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The Power of “weak” business connections in social media

March 2, 2011

Steve Fawthrop

When discussing the benefits of social media, especially in having connections to casual business contacts, much has been made about the value of “weak” links and their potential benefit. Their value is often questioned.

A weak link connection, if you are not familiar with the term,  is someone you know but not necessarily well or one with whom you have not maintained regular contact. It might be a former coworker or a former client that,  in a current job for you or him,  you do not have reason to communicate on a regular basis anymore.

In the past it was less valuable-or at least more costly in time and effort- to keep track of contacts. Through the benefit of social media, more specifically LinkedIn for business, it is a waste to not keep track of people or, at the least, be visible to them.

Let me provide an example. Yesterday I got a call from someone in the advertising business in Seattle, my hometown. While I linked to this person  in the past, we only met in person once that I recall-an incidental introduction at a luncheon. I was mostly familiar with him because he played basketball at the University of Washington while I was in high school and someone I knew  reported to him. 

Even without the personal history this person, also named Steve, contacted me yesterday looking for potential recommendations to fill a position in Seattle. Now keep in mind:

  • I met him only once before
  • I left Seattle in 2003 so I am not part of the business community anymore

 Why did he call? He said  I have a lot of connections and he  sees me all the time due to active postings on LinkedIn.

So without the conscious effort to influence him in particular or to make a declaration of “expertise” in some area, my reputation and credibility has built up over time to prompt Steve to send me a note requesting help. I then gave him a call to see how I might help.

While it is nice to get recognition via Linked In, the more important  point is that an opportunity has  been created for someone I know who may be a very good fit for the position. This opportunity would not exist for my friend if I simply disappeared when I left Seattle nearly eight years ago.

Now an actual fit needs to be determined for the job, but this example points out the power of having weak connections and establishing your visibility. By posting information on LI you say you are in tune with information related to your interests or industry and that, by sharing, you are willing to be helpful. Even without saying it directly, you are inviting someone to turn to you as a resource.

If, in this case, it turns into a win for Steve with a good hire and for my friend, a great new position, then I will feel very gratified that staying visible on LI has helped a few people I know-one casually and one more personally-have greater success with their business and their career.

So next time you come across  information that can benefit the group from third-party sources or your own expertise, take the time to share it. You never know, you might be planting the seeds of something important for a friend, a future client or even yourself.

##

May 4 update-Brian was offered the position but, after consideration, turned it down.

##

www.about.me/SteveFawthrop

The AboutMe site provides links to my blog, LinkedIn profile and Twitter account.

Steve Fawthrop

sfawthrop@socal.rr.com

714-876-7062, cell

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7 Comments
  1. Karen Myhra permalink

    Great example! It makes me excited to seek out those potential weak connections and continue to grow my network with people I already know. Thanks Steve.

  2. Barbara Spector permalink

    Your points are ‘spot on’. Connecting with people you only know casually can prove very valuable. It can introduce you to a whole new network of people you might never have met and put you in contact with others you might have lost contact with over the years.

  3. Thanks, Steve. This is encouraging information for those of who are new to Linked In and have not had the time to take advantage of what it has to offer. This has given me incentive to become more active in the linked in community.

  4. Olga Kiena permalink

    Steve, I am in total agreement with you. Today there are more and
    more stories of individuals finding their next opportunity via the
    “weak” link. These weak links some times go as deep as 5 levels down and success does come. Many new to LI will be greatful for your thoughts.
    Thank you for the post.

    • stevefawthrop permalink

      Karen/barbara/Tim and Olga,

      Thank you for taking time to comment on my blog.

      I guess the title caught attention. I have 150 views in a day.

      The only time I got more was when I wrote a piece poking fun at Sarah Palin. I have to admit I picked an easy target for that one. People just have such strong opinions about her.

      Steve

  5. Darce Johnson permalink

    Nice post Steve. Make that 151 views…

    • stevefawthrop permalink

      Darce,

      Thanks. With some follow up views it almost hit 200 views plus I picked up a lot of views on the previous post about two key hiring considerations.

      Steve

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