The Tipping Point of Networking

In his famed work The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell discusses what he terms “The Law of the Few”: “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.” Gladwell breaks these socially adept individuals into three personality types – connectors, mavens, and salesmen. How does each of these personality types propel social epidemics – and how can you improve your networking by taking a page from each profile’s playbook?Â

  • Connectors – Have you ever met someone who seems to “collect” people? Six degrees are more than they need to determine their separation from everyone on the planet – with connectors, it’s more like three. According to Gladwell, Connectors have a gift for bringing the world together by spanning different worlds with “curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.” To increase your connectivity, be aware of others’ needs and how you can fill them. It can be as simple as connecting two acquaintances with complementing needs and abilities (i.e. a contact needs a good graphic designer and you happen to know one in the area). When your focus is not on what you can take from others but rather what you can offer, you build “social capital” and cultivate a genuine bond of trust and respect that will pay dividends down the road. Generosity gets noticed.
  • Mavens – Where connectors gather contacts, mavens gather information. They’re the type to find a great hole-in-the-wall restaurant and then broadcast this knowledge to everyone in their network (even via fax, according to one anecdote Gladwell shares in his book). Mavens want to solve other people’s problems, almost to the point of being “pathologically helpful,” and enthusiastically share newfound knowledge. Thanks to this, Mavens start “word-of-mouth epidemics” by sharing and trading their information capital, making them an invaluable contact. Make yourself an asset to the networks of those with whom you come in contact by adding value to their day. If you have a great tip, don’t be afraid to share it – but be judicious in quality and quantity. As you build a reputation for being in the know, others will listen up when you have a message that needs sharing.
  • Salesmen – Some people are born with the charisma and persuasive personalities that make them powerful negotiators. Salesmen often have some indefinable trait beyond their words that makes them successful persuaders. While that may not be learned easily, you can learn to show integrity and trustworthiness in every business interaction. As you conduct yourself with honor and teach others about who you are and what you do at every opportunity, you’ll build relationships that will engender trust (and referrals). This will help you build a salesforce with a wider reach than your own network.

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Whether you’re a connector, maven, or salesman, don’t forget to follow up with your contacts. Marketing statistics say it takes 7-12 impressions before a consumer makes a purchasing decision. Don’t stop building your network after an impression or two. Take that extra step – a phone call, email, lunch date, etc. – to continue feeding those relationships that will tip the scales toward success.

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