Then along came the social finance, social capital, impact investing movements. The Social Capital Markets conference, which launched in 2008, made me realize I'd made a mistake. The term, social capital, was being used to describe the revenue sources for social good. It's become a term of art for these revenue sources.
Then a funny thing happened. Social networks took off. Since 2008 the term social capital has taken on yet another meaning - closer to the original one - that refers to people's reputational capital online. How much "social capital" you have refers (again) to the value, size, and heft of your relationships. There are businesses out there that will help you track, grow, and manage this capital. As the "sharing economy" continues to grow, this kind of capital is increasingly important.
Just to confuse the matter, I've seen the term used to mean "online currency used in social networks" - such as Facebook credits. I thought of these when I saw a tweet from the recent "Future of Money" Conference predicting Facebook's rise as one the world's largest banks.
No, this post is not my attempt to revitalize the recently retired "On Language" column from The New York Times Magazine. It's to note these multiple, somewhat overlapping and somewhat exclusive uses of the term and to wonder what the rapidity of these definitional changes mean about technology, finance, and social good.