Can my business be too connected?
The answer to the question of whether you can be too connected in the online, social networking environment is twofold:
- if they are good connections, no, you can’t be too connected;
- if they are bad or poor quality connections, yes, you can be too connected.
If you’re putting time and other resources into building our networks, you need a clear social media strategy. Without a strategy, one of the following can result:
a) you fall for the pitch of the next person who comes along with an offer to get thousands of fans for our Facebook page or thousands of followers on Twitter, without anything being said about the quality of connections; or
b) you fall into the trap of being over cautious connecting only with people you already know well.
The first may give you a large network, but with little or no impact on sales or profits. The second is a like opening a shop in the main street but only letting close friends and family come and shop.
You need quality and numbers.
Quality matters: be choosy and build a valuable network
Savvy networkers follow the principle that people who are valuable connections in terms of our business—existing customers, for instance—will probably have quality networks themselves.
When you focus on making valuable connections, you can have confidence that your extended network will be a quality one, with a good number of people likely to value what you do. They will be open to doing business with you and recommending you to others.
Numbers matter: don’t be so choosy that you don’t build a network
For effective networking you need reach—numbers—as well as quality.
And here’s where we get some help from sociology, in terms of its classification of interpersonal relationships as showing strong, weak or absent ties.
Way back in 1973, sociologist Mark Granovetter published a paper, “The Strength of Weak Ties”, showing that most jobs were found through “weak” acquaintances in a network, not through closer, stronger connections.
Applying that more generally in terms of business leads and recommendations shows why you should build your network out much wider than just the people you connect with closely.
Go for quality and quantity
The takeaway here is that a lead or a recommendation may come from someone with whom you have only a slight connection—for example, someone who is a friend of a friend, or an acquaintance of a friend of a friend.
Almost every business needs to build a large, quality network.
As well as making the connections, you have to engage with the network, listening and responding, so you become the “top of mind, top of search” person or brand for the products or services you offer. Even a quality network is not much use if you don’t cultivate and care for it.
How is your online network helping your business? Is it time for some more quality? Or reach? Or both?