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Why Weak Link Relationships Are The Key To Your Best Networking Opportunities

Have you ever thought about your relationships with the people around you? Sure you have. But have you ever considered classifying those relationships? It’s an odd concept, but believe it or not, when it comes to business acumen and potential, all relationships can fit into some useful categories.

One underserved area of connection is the concept of weak tie relationships. The term might sound funny like it’s an acquaintance that’s always dropping the ball. But in actuality, weak tie relationships are a term coined by sociologists and have been studied as a key method of building diverse rapports and opening up new opportunities.

These weak tie relationships can be the key to different kinds of business opportunities that might be provided for you. Let’s dig into some classifications and how they will benefit you:

Building Relationship Capital With Informal Relationships

According to Forbes, relationship capital is “an intangible asset that is built up over time between two people when understanding and trust are present and growing.” In short, relationship capital is the unspoken rapport that leads to mutual reliance and a willingness to continue to engage with another person. 

Relationship capital is based on both formal and informal relationships. Formal relationships are those with a manager, a direct report, a business partner, your accountant or attorney, and so on. Informal relationships, on the other hand, are relationships of choice; they may overlap with formal relationships, but they are usually closer. 

Formal relationships position you in a hierarchy, whereas informal relationships can allow you to break down barriers and get things done. Informal relationships are the real building blocks of social capital and advantage in organizations and in life. 

Why Your Next Opportunity Might Come From Your Weakest Link

"A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship." —John D. Rockefeller

All the people in your current informal network can be classified as either strong or weak links. Strong links are the friends, family, and business associates you see almost every day. They are the closest members of your social network, and they usually have a lot in common with you. 

But there are others in your network that are defined as weak links: friends of friends, someone at work you chat with on the elevator, a neighbor down the street whom you wave to as she walks her dog, a fellow alumnus of your university that you don’t actually know but whom you see at a reunion, to name a few. Weak links are acquaintances, likely to know you by name and perhaps what you do for a living, but nothing of the details of your life.

Strangely enough, weak links are actually the strongest and most impor­tant connections in your network. In his groundbreaking paper in 1973, “The Strength Of Weak Ties,” sociologist Mark Granovetter asked businesspeople who had recently changed jobs how they had found their new positions. Five out of six respondents had learned about the job openings through acquaintances and individuals that they knew casually through work.

Coined the “weak tie theory,” Granovetter describes a weak link as “a crucial bridge between two densely knit clumps of close friends.” Weak links are the critical connec­tions between your existing network and individuals you would never have the chance to meet otherwise, but who might be exactly the people you’re looking for. In truth, the weak links in your network may be some of your greatest.

Benefits of Weak Link Relationships

Weak link relationships can provide many benefits, including:

A bridge between connections: Weak ties often act as bridges between different social groups or communities. They connect people who may not be directly connected through strong ties, facilitating the flow of information and resources across diverse networks.

Access to novel information and diverse perspectives: Individuals in weak tie relationships are more likely to bring in fresh perspectives and diverse knowledge and information that may not be present in a person's close-knit social circle. They provide exposure to diverse viewpoints that can enhance creativity and problem-solving, as well as changing trends, information, and emerging opportunities.

Professional opportunities: In a professional context, weak ties can be instrumental in providing access to job opportunities, career advice, collaborations, and industry information. Networks consisting of weak ties can enhance one's reach and visibility in the professional world, as they may connect individuals to a wider network of resources and support.

How Hifive can drive access to your weak link network

Hifive makes it easy for your connections to provide introductions. With templates (and even AI suggested text) you can personalize your messaging to your customer and also make it easy for them to understand exactly what it is you’re asking for in your introduction. 

With Hifive you can access ready-made templates that are fully customizable to create a seamless referral request (or sit back and let Hifive’s built-in AI do the heavy lifting for you). Here’s how:

  1. With the Hifive Chrome extension installed in your browser, use LinkedIn to filter through your connections to find someone you may be tangentially familiar with in their network, i.e. a weak link.
  2. When you’ve narrowed down an individual to whom you’d like a connection, click the purple “Request Intro” Hifive button.
  3. Hifive will provide an auto-populated message which can be tailored and customized for the referral request from your connection. 
  4. Make it even easier for your investor making the connection by customizing the message they’ll be sending for them.

If your connection request is accepted by your prospect, you will both receive emails that the connection has been made. Hifive uses a double opt-in system, so both you and your connection have been verified and consent to the connection. 

Today, Hifive operationalizes introductions and has a marketplace of paid Premium Connectors. However, we also have future plans to allow users to connect with other users in a way that isn’t possible on Linkedin today: by creating meaningful bilateral connections. These connections follow a law of reciprocity through give-and-get tracking and gamification. Hifive will offer this in 2024, so stay tuned.

Leverage the strengths of your weak links

As you look at your network, many of your connections fall somewhere between strong and weak. However, you need both strong and weak links for your network to be healthy. For example, you will be more inclined to trust your strong links and to share more personal information and resources with them, or to go to them when you need a helping hand. 

You’re not going to turn to a weak tie first for referrals or advice—that’s a little too much like a cold call. But you can turn to your weak links to provide the necessary introduction to one of their own strong links. Every link in your network will possess a set of connections—and your ability to link those networks is a key to your success. 

Posted December 7, 2023