I gave feedback on a video this week telling the recent small business workshop attendee I wouldn’t exactly call it “social capital.”

Before I step on anyone’s sensitivities, please know the purpose of this post is to explain social capital and how to judge whether or not your social media content provides it. Lacking social capital isn’t a negative judgement. It is a state of being. It either does or doesn’t. It’s not a criticism. Plenty of content can be posted and useful without social capital. And social capital is also a matter of opinion. Everyone will interpret it differently.

The video (below and a well-done vignette for Lincoln Road Cold Brewed Coffee), in my opinion, is an advertisement. While certainly it can engage an audience, especially one of brand fans and loyalists, it doesn’t meet my definition of social capital.

Social capital is the quality of a post that provides value to your audience.

Imagine you create a how-to video that shows them how to grind coffee beans by hand — or at least without electronic means. This is something most audience members probably don’t know how to do. You’re teaching them something. By watching that video, you’re actually paying them. You’re putting a few coins in their pocket. They appreciate you for that, even if they don’t realize it in the moment.

Now think about them watching an ad that is all about buying the coffee you sell. Instead of putting coins in their pocket, you’re taking them back. The advertisement isn’t about them. It’s about you.

Those coins are the social capital. When you give it, you earn trust and enthusiasm from your audience. When you take it, you at least don’t earn trust or enthusiasm. In some cases, you may lose one or both.

With that in mind, let’s watch the Lincoln Road Cold Brewed Coffee video:

This is an interesting example because it’s a little bit of both. It’s clearly an ad for the product — taking coins from the audience . But it does have elements an audience can draw from.

It celebrates a culture tied to the mountains where the product was born. It draws in someone familiar with Appalachia, with mountain music and culture. It even tips a cap to the attitude expressed by many of today’s younger mountain generation: “However, Wherever.” It sends a subconscious message that you’re part of that culture however you are and wherever you are.

Artistically, it does provide some social capital. It just does it subtly. The overt message is “drink this coffee.” But the piece says more.

So in retrospect, I’d say this does have social capital. But I think it’s a wash. It gives as many coins as it takes. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or it won’t have impact being posted on the brand’s social media channels. In fact, I’m sure it already is having an impact. But in the economy of social capital, I’d call it neutral.

When you are preparing your social content, ask yourself, “How many coins am I giving and how many am I asking in return.” That will help you remember to deliver more social capital to your audience.

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