How to Expand Your Social Network

by William Reichard on January 13, 2011

Expand your social networks by growing naturally [Flickr image by brewbooks]One of the most common questions those who are new to social media have is: How do I develop my network? The good news is that it’s easier than you think because you’re already part of many social circles. Expanding is as easy as starting with the intention of growing.

One of the core principles is investment in the process. Salespeople have a phrase, for instance: “Always be closing.” ABC. It reflects the importance of forward momentum. It recognizes that a successful sale is only part of an ongoing process and that you’re always only as good as what you’re doing now.

Social media are similar in that they require forward momentum. A network that isn’t growing begins to lose energy and start to dwindle. A network needs fuel. So you can think of this as “always be growing.” ABG.

Networks need not grow only in the number of what are clinically called “nodes.” They can also expand in depth or intensity. Some of the strongest networks aren’t the ones with the widest reach but are ones with particular intensity.

That said, we live in a new social world, and the possible circle of friends and acquaintances is vastly largely than it was before. I believe we are at a turning point in human history, a time when we will begin to think of ourselves as part of a much larger group than we have in the past.

This being a marketing blog, you’re probably looking for specifics. How do you go about growing? Here are some guidelines:

  • First, realize that your community can only be about you—really you. You’re not setting out to create numbers. Your goal is to find the maximum network that reflects who you are—no more and no less. You may end up with a network of 100 very close connections, or you may eventually accumulate millions of followers. The point is, either is OK if it’s genuine. Start with your friends. That plants a seed from which will grow a network that reflects you, your values, your goals and helps ensure that your growth will be organic.
  • Next, pace yourself. Remember that small, steady changes add up to large numbers over time. This is a long haul, not an overnighter. It does need to be natural. As I’ve written elsewhere, social media is brilliant at sniffing out the artificial—that’s a big part of the reason we love it so much. So push, yes, but balance it with a healthy fear of popping your own bubble.
  • Think in leaps. You’re thirsty; you gulp. You pause. You gulp again. That’s social media—if you try to keep all the plates spinning at once, you’ll start losing them. You pay attention to certain networks at certain times and other networks at others. This also lets you off the hook on any given day. Invest time and energy when you have it. You’ll be amazed at how much you can develop your network in an afternoon if you find a couple of hours to devote to the work.
  • Be an opportunist. Opportunism has gotten a bad name. What I mean here is, take advantage of the windfalls that present themselves. If you get a great photo, share it widely—share it knowing that it can be a billboard to attract others with similar interests. That’s how any network grows—it’s a combination of similar interests and coincidence. This also requires a lot of watching and waiting, meaning you’ll be informed when the opportunity presents itself, and the group will welcome your opportunism because it serves them as well.
  • Don’t stand still. Be creative. Try new things. Do something different every day. We humans like novelty. Go answer a question at Quora. Never done a video post before? Try that today. Expand your horizons.
  • The basic fuel is connections. Connections aren’t just about numbers (I hope that is clear throughout this post) but about richness of connections as well. A small number of top-quality connections can best a huge number of meaningless and casual followers—depending on your aims.

How have you been successful in expanding your networks? Ideas always welcomed.

[Flickr image by brewbooks]

Will Reichard

Will Reichard has an MBA from the University of Mexico and is CEO of CrossCut Communications, LLC, a full-service marketing and communications company with a digital edge. His forte is messaging. From working as an editor at a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper to articulating the selling points of an innovative customer focused nonprofit fundraising organization, he consistently helps to give voice to challenging but mission-critical ideas. He writes a blog on social media, public relations, marketing and technology and was recently invited to be a panelist on personal branding at the prestigious Crittenden National Conference. He is also an award-winning writer who has been published in outlets including Innovation: America’s Journal of Technology Commercialization and National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

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