YOUR STRONG AND WEAK TIES – Working the Crowd

YOUR STRONG AND WEAK TIES

Strong ties can guide you towards other strong networking hubs, and they tend to indicate powerful networks, with very well connected individuals at the hub.

Unusual information tends to flow better between the weaker ties in your network.


Your strong ties probably have access to the same information that you have. These ties are in the same network as you are and they are less likely pass information around. This same information, however, may be news to the weaker ties in your organisation.

People connected to you by weaker ties are more likely to propagate the information to people outside your network.


Some individuals are very well connected to other people who work in tightly connected groups like a network hub. These hubs have both strong and weak ties connecting them to other parts of the network. These routing hubs maintain relationships with key central characters and they keep the flow of information inside an organisation moving efficiently.

Mapping your organisation out in this way can identify potential communication issues within your organisation.


The mapping can often highlight positive connections and it can strengthen communications flow. Breaking down the disparate islands of information within an organisation by using either human connections or collaboration software such as email, a document management system or a wiki can improve the information flow within a company and streamline processes.

People hubs, routers and endpoints

To understand how social media can be of benefit inside the organisation, we need to look at how real networking works and why it is useful for some people and not others. To think about the human network, I’d like you to think about hardware hubs and routers. If you think about your circle of friends you’ll notice that some people have a tendency to be natural hubs. These people have a collection of friends that feed them information and ask their advice. Other friends seem to behave as routers. These people don’t often have the information you need when you ask them a question but they usually know someone who does. Others in your circle of friends are endpoints. They usually ask all the questions. So let’s consider endpoints.

Endpoints (or nodes, if we’re staying with the technology analogy) need information.


They often don’t have connections to enough people in the workplace to be able to network efficiently and get the information they need. This is especially true in larger organisations. Endpoints tend to ask questions of hubs so that they can get the information they need. Sometimes they may need to be connected to others in the organisation that may be able to help.

Hubs tend to have lots and lots of connections in the organisation.


These connections might be strong ties or weak ties. There may be connections to several people throughout the network who can provide the answer to anyone who comes for information. If a hub doesn’t have the answer directly, they will often know someone who does have the answer. This third party may be someone with whom the hub has an infrequent or casual relationship’a weak tie. Perhaps this connection may be someone whom the hub has only met once but recognises the potential value of the relationship and connects whenever they need to.

When a hub doesn’t have the answer to the question, but knows someone else will be able help then the hub turns into a router.

Routers pass information onto other hubs to find the answer that they need.


An endpoint will sometimes find they connect to a hub, are passed through another hub (who may or may not have the answer) and on until the correct person is found. Hubs and routers are the best connected people inside an organisation, and endpoints might try to find out who their primary hubs are. Having a good strong connection with the hubs in your organisation is a great way to encourage effective knowledge flow. The best and strongest connections are between hubs and routers themselves. If we’re still staying with the hardware and networking topology analogy, you might be thinking about a fully meshed diagram by now. These are the most valuable connections you can make. Are you a hub yourself? Are you a routing hub? I class myself as a routing hub. I have lots of connections that I maintain a relationship with and I often pass people onwards if I don’t have the answer myself.

The only problem with this model is that endpoints often feel that they have nothing of value to offer a hub. Endpoints only seem to want information and they don’t tend to contribute information to the network. Hubs and routers thrive on two-way information flow and will be reluctant to maintain two-way connections where they don’t benefit from the relationship. Hubs and routers get the most value from other hubs and routers.

If you think you’re an endpoint and want to grow your connections, how can you become a hub? I use the ’extra fact’ to give out a hook.

When you start to connect with someone, try to give a little bit more information than you receive.


In an opening conversation when someone asks how you are—don—t just say —I—m fine, thank you—. Try to give a little bit of extra information to open up the conversation which will encourage dialogue with the other person. Perhaps you could say —I—m fine, thank you, although I—m totally delighted to have completed the public folder phase and I—m now onto phase 2 of my Exchange migration project— (or something similar). This could potentially open up a dialogue about you as a person and your current project. Perhaps you might find another Exchange specialist in a pinstripe suit. The topic isn—t all that important; engaging someone in conversation is.

Sharing a little personal information often opens up the dialogue and encourages the other person to interact with you. This starts your two-way conversation and starts to strengthen the tie. With your collections of new ties, strong and weak, you’ll start to be a little hub’and your personal network inside the business will start to grow.

So what kind of tools should you use to communicate in the new world of engagement? Do you start with a blog, or do you start your own video channel? It seems overwhelming and it seems very transient. Should you bother at all and wait for this craze to go away?

SUMMARY

  • Create an effective and comprehensive social media plan.

  • Metrics really matter. Create a baseline and record metrics and measurements.

  • Walled gardens need to connect to the outside world for the benefit of their users.

  • Use folksonomies for a better understanding of how your customers classify things.

  • Use social media interaction for better customer service opportunities.

  • Create your organisation’s social graph to find out who your internal influencers are.

  • Work out who your hubs, routers and endpoints are.

  • Use the ‘extra fact‘ to get your hook.

  • Cultivate your strong and your weak ties. Both are valuable.