Three Degrees of Separation

Three Degrees of Separation

Networking and relationship building are no longer about climbing a ladder to success with a Rolodex in hand. A different networking strategy is paying dividends in our global, mobile economy, one that includes understanding your values, having a positive attitude, and connecting with co-collaborators for mutual inspiration, innovation and support.

Technology is an obvious driver of this transformation. It has accelerated networking, reduced the degree of separation between contacts, amplified our global playing field and redefined the job prospecting process. Technology is speeding up everyone’s reaction time and changing how and when we connect. Because of technology, the degree of separation between our contacts has reduced. The team at PeopleBrowsr, a company that has analyzed Twitter data from 2007 to the present, has a hypothesis that on a global level, we’re four degrees apart; on a community level (i.e., fitness lovers), we’re three degrees apart; and on a niche level (i.e., those who love kite surfing), we’re two degrees apart.

The world has moved from the famous “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” to two, three or four degrees of separation from you. The world is one big interconnected web of relationships, sewn loosely together via a broadband pipe, a LinkedIn connection or a Pinterest page. And there are probably only a few degrees of separation between you and me. For the marketing community, that’s significant. Most likely, every reader of this article is linked by fewer than three degrees of separation. With this in mind, consider the role of reputation, job performance and your personal brand as you navigate the business community and build your connections.

A key to growing your network is to look “inside” first. As marketers, we spend hours crafting brand visions, building strategies and defining communication messaging but often fail to chart our own course by defining our own passions and purpose. To authentically build relationships, my advice is to turn inward to define your own passions, tone and purpose. Based on 20 years of experience in the advertising and marketing business, I’ve created the Funnel Test to help you clarify your personal passions and purpose.

In your Funnel Test, you can put a high priority on any type of passion, from family to fitness or education to the environment. To give an example, I’ve created a hypothetical circle for Gertrude Stein. Stein was celebrated for her ability to bring 20th-century artists and writers together in a salon environment that was instrumental in helping many artists build their careers and personal wealth. Her passion words could be “art,” “community” and “collecting.” Her tone could be “eccentric” and her purpose could be to “create an environment that supports the creation and collection of the arts.”

Once you’ve completed your Funnel Test, you need to give people with whom you want to have serious relationships as friends, romantic partners or business colleagues real conversation and attention. Let them know about your passions and purpose and you’ll more authentically connect. To have positive, good-faith, bridge-building communication, my belief is that some of the factors that influence brand loyalty also are critical to networking loyalty, including trust, value, commitment and transparency. So use the tools you’ve learned to build your businesses and brands to build your personal and professional relationships. You also can use your Funnel Test to help define and filter what you post online.

A 2009 survey by CareerBuilder found that 45% of companies prescreen candidates on social media. Of those, 35% said that they found content that caused them not to hire a candidate, citing red flags including inappropriate photos, poor communication skills, excessive swearing, discriminatory comments and confidential information posted about previous employers. Given social media’s reach, those numbers are likely to be higher now, so think before you post, pin or tweet. Do your posts support your passions and purpose? Or do they detract from them?

It is clear that technology has changed how we network and make connections. If you use technology wisely, you can use it to find new contacts and nurture global connections, and you can transform your deal making and job prospecting or recruiting. Use your marketing skills and look inward. Define your passions and purpose. Embrace rather than shun the new online tools and social sites. And remember: Your connections and relationships directly impact your happiness, productivity and future prosperity.

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