Success in Challenging Times: Generating Social Capital [Summary Report]

Gray, David E.; Saunders, Mark N. K.; Bristow, Alexandra and Goregaokar, Harshita (2014). Success in Challenging Times: Generating Social Capital [Summary Report]. Kingston Smith LLP.


Prompted by findings from the 2012 Kingston Smith funded national survey, Success in challenging times: Key lessons for UK SMEs, this new study focuses on the ways in which SMEs use and benefit from social capital is created through both offline activities such as networking events, and online activities including social media use. Offline and online networking activities are not mutually exclusive alternatives for SMEs. Successful SMEs network with a number of different communities, integrating a combination of both offline and online methods. SMEs’ websites are crucial and need to be optimised to improve search engine positioning. Social media sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn are used widely to both showcase the business and build relationships with customers, but are not considered a substitute for face-to-face networking. The most popular reason for SMEs using social media is to develop their business image or to market products. The fast, easy and low cost access to people and businesses provided by Web 2.0 and social media helps them do this better. Online networking can enable SMEs to overcome the drawbacks of traditional face-to-face contact, such as limited numbers and diversity, and the associated high costs. SMEs that proactively engage with social media can systematically raise their profiles to successfully compete with larger organisations. Few SMEs claim to be experts in social media use. IT and social media are regarded as necessary evils and SMEs consider that there is no choice other than to engage very proactively in these areas. However, there is a need to manage this engagement strategically, along with traditional networking, to avoid a disproportionate amount of resource being dedicated to this area. Face-to-face (offline) networking events remain the most important form of all types of SME networking with roughly two thirds of SMEs devoting one to six hours per week to this activity. In general, locally oriented SMEs without a scalable business offering prefer face-to-face networking events, whereas globally oriented non-scalable SMEs put significant effort into social media. Networks included customers, associates and former employees who had moved on to become independent contractors. Networking is about making contacts, outside the SME, who can offer feedback or advice or be used to outsource work. These networks are regarded as a ‘community of people’ who might join in with a new business proposal or be used to provide external expertise. The methods SMEs use to increase social capital, must be fit for purpose and appropriate to their business model. Social media are complementary to, rather than a substitute for, traditional networking and events. The challenge facing SMEs is how best to integrate their online and offline activities to complement their business and generate social capital.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions