Paul Adams has an outline for exactly how people share content online, and how business leaders can capitalize on it. His biggest insight comes in the form of Strong ties and Weak ties. Understanding the difference between the two is essential so that you can center your campaign around strong tries and find success in your social media efforts.
Someone who has many friends or many followers doesn’t tell us if they influence other people to buy products or services - which is what we are interested in as business owners. There is an enormous difference between strong ties and loose ties. By looking at how relationships are structured, we can determine the difference between strong and loose ties.
Our strongest ties are the 5 or so people we would consider our “inner circle”. These are the people we communicate with regularly. The next ring contains the 15 or so people who we would say we are very close with. The next ring contains about 50 people who we communicate with semi-regularly. This is where Casual friends and acquaintances would fit. The next ring out contains the 150 people you can maintain a stable social relationship with. Lastly, we have 500 weak ties, who are people you loosely know and can recognize.
Before social media, most of our strong ties were with our family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. That makes sense, these are the people we see and interact with every day. These are also the people we know the best and thus turn to most often for recommendations. Adams's findings suggest that this remains true throughout the social media age. We are not using social media to find new strong ties, but instead, we are using social media to strengthen our ties with the people we are already closest with.
Although we communicate most often with our strong ties, we also communicate with our weak ties from time to time. When we do, it’s usually because of common interests. There are some things that weak ties are useful for. For instance, weak ties can be a better source of information than strong ties and can lead us to insights or discoveries that we might not have otherwise made. However, we don’t always know if we can trust our weak ties for information. Therefore we must know that they are qualified to speak on certain things to trust them.
We are disproportionately influenced by the people we are closest to emotionally. Research firms found that people are three to four times as likely to trust a friend or acquaintance than a blogger or expert for product purchase advice. When people are looking for information, they look to their strong ties first. They trust their strong ties and will often go with their advice over weak ties with more expertise. Therefore, as a business, you should be building your campaigns around strong ties rather than weak ties. One way to do this is to aim for your product to be spread between close friends and family members. if you do this correctly, you don’t need to focus on exactly how your product will spread, strong ties will spread it for you.