled with uncertainty and no one likes uncertainty. Uncertainty implies risk, and we all seek ways to minimize risk. The hard numbers of the spreadsheet make the future seem more certain. However, a spreadsheet is only one possibility of the answer, not the answer itself. A spreadsheet is merely a way to organize data. Its numbers generally capture trends of the past, but it is in no way predictive of what’s to come.”
  • So much about this topic of building social capital needs to be personalized for your role, for your product or service category, and for your industry. Within my role, I talk extensively about the importance of culture in successfully building and extending collaboration platforms within organizations – but the same it true for building social capital: how you tailor your strategy also depends on the culture of your organization or the communities in which you participate.

    However, there are some themes or tips that I believe are true regardless of role or industry or cultural state:
  • There is no single definition for what these means to individuals or to your business. But the market sure does respond when it determines a brand is being authentic – or not being authentic.
  • Sometime in early 2002, I was working for a very well-funded software startup in Redwood City, California (E2open), and was approached by some folks I had met at one of many community events in the Bay Area about the creation of a non-profit to extend the technology and entrepreneurship experiences so common on the peninsula and south bay over to the east bay. After a couple planning discussions, the East Bay IT Group ( was born. We had a little bit of funding, some part-time technical resources to build a site, and a grand vision of bringing user groups, networking events, and top-tier speakers to the east bay. We were tired of driving into the city or down to San Jose to attend interesting events. We wanted something close by. But the established groups, at the time, had no interest in hosting activities so far from their safety zones. So we did it ourselves.

    Months later we had our 501c3 status, a website, and a plan. I went door-to-door in Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon, Danville, and Walnut Creek on weekends and available afternoons to pass out information, meet local business owners, and build the brand. We faxed, emailed, and called people. We attended regional events, had lunch with bankers and lawyers and venture capitalists. And we reached out to established user groups and sold them on the benefits of folding their brands into a centralized organization.
    By 2004, our membership was over 4,000 and I was running a collaboration user group at Hurricane Electric in Fremont, and a software-as-a-service user group at a Hewlett-Packard location in Pleasanton. I was co-hosting networking events almost monthly, special topic events with guest speakers on a regular basis, and was doing my best to connect members with investors, bankers, and technologists from my rapidly expanding professional network. By 2007, we had over 10,000 members, and soon after merged our non-profit with another (the group has since been shut down, but what a run we had!).
  • No matter what our role, to some degree we work as an individual contributor. We’re creating content in many different formats, lists, tasks, and so forth. And we’re saving all of that content somewhere. It’s on our desktops, its in various applications, it’s increasing in cloud-based systems. And we’re still keeping a lot of our intellectual property on good old fashioned paper.

    With all of this going on, we also work with other people. We have a peer with whom we are working on a project, or a joint presentation. We might have a direct report who contributes to our work, or someone outside of our team who regularly reviews and provides input on our work. And we all have a manager who may review, provide input, or leverage our content.

    Leveraging the shared knowledge of this small network is fairly simple, regardless of the tools we use – or that they use. Because with a small network, we have a fairly good idea of the value each team member provides – and where to go for help with certain tasks, to find content, and so forth. But what if you need knowledge beyond your simple network?
  • Increasingly, we are all part of massive social networks – not speaking of any specific website or platform (such as LinkedIn, which this is pulled from). One way to develop our social capital is to help others find and connect with each other.
  • The idea of a single network, with all nodes connected to all other nodes, is a small-team concept – and simply does not translate to large organizations. And yet that is how we handicap ourselves in enterprise collaboration, assuming that as the network grows, with every node (person, document, artifact) connected to every other node, search will “just work” and social collaboration across this flattened, two-dimensional organizational concept will somehow make people more….well, collaborative.

