Weak social ties – They’re not the strong relationships you have with family members and best friends with whom you interact with on a regular basis. They’re also not the absent ties with wayward friends and family members who you don’t communicate with at all.
Instead, they’re the grey area in your social circle – the minor acquaintances, online connections, and friends of friends in your life who you might see occasionally or touch bases with online who have the potential to create the biggest impact on your professional and even personal life.
Back in 1973, Mark Granovetter, a sociologist at Stanford University wrote a paper entitled “The Strength of Weak Ties” that demonstrated that jobseekers were much more likely to find a new position from acquaintances than from close friends or family. Long before Web 2.0, he understood the power of having a social network.
His theory highlighted that weak ties are a valuable social resource that generate more social ties. These ties give us access to valuable information such as career resources and business opportunities.
Why don’t we obtain these benefits from our strong ties? There are a couple of reasons. The first is the fact that those in your inner circle probably share many of your acquaintances. So, they don’t have any more contacts with opportunities than you already have. Secondly, these strong ties know you on a much more personal level, yet may not have a full grasp of what you do professionally. Unless they’re in the same field as you, they probably can’t help you with advancing your career or business. You’re much more likely to be chewing the fat about family gossip instead of your goal of finding new clients for your startup business.
Weak social ties who you see occasionally at a networking event or chat with on Facebook are more apt to be those who you will discuss your goals and ambitions. You’re probably more likely to give them a referral or two, as well. There just aren’t as many strings attached or possible complications to giving a referral to a weak social tie instead of someone in your inner circle.
Knowing that these “minor” acquaintances can have a major role in your life and open doors in ways that close contacts can’t, it’s important to nurture these relationships. And, it’s never been easier to do so. With social networking sites, networking opportunities, online groups, and countless other opportunities to connect with former colleagues, schoolmates, old friends, and new friends with shared interests, you can expand your circle of weak social ties and strengthen your ability to find new opportunities that will get you closer to achieving your goals.