Creating a visual depiction of your social network will help you identify ways to grow your business through relationships, referrals, and recommendations.
A map of Karl Stark's social relationships.
A map of Avondale's social connections.
How important is your network to building your business? If you're anything like us, it's extremely important. In fact, our network is the fuel that drives our business growth and sustainability.
Of course, many of us look to our network for sales leads, but there's untapped value in each of our social networks that could lead to business growth, even if they aren't potential sales leads. As we discussed in a recent article, "Why Relationship Building Is Much More Than Selling," successful business professionals use their networks for referrals and recommendations.
But which individuals in your network are the best referral sources? Second-level relationships may represent attractive customer referrals and other valuable business partnerships, but you need to determine the individuals in your network that could provide the best introductions.
To do this at Avondale, we worked with our friend Bennett Resnik, who is an expert on social networks. He used a nifty tool to analyze our Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook contacts to find the key hubs, or connectors, in our personal and business networks. The above picture is actually a map of Karl's social relationships.
When Bennett analyzed our employees' networks, he looked to the strengths and weaknesses of our connections and the interrelation between those connections. He was able to locate the gaps, or people that should be connected but are not, and identify the "bridges," or people that connect the groups. In creating a healthy and strong network, Bennett emphasized we need to look at the bridges within the firm as well as individuals outside the firm who can introduce us to a new collection of relationships.
As a result, we were able to build a useful map of our network, which gave us an awareness and understanding of:
1) Individuals to engage with to gain access to a broader network
2) Current and potential "hidden gems" within our network
3) Candidates for business partnerships or collaboration
We came away with an action plan to build and invest in key relationships that we hope will drive our business for years to come. After all, the value of our business is directly dependent on our ability to increase the value of our network.
As we were reminded by Bennett, businesses are built on connections. And, better connections foster better business opportunities.
KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree. @karlstark