Business Networking: Don't Destroy Your Social Capital

November 12, 2011 |   2 minute read

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Business Networking: Don't Destroy Your Social Capital

Social capital is important for building relationships and fostering trust within your business network and with potential customers. If you destroy your social capital, you must recognize it, reset it, and start again. 

Avoid a Social Capital Implosion When You're Business Networking

Here's an example of how social capital can be destroyed because the speaker didn't think about their audience. Even your best ideas are forgotten when this happens, and your credibility takes a hard hit. Let me tell you the story and then how to avoid it happening to you.

At a business networking event this week, I witnessed someone destroy their social capital in under 10 seconds. They destroyed it so badly that there was little hope of recovery, and for 30 seconds, their "elevator pitch" (or "business infomercial") continued.

"Social capital" is defined as the capital or resources we gain from existing within a social network. It’s a concept from social science that’s centered on our ability to leverage social connections in order to solve problems, improve well-being, pursue shared objectives, and take collective action.  -

The tragedy was it was completely unintentional. His only fault was negligence. *Sigh* He was completely unaware of his target audience. In an attempt to engage (maybe shock?) the audience, he asked for vulnerability, then embarrassed those who offered it.

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How to Not Ruin Your Social Capital in a Room Full of Prospects

Knowing these two rules will help you build and maintain your social capital. 

Rule #1. People always intend to be nice. 

They volunteer to give you information to aid your performance. If you ask them to volunteer information--or themselves--by raising their hand, invariably, they will (if they can).

Rule #2. The quickest way to ruin your social capital and your chances of meeting prospects in a room full of people is to discredit the information they just volunteered. (Because Rule #1).

It seems pretty obvious and courteous to me (is that just because I'm a website copywriter?). But if it is obvious, why did this guy ask everyone to raise their hands and then tell them that what they were doing was wrong?

He had no knowledge about the volunteers or their purposes. He thoughtlessly violated a universal rule of social etiquette and publicly humiliated his precious volunteers. People who were trying to do him a favour! How self-serving is that?!

Unfortunately, he's the exact reason people always hesitate to put their hand up and volunteer. So thank you, Mr. Nobody, for ruining it for the rest of us. Many, many raspberries to you.

If you've blown your social capital or want to understand it better so you don't,  here is an in-depth article on social capital from Learn what social capital is and how it benefits business and society. 


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