Social Selling Strategy: Why Your Large Network of Weak Ties, Can Become Your Biggest Asset
Your network is larger than ever, but it is now full of weak ties (connections). But is that a bad thing? Actually no, in fact it can be your biggest asset.
First, The Smart Phone Changed Your Personal Network
Social networks like facebook, twitter and linkedin played a huge role into the growth of your personal network. However I believe it was the smart phone that really made this change stick.
You see in the past, your network had to be localized. Maybe it was at work, or at your club, or in your neighborhood. This was because the way to stay in touch, with your network was in person.
When the smart phone took off in the late 2000’s, it dramatically changed your ability to stay in touch with your network. You could now do it anywhere, anytime, anyplace. And so your network became portable. This allowed an increase in the frequency of interaction, but also allowed you to connect and maintain relationships with different people all over the world. Your network had become less dependent on the groups of people you know and see everyday, and allowed you to manage more “weak” ties.
Takeaway: larger networks of weak ties are here to stay, embrace them and trade intensity for frequency when interacting with them.
More People Can Become “Connectors” Than Ever Before
In reviewing Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, I remember reading about “connectors”. Gladwell defines connectors as the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. Gladwell also attributes the social success of connectors to the fact that “their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy”. Back when he wrote that book, it was much harder to become a connector – as the energy it took to manage these week ties across different social groups was very high.
Today, because of social networks and the smart phone, more people can be connectors with much less effort. Modern connectors today have traded coffee for content, so they can interact with the thousands they are connected to in a more scalable way. But with the rise of the modern connector, it is definitely harder to stand out, but if you are willing to put in the effort, the results can be very powerful…a real network of engaged people.
Takeaway: modern connectors today use content as the primary way to engage with their weak ties but still invest real time and effort into helping their network.
The Best Opportunities Can Be Found Through Your Weak Ties
I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about Mark Granovetter’s paper The Strength of Weak Ties (interesting summary video by Norton Sociology). I think that although counterintuitive, the theory that your weak ties can generate more/better opportunities than strong ones, is actually proving itself out.
Think of the last job you found. Who in your network referred you to that opportunity? Was it one of your closest friends? or someone you know, but engage with infrequently?
What about the last deal you closed that involved an introduction from a network connection. Were they a colleague you see everyday? Or a weak tie you established a few months back at a conference, or networking event.
There is a challenge that you have many more weak ties than strong ones, but if you can spend time with some of them, and learn how to manage those relationships in a scalable way – you will get the best opportunities from them.
Takeaway: maintain and nurture your weak ties, because over time, you will generate more and better opportunities for yourself.