    According to Ron Burt at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, your network is actually a set of clusters – not one giant network. Burt talks about clustering being one of the basic patterns within network science, and how we all naturally participate in cluster. Some clusters come from our roles and professional circles – communities of practice, like being a business analyst or a project manager, for example. Other clusters form around age, musical tastes, educational backgrounds, sports, and so forth. Information is created and travels around within the cluster, but much of that data never leaves the cluster.

    But there are some individuals within each cluster who act as brokers between clusters. These are people who see value in sharing information outside of a cluster, and who bring new ideas into the cluster, or group, from other groups. There’s a great article by Forbes contributor Michael Simmons (Why Being the Most Connected is a Vanity Metric) in which he interviews Ron Burt, and provides some additional insights into how networks work.
  • So understanding the nature of brokering, and how the power of networks is not so much about the strength of any single network – but in how we connect into and leverage our multiple networks, you begin to understand the importance of social networking.
  • Working like a network leverages the people we know, the processes and business systems that we participate in, and the technology at our fingertips to give us access to more data, more content, more of the collective capabilities of everyone that is connected within these networks – than we could ever hope to achieve in the old peer-to-peer model of collaboration.

    To work like a network means that each of us acts like a broker, adding value to the clusters in which we participate – and then connecting data and people and ideas across clusters, translating each body of knowledge for those other networks.

    Working like a network is not an empty platitude or marketing slogan. Working like a network is a collaboration .
  • Identify the value you want / need out of your activities, make it part of your planning. But keep it balanced.

    Mirrors the model for successful social communications
  • Capitalizing on Your Social Capital

