5 Reasons To Aim For Social Depth Over Social Breadth

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We live in a social world that puts more emphasis on the amount of people you’re connected to than the depth of those connections. I must admit, I’ve fallen into the same thought process and just recently have begun to pull myself out of it. In the beginning this wasn’t the case, I began my online personal brand with the idea of connecting with only a few people, but soon opted out of traveling down the road less traveled for the well worn road of connecting with as many people as possible.

No, the word connecting in that last sentence is a misnomer, I wasn’t “connecting” with anybody really, I was collecting. Collecting for what? Collecting to impress. Not myself, not really; because I understood that the real value in connecting with people is in the “real” value of the relationship, not in the tally mark I get to make. I wanted to impress you. Yes, you.

I wanted to impress you with the number of people I had in my network, but I soon learned that you don’t care about that, not one bit. What you care about, and what I care most about as well, is the actual relationship we share. Somewhere along the way I lost that, in doing so I lost myself and I lost my way. I’m back and ready to recommit.

For those of you that are on the same well worn road that I was, let’s take a permanent detour down a lesser traveled road. One full of magic and wonder, success and win-win relationships. Below are my top 5 reasons for doing so.

#1 It IS The Road Less Traveled

Just because it’s the road less traveled you will get more notoriety. Think about it, is it easier to find somebody in a group of 5 people or 5,000 people? 5,000 of course… wait no, that’s not right, if that were the case then we would all be reaping the benefit of a super connected social graph, but since we’re not the real answer is 5, but you knew that. The best, and easiest way, to bring attention to yourself is to have meaningful relationships with the people you connect with. Remember, it’s not who you know but who knows you. How many people in your online networks can you honestly say knows you?

In her book, The New Relationship Marketing, Mari Smith says that we can break down our online connections into 5 distinct circles, they are:

  • Your intimates or inner circle, the people whom you like, know, and trust more than anybody else; your confidants.
  • Your friends, people you know and hang out with but aren’t part of the inner circle.
  • Your key contacts, people that are business related, who you actively talk to, send referrals to and get advice from.
  • Your acquaintances are people that aren’t friends but people you have conversations with here and there.
  • Lastly you have your community at large. These are the people that you are following, “friends” with, or are connected to but have never had any form of conversation.

Most people have a disproportionate amount of connections in the community at large, and that’s exactly what this post is about. The idea is to move people from your community at large into either your key contacts, friends or even intimates. In fact I would recommend reconnecting with your current connections before tramping off to collect new ones.

#2 Referrals

By creating as much depth as possible you are in a unique position of being able to create top of mind. By actually talking and conducting conversations with the people you are connected to online, you open yourself up to receiving referrals. This isn’t something you should expect but if you offer great content, good conversation and are known for taking care of your clients then you stand a great change of earning more than you fair share of referrals. After all, people prefer to do business with and refer business to, people they like, know, and trust.

#3 Job Offers

Much like earning referrals, creating depth in your social circles will go a long way to positioning yourself as a highly sought after employee. I’m not bragging but there aren’t many weeks that go by that I’m not asked if I’m interested in one position or another. It’s all about marketing yourself and if done the right way, you will become desirable.

#4 The Pursuit Of Knowledge

By connecting with the right people and creating positive, win-win relationships with them, there is no end to the amount of knowledge you can learn. There is a lot that you can learn from books and whatnot, but there is so much more that you can learn from people in the know. There are a lot of people that I can think of that have helped me get to where I am, a lot of people that you could probably think of as well, imagine if you were able to connect with more mentors? People that want to help you succeed? This will never happen if you practice breadth over depth.

#5 The Right Place At The Right Time

Have you ever wished you were in the right place at the right time more times than you were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Of course you have! Through the creation of those positive, win-win relationships I keep talking about you will see more right times than wrong times. It’s all about the people that know you, the people that like and trust you. By creating relationships and moving your community at large into business contacts and friends you go a long way to being top of mind on the people that you are building relationships with.

