The Rise of Social Capital and how it Impacts Your Commercial Value

andre walters yuno

What do Rihanna, Jay-Z, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Beyoncé have in common with Shawn Megira (@shawn_megira on Instagram) and YOU or I (@INSERTYOURNAMEHERE)? When we speak, people listen.  Stated another way, all of us have what is often referred to as “social capital.” 

Robert Putnam and the Harvard Kennedy School’s “The Saguaro Seminar” have defined social capital as “the collective value of all social networks (or who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other.” 

To illustrate the power of social capital, let’s look at some statistics.  According to a recent study, 58% of Americans are on Facebook and the average American has 350 Facebook friends.  For those between the ages of 18 and 24, they have an average of 649 Facebook friends.  Based on the current structure of most social media platforms, including Facebook, a post by an individual on any given day has the potential to be viewed by hundreds of others that very same day.

For businesses and individuals alike this is a profound thought, particularly in the commercial setting.  Why? Because the power to generate attention and to influence others’ behavior is no longer limited to just the most famous celebrities in our world.  Today, social media has turned all of us into “micro celebrities,” and our celebrity status can be credited in large part to the social capital we each possess.  After all, many would consider a celebrity famous not only because of what made him or her famous to begin with, but also because at a given point in time celebrities have more than a few people paying attention to what they say and what they do.  Sound familiar?

In a 2008 New York Times article entitled “Nothing Sells Like Celebrity,” the author correctly points out the long tradition of using celebrities to sell products, highlighting Joe Namath’s promotion of Hanes pantyhose back in the 1970s, or more recently Totes’s (the umbrella company) use of Rihanna as a spokesperson after the singer released the hit song “Umbrella”.  Most of us may not be able to throw a football like Joe or sing a tune like Rihanna, but plenty of us command the respect of our social networks; and it’s important that our value within our networks be recognized commercially.

For those selling a product or service, the key is to not take the ordinary person’s value among his or her network for granted.  Much like a traditional celebrity would be rewarded or compensated for their social capital, so too should the ordinary person.  For those who have achieved “micro celebrity” status, including each of us considered “average” by Facebook standards, be mindful of the free promotion on social media you provide to those selling a product or service.  We ordinary people have tremendous value in our networks, and it’s time we begin to cash in our social capital.

Andre WaltersAbout the author:

André Walters is the founder and CEO of Yuno, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based social commerce company that rewards users for leveraging their online communities.

PR News For You:


  1. Riley says

    Excellent article. Your line “the power to generate attention and to influence others’ behavior is no longer limited to just the most famous celebrities in our world” really resonated with me.

    We should all be cognizant of our social influence, both commercially and socially. The lightening speed with which our thoughts, ideas and opinions can spread is exciting. Never before in history of mankind has it been so easy to shut someone down or build someone up – with just one tweet or post.

    Ideas can and should be monetized. Doing so with some measure of equality is going to be the hard part.

    • Andre Walters says

      Thanks Riley. I agree with you regarding the difficulty of monetizing ideas with some measure of equality. This is something we’re working hard to do at Yuno and we hope we’ve come up with a solution that is a win for all…stay tuned.

  2. Alexander Dill says

    Dear Andrè! Social capital consists of non-material values and assets such as trust and solidarity. There is “bonding” social capital where social networks collaborate to achieve advantages against other networks (a favorite of Robert Putnam). This is quite often a loss for society and the common good.
    And there is “bridging” social capital, connecting between different ethnicies, groups, networks.
    ” the power to generate attention and to influence others’ behavior” is not part of social capital but is hundred per cent self-interest.
    And social capital doesn’t contribute to your commercial but to your human value. Facebook doesn’t either.

    • Andre Walters says

      Alexander, thanks for the comment. I totally agree with you that social capital “consists of non-material values and assets such as trust and solidarity”. I disagree, however, with your statement that “social capital doesn’t contribute to your commercial but human value.” I don’t believe the two have to be mutually exclusive.

      In fact, that is the main premise of my company Yuno. You can do good for your social networks through the use of commercial means. To me, “commercial” implies economics, especially leveling the playing field economically, which is a central issue to many communities, particularly those that are underrepresented. I think the utilization of social capital commercially, particularly in the manner we’re attempting through yuno, can ultimately serve as the vehicle for the change that is very necessary from a civic perspective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *