Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Weak Ties Mean Strength

Today's Wall Street Journal, Julia Angwin discusses the Art of Making Online Friends, highlighting the importance of weak ties in online social networks. Ed Callahan of Coherent Sales Consulting, who I know through networking and who has been on several Social Media panels with me, posted a link to this article in a LinkedIn group discussion.

"Weak ties" is an important concept to keep in mind when building up your network:

On a social network, you build up what is known in sociology circles as your "weak ties." It turns out that people can often get jobs and spouses through people to whom they have weak ties -- meaning acquaintances rather than their best friends.

"Your weak ties are your windows on the world," Stanford professor Mark Granovetter is quoted as saying in the WSJ article. Granovetter first discussed the concept in a seminal 1973 paper. He says he accepts online friend requests "if I know the person, whether I like them or not."

I'm not quite so liberal with my own online network, nor is Ed Callahan, who famously has a policy of not accepting a friend request unless he has spoken to a person for at least a half hour. Still, as I wrote in a previous post about weak ties, Don't Underestimate the Strength of Weak Ties, diversity is the key to a strong and effective network. Lots of different ideas and perspectives blending together to form something new and unexpected.


Anonymous said...

Oliver While i agree you should not underestimate the value of "weak ties" the goal should always be for "champions". Champions believe in you enough to introduce you in at the highest level with limited or no competitive interference. See -

Oliver Picher said...

Rick, thanks for your comment. I agree that champions are essential, though champions don't necessarily have to be a direct, strong connection to you.

As an example, a recent new client came to me through a chain of "strong connections" -- I had a strong tie to someone who had a strong tie to someone who had a strong tie to someone who needed some advanced content developed for a web site. I, personally, had a strong tie only to the first person in my chain, though I had weak ties to the other two. My champion was a weak tie for me.