As an example let’s say that one of my connections landed a big contract with a big fortune 500 company that he knew he couldn’t handle by himself, but he wanted to make sure that the people he asked to join the team were top notch. Because I took the time to get to create a positive, win-win relationship with him he thinks about me and asked to join his team. It’s not farfetched at all, it happens more than you think, but you have to be in the right place at the right time.

Conclusion

It’s in the depth of your relationships that the power of your online network comes to bare. If you spend all your time clicking the friend, follow, connect, and circle buttons and none on building positive, win-win relationships with the people you’re connected to, then you won’t be able to reap the benefits that I mention above. If you are looking to get more out of your casual connections then I suggest you start looking at your social graph a little differently.

What are some other reasons you can think of to build depth over breadth? Let me know on the comment section below, talk to you soon!

  1. February 17, 2012

    Brent Albrecht

    David, excellent blog and excellent points. We talk about quality over quantity all the time, and then ignore it trying to see how many fans and followers we can get. One of the biggest benefits of social media is supposed to be its viral potential, but when all we collect is a large audience of strangers with nothing in common, how inclined are they to share anything and so the viral benefit is lost. Too many people want immediate gratification – I want 10,000 close connections today – but that's impossible, so instead of accepting that and building relationships one at a time, they decide to collect 10,000 strangers and pretend they have a relationship with them.

    • February 17, 2012

      DavidJohn_son

      Truer words have never been spoken Brent! I still fall into the more is better rut every now and then; it can be a temporary ego boost when I look at other people and see that I have more Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, circles or Facebook friends. Of course I know that's wrong because it's in the quality of the connection that the real value of social networking occurs. Thank you for commenting, keep up the excellent work!

  2. February 18, 2012

    Buddy Hodges

    David,

    Thanks for your excellent discussion of this topic. You asked for "other reasons." I believe that deep relationships are inherently valuable, per se. We are, after all, social creatures, and we do love to love and be loved.

    The issue of depth in social media relationships is the main theme of my blog: http://RelatingOnline.com. Like Brent, I agree that quality relationships with "Friends" "Followers" and "Connections" are more valuable and more likely to produce real networking results. My work in social media is focused on "Turning Friends and Followers into Real Relationships."

    However, there is another side to the issue that Sociologist Granoveter called, "The Strength of Weak Ties." Close friends tend to know the same people and things we know. The concept is explained in my blog post:: http://relatingonline.com/archives/266
    My recent post Interdependence vs. Independence Reconsidered

    • February 18, 2012

      David Johnson

      I will be checking out that post as soon as I get home this evening, thank you for sharing Buddy! The power of positive win-win relationships has been overlooked for the ego boost of quantity.

      Sure, it takes more time to build a strong connection but one well worth the effort. Thank you again for sharing and for the comment!

    • February 19, 2012

      DavidJohn_son

      I will be checking out that post as soon as I get home this evening, thank you for sharing Buddy! The power of positive win-win relationships has been overlooked for the ego boost of quantity.

      Sure, it takes more time to build a strong connection but one well worth the effort. Thank you again for sharing and for the comment!

  3. February 19, 2012

    Buddy Hodges

    David,

    Your post is dear to my heart, because it is the mission of my blog to "Turn Friends and Followers Into Real Relationships."

    You have explained the reasons well. You asked for other reasons. One is the happiness that comes from real friendship.

    I re-tweeted your blog post yesterday. Thanks for bringing this issue to the attention of your readers.
    My recent post Interdependence vs. Independence Reconsidered

    • February 19, 2012

      David Johnson

      To me as well! I’m working on one right now called The hierarchy of social connections. Ill be quoting your weaker ties post in that one.

    • February 19, 2012

      DavidJohn_son

      To me as well! I'm working on one right now called The hierarchy of social connections. Ill be quoting your weaker ties post in that one.

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