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Micro-blogs like Twitter are playing increasingly important roles in social life. Some key users of Twitter have drawn huge attention from other people. Their opinions have had significant influence on the rest of Twitter users. In other words, these people are highly reputable and have more social capital in the Twitter world. But what factors contribute to the social capital in a part of the virtual world like Twitter is still largely unknown. This paper investigates the source of social capital in the Twitter world. We identify two types of sources that influence a user’s social capital in the Twitter world: (1) inherited capital from outside the Twitter world; and (2) social activities conducted within the Twitter world. The results show that both inherited capital from outside, and activities within, the Twitter world, have positive influence on a user’s social capital in the Twitter world. Our results suggest that social capital can be transferred from the real world to the virtual one. Meanwhile the inherited social capital of a user from outside the Twitter world significantly impacts the level of activities the user undertakes in the Twitter world. For ordinary people, inherited social capital positively associates with the level of their social activities in the Twitter world. But for the most well known Twitter users, who are usually celebrities, this relationship is negative. Implications for research and practice are further discussed.


Orginally published in:

Qiang Ye, Bin Fang, Wei He, and J.J. Po-An Hsieh, “Can Social Capital be Transferred Cross the Boundary of the Real and Virtual Worlds? An Empirical Investigation of Twitter,” Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 2012, 13(2), pp. 145-156.

Posted with the permission of the publisher.