The Power of the Social Network

by Ron on June 27, 2013

Social networking is a powerful way to communicate. And the more it grows, the more powerful it is.
As your social network grows, so does your sphere of influence.
 

Even after all these years, and in spite of all the documented benefits, social media still gets a bad rap sometimes inside organizations, but there is power in the network whether it’s linking computers together or people — and every business would be wise to understand that.

That point was driven home to me this week when I was talking to a friend who recently lost his job. He told me that he was using his social network to drive the job search and he was seeing results. While he didn’t have a new job yet, he had a lot of influential friends on the case, and that was no doubt furthering his cause much more than traditional job search methods like sending out paper resumes, calling recruiters and responding to ads.

I’ve certainly found on a personal level, that I’m much more likely to get work by word of mouth than I am responding to an ad in which often hundreds of people are applying. I don’t normally have to hire people, but if I did, I would be inclined to use my social network to help me find a qualified person, rather than seeking random resumes and trying to sort through them.

But if the power of social networking applies to job searches, then mid-sized businesses could certainly apply this power in any number of ways whether it’s to find new employees, promote new content on your website or blog or engage with the people who are interested in your products.

The reason you should be working hard to nurture your social network is because the larger your sphere of influence happens to be, the more likely you are to benefit from the network as a whole. I’ve theorized there is a tipping point where so many followers drives traffic exponentially, but I’ve never been able to put a number on that. Suffice to say, the more people you have the more likely your content is to spread and the more influence you can have as a whole.

As I said in a post earlier this month about Twitter, you need to do more than simply show up and promote your stuff though to build that sphere of influence, and whether you’re an individual communicating with your customers or representing the organization, you have to be friendly and helpful and all those qualities that would make people interested in you and your work.

Remember, if you’re just promoting yourself, nobody is going to pay attention, trust me on this one.

One other thing to consider as you look at this, the power is in the numbers, but don’t take short cuts. You’re much better off with fewer engaged followers than thousands who don’t care about you, and building a network takes patience, certainly months, often years of continued work and nurturing.

I’ve often heard social media consultants tell me their clients are frustrated because they haven’t seen immediate results. This is not a short-term exercise. It’s slow growth over the long term, but like investing, the more money you make, the more money you make –and it applies to social networks too. The more people you have, the more reach you have, the more followers you’ll have because the network effect begins to take over.

If you’re just starting out remember, you’re not going zero-1000 in the first month, probably not without some cheap tricks that you want to avoid. There are services that promise such return, but building an organic network is really the best way to do it without shortcuts.

And once you get to a certain point, and you do all the right things, create good content, be a good online citizen, attract the attention of influencers; then you’ll start to see it happen and when it does, I’m betting the power of that network will astonish you –just as it did my friend using his network to find a new job.

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heather Stone July 2, 2013 at 5:26 am

Hi Ron,
One of the ways to quickly realize the power of a social network is to experience life without it for a change. If you’ve developed a particularly strong community around a specific website, group of websites, topics or businesses, try branching out and starting one from scratch in a totally new area or perhaps in a totally new and unrelated niche business. Feel that total isolation? That feeling that no one cares about or is reading that next post or sharing it with others? Can’t ask a question and get an answer immediately? That’s life without a social network. A lonely place! Thanks for sharing with the BizSugar community.

2 Ron Miller July 2, 2013 at 7:05 am

Hi Heather:
Yes it is and you’ve captured he power of the social network in a nutshell. It gives you a community of people with whom you can share ideas and interact with in the same way you do with your offline friends. And the online one is just as real.

As a personal example, I have an online friend from a community I participated on for years. The friend is going through a personal tragedy and his online friends have rallied around him to support him through this time. I have been communicating with him for more than a decade, but only met him in person for the first time earlier this year before his crisis. But we had a great evening together over drinks and dinner like old friends because we were old friends. And when he had a time of need, his online friends were there.

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