Michael Gilbert, Nonprofit Online News, has an article entitled, "Turning To Each Other in Hard Times: Four Steps To Save Money and Building Social Capital."
I couldn't get past the title without thinking about Margaret J. Wheatley's 2002 book, "Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations To Restore Hope to the Future" which was about listening and conversations. Of course, Gilbert's article, while touches on listening, is about how organizations should make decisions about technology in this financial crisis, where to cut back, and where to invest using social capital concepts as a guide. Between the lines is a framework for making wise choices about social media, although referred to as new media in the article.
He begins with a definition of social capital, stated simply as the productive value inherent in human relationships. It's what Tara Hunt calls Whuffie. Gilbert suggests four principles:
1. Ruthlessly drop any technology that erodes social capital.
Many nonprofits are probably looking at the Internet communications components and wondering where to make trade offs. Gilbert suggests, and I agree, that it isn't necessarily looking at it each in terms of its efficiency but in terms of its return on relationships. "This is instead a call to look at each and every medium we use and make a single cold judgment call: Is this medium, as currently constructed, getting in the way of people making genuine connections?"
2. Reduce investment in any technology that fails to build social capital.
This principle speaks to change -- how you let go of or change the way you've always done something. If we're talking about how do you get started with social media while figuring out the right balance of SEO, email marketing, and traditional media counterparts, I think about the great piece that Chris Brogan wrote a few days ago, "If I were getting started today."
3. Immediately invest in technology that allows you to identify and nurture existing social capital.
He's making a couple of points here, but what struck me was social media makes social capital visible. He also points out that listening (the first step in social media) is one step removed from nurturing and it is important for nonprofits to do 360 degrees of listening (internal as well as external). As Chris Brogan has pointed out during a session at the New Marketing Summit called "Listening in a Blizzard", it takes some retooling of work approaches to incorporate social media listening practices - so there's a
4. Strategically invest in technology that helps you build social capital.
Here he talks about the importance of developing metrics that help you measure social capital.
For more on social media and social capital:
Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom by Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta