Do you feel your social media efforts are NOT really profiting you the way you expected?Ask the question “What is the one most important thing in the Internet world?” and the most common answer you will get is “relevancy.”Let’s take the example of what you are doing right now. You are on the CPA Trendlines website because you have come to trust that it really gives you relevant actionable intelligence — so you revisit many times to benefit from the fresh insights relevant to you and your profession.
In social networks that are meant for business networking, LinkedIn is the undisputed emperor. Anyone who has been getting real business from LinkedIn will tell you the secret of his or her “networking” success — “relevant connections.” Sound like a no-brainer? It’s a little more involved than that.
There are two key challenges. One — HOW do you consistently add relevant connections and two — how FAST can you add them? A third challenge comes later, after you have become successful in adding relevant connections as quickly as you desire.
How The Strength of Weak Ties Helps You
You and your close connections — friends, relatives and colleagues — will know many of the same people, so your collective circle of influence is generally shallow. Your distant connections, however, can make your network far larger than you can imagine.
Thirty years ago, a landmark academic study demonstrated that weak ties are as indispensable to an individual’s opportunities as strong ties. The proverbial referrals and word of mouth are examples. This principle of “strength of weak ties” and knowing how it works can make the difference between your social media success and failure.
Albert-László Barabási, a highly regarded network theorist, found that one can significantly disrupt a network by removing those who have the most connections outside their own immediate communities — that is, those who constitute the most network-to-network links. In other words, the more network-to-network links you have, the faster you will gather mass in your cause.
This tells us to pay close attention to the weak ties. Here’s how:
Connect to networks beyond your own
Convince the central point (person/s) in a network that what you do can really benefit some of their connections and that some of your connections might benefit from what they do.
Encourage and motivate the central points to share your benefits with their own network (their circle of influence).
Here’s my own story of how I went from 1040 to 1120 in one month. I added 80 relevant LinkedIn connections in one month — nearly 4 relevant connections each working day. What I mean by relevant is that all these connections represent businesses that I can either connect with someone I know of who can create mutual benefits between them, or buy from, or sell to.
I had 1040 LinkedIn connections a month ago. Today I have 1120.
But is it that only my direct connections will possibly benefit them or me? The answer might surprise you.
Out of the people who read one of the links I shared with my network, nearly 50% were the contacts of my connections, not my direct connections. My 1120 connections link me to more than 15 million professionals. Those are my “weak ties.”
Here’s how 1040 went to 1120.
I posted relevant and meaningful questions and discussions in about 10 groups that resonated with the people relevant to my business and me. I got some likes and some comments. I sent connection requests to all those who liked my posts or commented on them.
I responded to relevant discussions with comments that added value to the discussion. I got some connection requests here, too. And I sent connection requests to those who posted content relevant to my business and me.
I browsed profiles of about 10 of my connections every day and checked out their connections (my weak ties). I requested introductions and people were happy to help me out.
The moment someone connected with me, I sent a quick thank you note and I shared links to interesting relevant articles, saving my connections several browsing hours. I invariably got “thanks for sharing” and even “gratitude” messages.from my new connections.
When I sent connection requests, I wrote something like “Bob, I came across your profile on the group and being in the same profession as you are, we’ll have plenty to share. Please add me to your professional network. Thanks for connecting,” i.e. I tried to clearly state why I wanted to connect with them.
Time taken? Average about an hour a day. Cost? Seems to be reasonably high. Returns? Time will tell but from the 80 I connected with in a month, I am engaged in business discussions with four really “perfect-fit” prospects — because they see the relevant value in what my company can do for them. Let’s say I close just one deal. How’s that for return on investment?