    1. 1. Capitalizing on Your Social Capital Christian Buckley Chief Evangelist at Beezy Founder of CollabTalk Microsoft MVP
    2. 2. Christian Buckley Chief Evangelist at Beezy, Founder of CollabTalk @buckleyplanet
    3. 3. Beezy is the Intelligent Workplace for Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint, extending the feature set and improving the user experience for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid deployments. We are on a mission to transform the way people work, and to help employees be more connected, innovative, and happy. Learn more at or @FollowBeezy on Twitter.
    4. 4. Launched in January 2012, CollabTalk provides community outreach and discussion around all-things collaboration, producing tweetjams, podcasts, videos, and events that focus primarily on the Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 ecosystem. CollabTalk also provides independent analysis and research in partnership with the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. Follow us on Twitter @CollabTalk Like us on Facebook at /CollabTalk Find us on LinkedIn at /company/17924231
    5. 5. Understanding the “Brand Effect”
    6. 6. "If your brand walked into a bar, what would it start talking about?" Lisa Moretti, Gartner
    7. 7. Social Influence ≠ Popularity  Social influence and popularity are very different things  The technical SME is rarely the loudest voice  There are different “tiers” of influence  Patterns of influence can shift and change
    8. 8. Patterns of influence can shift and change due to organizational structures, available tools, and roles.
    9. 9.  A common mistake is thinking that your corporate branding – your logo, tagline, and chosen color palette – constitutes your brand.  More than any design elements, it is you, your company culture, and the reputation of your front-line employees that define your brand and level of influence. Your Logo
    10. 10.  Most companies do not understand who the influencers are within their customer communities, and how to tailor their messages to those influencers.  Even more elusive than a strategy for external influencers is a plan for internal influencers, and yet these people are often the eyes and the hands for an organization.  Just because something is difficult to measure does not mean that it does not have value.  Whether you have someone dedicated to building out your corporate brand, like an evangelist, or you take the time to ensure each customer interaction provides the right branding message, the secret is to at least try to measure the outcomes of influence.
    11. 11.  Influence can gain early attention, but long-term success can also be gained through consistency of message and activity
    12. 12. “Because the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” Peter Drucker
    13. 13. Mistake #1: Focusing too much on brand
    14. 14. Mistake #2: Relying too much on metrics
    15. 15. “We have a deep-seated desire to quantify the world around us so that we can understand it and control it. But the world isn’t behaving. We must consider the possibility that if we can’t measure something, it might be the very most important aspect of the problem.” It is compellingly seductive to try to predict the future as though it were a quantifiable extrapolation of the past. Doing otherwise lays us open to critique and ridicule. People are far more likely to subscribe to our view of the future (next quarter’s sales) if we can quantify what we are saying. Hence the need for more data and information. But this can be an addictive toxin: More information merely creates the demand for more information.” “The notion that ‘if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t count’ is flatly false. You can manage through fear and intimidation, role modeling, love, random eccentricities, or mantras. None of those require measurement. We’re so in love with quantitative ideology that we’ve quite forgotten what it was supposed to measure in the first place.”
    16. 16. “Many executives have a love affair with spreadsheets. I am not one of them. In fact, I encourage my team to approach spreadsheets with a healthy dose of skepticism, and I caution everyone else to do the same. Spreadsheets are no doubt very useful tools, but too many executives view them as the be-all and end-all for their planning. They manage from the spreadsheet, viewing it as an oracle, rather than as the map that it actually is. Ron Shaich, Panera Bread
    17. 17. Mistake #3: Standing still when you should be moving
    18. 18.  Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development.  Modern organizations are (or try to be) agile, opting for iterative development and “scrums”, with increasing emphasis put on change management and governance best practices
    19. 19. “Management’s job is to optimize the whole system.” W. Edwards Deming
    20. 20. Mistake #4: Failing to have a plan
    21. 21.  Message  Delivery  Volume = Strategy = Influence = Amplification
    22. 22. Building Social Capital
    23. 23. Build Tip #1: Be authentic
    24. 24. Be authentic
    25. 25. Build Tip #2: Develop trust
    26. 26. Consider & Buy Companies overemphasize this phase, allocating more resources to awareness through traditional advertising and encouraging purchase with “retail” promotions Evaluate & Advocate This phase has increasingly become relevant. Marketing investments that help consumers navigate the evaluation process and then spread positive word of mouth are as important as building awareness and driving purchase Trust If a consumer’s bond with a brand is strong enough, they may repurchase without cycling through the earlier decision-journey stages, and influence others in this same decision The Consumer Decision-Journey
    27. 27. Build Tip #3: Be an evangelist
    28. 28. Build Tip #4: Be a broker between networks
    29. 29.
    30. 30.
    31. 31.
    32. 32. In an article by Forbes contributor Michael Simmons (Why Being the Most Connected is a Vanity Metric), he shares some further insights from Ron Burt: A key insight from network science is the power of brokering, the act of moving information from one group to another. Burt explains, “What a broker does is make a sticky information market more fluid. Great ideas will never move if we wait for them to be spoken in the same language.” Network brokers (i.e. – connectors) have three advantages: • Breadth. They pull their information from diverse clusters. • Timing. While they may not be the first to hear information, they are first to introduce information to another cluster. • Translation. They develop skills in translating one group’s knowledge into another’s insight. Combined these three advantages give an individual an overall vision advantage to see, create, and take advantage of opportunities.
    33. 33. Build Tip #5: Constantly refresh your network
    34. 34. Finding Value by Providing Value
    35. 35. A Balanced Approach  Personal Value  Business Value  Community Value
    36. 36. Building a Social Capital “Engine” 1. Love what you do 2. Give your time 3. Be honest about what you know and don’t know 4. Create great content 5. Become an advocate for your local community 6. Provide product and platform feedback 7. Keep competition in check 8. Get creative 9. Recognize others 10. Constantly expand your knowledge
    37. 37. Next Steps
    38. 38. Building a brand is hard. You need to be authentic. You need to be consistent. You need to be have a message and be passionate about what you’re doing. And you need to be there, week after week, month after month, year after year. That’s how you build the trust. Showing up is 95% of it.
    39. 39.
    40. 40. For more on this topic, be sure to download the ebook (no form)
    41. 41. Christian Buckley IN/christianbuckley @buckleyplanet Thank you very much!