Is it possible to monetise social capital?

Last Friday at Tuttle, I was talking with Emile Embiabata about ideas he has to monetise social capital generated through social media. This is something we have discussed before, and whilst it interests me, I also don’t quite get it: I am sceptical about the ability to monetise social capital, because in doing so the capital one has built up will, I think, become devalued.

Social capital is something that people at Tuttle seem to have in spades: indeed, it seems to be the underlying principle behind Tuttle, and what differentiates Tuttle from other, more income-focussed, networking events. As someone pointed out to me last week, Tuttle isn’t about sharing business cards, it is about sharing ideas.

Emile’s idea – and I have no concept of the technology behind it, so I hope he doesn’t mind me discussing his idea – is that the capital that one builds up through posting thought, links and – particularly – likes and dislikes on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and so on are actually worth something. If people respect one’s views – if you have a high social capital – those views are likely to have a value. Every time someone clicks on a link to, say, my favourite restaurant because I have tweeted about it, I could get rewarded. The more people respect my views, the more valuable my tweets about my favourite restaurant are likely to be.

The main difficulty I have is that at the moment my views are completely independent. If I tweet about a restaurant (which I don’t think I have ever done!), it is because I like it, and want to share it with people. But if people who read my blog, my tweets, or my Facebook updates know that I am rewarded for posting those views, will they be worth the same? Will they not ignore them – because my independence has been corrupted – sponsored by my restaurant. (By the way, if any restaurants wish to corrupt me, I’m sure we can come to an arrangement…)

Emile countered this by pointing out that if my opinions were defiled, my social capital would be reduced, and people would click on my links; I would lose Twitter followers, and I would get less well rewarded by his system.

It would therefore be self-correcting: if I were honest and true, my stock would rise; if I were spammy and corrupt, people would ignore me, and my views would be worthless.

He may have a point; we agreed to keep talking about it, with me retaining my sceptical, independent and transparent outlook.

I’ll let you know what happens!

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