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Connecting to the Invisible - Social Networks Are About What You "Can't See"

By Dean R. DeLisle

The craziest thing to comprehend about social networks is that a bulk of their value comes from what we actually cannot see! What do we mean by that?

The Numbers
Let's take LinkedIn for instance, which has produced a higher number of leads, appointments, and proposals for our coaching clients than all other social network sites combined. Think about the numbers. With over 65,000,000 active members and approximately 3,000,000 users joining per month, that number alone is hard to digest. However, keep in mind that the typical user has, on average, about 240 trusted connections, and those connections are then one degree from over 35,000 trusted connections, and two degrees from over 3,200,000 trusted connections! Now we use the term "trusted connections" loosely with regard to the relationship of your direct connections, then to that second level of millions of connections. Now, if you think about all the people you know who are truly trusted connections without even using LinkedIn and do the same math-you too will be amazed.

Trusted Connections
So what does the term "trusted connections" even mean in the eyes of LinkedIn? Well if you play by the rules (and believe me LinkedIn makes you play by the rules!), most of your first- and second-tiered connections know each other at some level. Maybe not on a first name basis or recognizable on the street, but they have a common interest or connection through their networks. Even if you take a 30% error factor on what you think are bad connections, the numbers are still staggering. So because LinkedIn enforces the fact that "you should know" your connections, we can assume these numbers to be even 70% true and therefore trusted. Based on how we train and coach our clients, we find this to be accurate.

My Numbers
I wanted to test this system myself and started mapping out my network without LinkedIn. I went into our CRM system and under my name there are exactly 2,038 first-level connections with whom I have directly cultivated and maintained some level of relationship over the past five years-either by newsletter, blog, or social networking. Now we can conservatively cut that down by half to include only those people whom I have actually encountered or had a truly trusted relationship with, which puts us at about 1,000 (working with round numbers). If the average person connected to those people, each of whom has 200 contacts (the average) in their system of trusted connections, and then those connections each have 200 people, the total unseen trusted network reach without LinkedIn is roughly 40,000,000 people! Could that be true? If I had the money and the power to reach all of my connections (through writing columns, blogs, newsletters, and social network posts) and all of their connections and their connections.could I really reach 40,000,000 people?

Your Numbers
Try this simple exercise. Count the number of people in your Outlook, gmail or contact manager. Then take the people from your phone and any other easy-to-count sources. As we have shown that the average person knows 200 people, do the math twice. Is it realistic to say that, if you were strategic with your networking and social networking, that you could reach a fair percentage of those people? What's the number of your reach?

Now See the Invisible
Now put on your magic glasses. If you have a head start on this social networking site and already have a hundred or so connections on LinkedIn, then click on 'Network Statistics' as shown below and start networking with what you can now see! If you have not started yet, then we invite you to participate in the many complimentary webinars that the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC) has been so kind to sponsor for its members.

Dean R. DeLisle has proven his ability to accelerate contacts, business development, and operations with sound business practices, the ever-evolving power of technology, and his consulting, coaching, and training skills over the past 25 years. Learn more about Dean in the WABC Coach Directory.
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