Let’s start with a word problem. If you have 100 people in your extended network and your friend Frank has 100 people in his extended network, who is more powerful?
In this post, we’ll take a look at three factors that create power. If you understand the components of power, you can start to build the amount of power and influence that you hold. Once you understand it, you’ll realize how simple it is to create.
For me, the word “networking” always sounded a bit too formal and insincere for my taste. However, if done right, with sincerity, the benefits go beyond making business connections. You will end up with a close group of peers that can support and encourage you.
To do this, and increase your influence along the way, focus on these three factors: ties, closeness and betweeness. (Taken from Introduction to social network methods by Robert Hannerman and Mark Riddle.) Once you understand these factors, you can begin to build on each.
Let’s start with ties.
Ties represents the number of people in your network. The greater the number of people in your network, the greater chance of having a high level of power. In part, this is because the number of people in your network influences the number of people that you might have the opportunity to bargain with. The ability to bargain, make deals and negotiate is really what represents power. It makes sense then that the more people who are in our network, the greater our chances of striking a deal. But, it goes deeper. It actually depends on the quality of people in each of your networks.
Let’s say that Frank is friends with a lot of very influential people. You? Not so much. Frank is the clear winner, right?
It is almost intuitive to believe that having more influential people in your network would give you more power. Yet, a sociologist, Philip Bonacich, proposed another possible explanation – one that many sociologists have since adopted. Bonacich explains that those who have many influential people in their network actually have less power than those who have the same number of less influential people in their network.
Let’s look back at you and Frank. Since many of Frank’s friends and peers are very influential, they also have lots of ties and, therefore, people who they can bargain with. They are not reliant on Frank for much of anything. They have too many options. Where Frank really holds some influence is over those who are not connected to other influential people. The good news for Frank is that other’s will likely send more people his way simply because he has influential friends. This is where you want to start, as it is a nice set up for the next two factors necessary to increase power. Next up, closeness.
The closer you are to others in your network, the greater the chance of having high levels of power. It isn’t simply networking that will get you power. You must go further and foster relationships with those in your network. The closer others are to you, the greater chance that others will hear your ideas. Not only can they hear your ideas, but they can find commonalities and begin to relate to you. You begin to identify with the other person, and as a result, that person likes you more.
(To learn how identifying with others can increase your influence, see Communicating your credibility to increase influence.)
This leads to more chances for others to hear your ideas and ultimately, put you in the position to put those ideas into practice.
In addition, the closer you are to others, the less effort you need to put forth to reach those in your network. It is simple to reach your best friends, but not always the celebrity you follow on Twitter. They are both in your network, but you are clearly closer to one over the other.
Marketers understand and use this principle all the time. At least, successful marketers do. They use these first two steps to bring potential clients into their close network in the form of an email list. Although it might appear that they rely on social media, it is really just the first step of increasing the number of ties. If you only consider the first factor of power, ties, then you might believe that someone with many followers on a social media site might have a lot of power. This isn’t necessarily the case. You must also increase your closeness. This means converting your followers so they become part of your close network and are better able to hear all those great ideas you have. If you do happen to run the marketing wherever you are, or if you are interested in marketing yourself as an expert in your field, I suggest you listen to Online Marketing Made Easy by Amy Porterfield. She does a great job of explaining how you go about converting those in your extended, social media network to leads who are in your close network (among lots and lots of other things).
Not a marketer? You can still apply this theory in your online world. Take advantage of your social network to bring people into your close, immediate network and you’ll definitely gain some power and influence. One way to do this is to lead groups that are specific to your interests or expertise. For instance, if you are a lawyer, you can start a group for other lawyers in your area. Those lawyers will become part of your close circle, and you will potentially increase your power. Back to you and your friend, Frank. If Frank’s network of 100 highly influential people are all simply acquaintances, whereas you have a group of 100 less influential people in which you have closer relationships with, you’re even further ahead. What if Frank joined your group? Would that up his game? Not enough. Leading the group, as opposed to joining the group, will set you up for the third and final step to increasing your power.
The more direct contacts you have in your network, the greater the chance of having high levels of power. This is exactly why leading is one step above joining. If you are the leader, you are directly connected to each person in your network. They entered the group through you, they know you. If you simply join the group, others are in your network, but you are possibly not directly connected to each other. You might still have one degree between you in which you rely on for the interaction.
On the other hand, if you are the person in between others connections, you hold the most power. You become the broker between deals, introductions and favors. And as you provide that value to others, you become more and more powerful within that network. You’ll create a situation in which you are invaluable to those in your network. Frank is now coming to you to find the people, advice and opportunities he needs.
Create ties. Build close relationships. Make direct contacts. These are the three steps to dramatically increasing your power and influence.
How do you build power in your network? Do you have any practical advice? I’d love to hear! Leave a comment below and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Don’t forget to share this with someone who might find it useful!
Sandy empowers the young and talented to increase their power and influence by improving their ability to be heard and be clear. She does this by providing access to rigorously tested research in the communication, psychology, and marketing fields.