Back in 2011 I read a book by Paul Adams called 'Grouped: How small groups of friends are the key to influence on the social web'. My takeaway from the book was that in our networks not all people are equal. This is kind of obvious but what was of particluarly of interest to me was the numbers he quoted as they made sense.
Adams says that we have 5 very close friends (a bit like Ross has Rachel, Pheobe, Joey, Monica and Chandler in TV show Friends). These are the most important folk in your life - any key decision you are going to chat with them about it. Next is close friends (but not your best). Adams says we have 15 of these. Then it goes to friendship group that tops out at 50. The next layer is 150 (friends and associates) and finally, we top out at about 500 people we know (notice who they go up in increments of 3x). These people can come from different areas of our lives. In the diagram below from Adam's book, he has divided these out in Family, Uni, Chicago and Football.
The way this was explained to me is a little morbid :)
If I die:
- My 5 closest people would be those carrying my coffin
- 15 are at the funeral having a good cry
- 45 have come to the funeral and will be at the wake for a feed and a beer
- My 150 would know the funeral is on and where it is
- Finally, the 500 would know I am dead!
What has this got to do with B2B and making a dollar?
Our business lives reflect our personal lives. We have small numbers of people who are close to us. People from different areas of our business lives - key colleagues, clients, partners and allies. These are the people that support us, trust us and are really interested in our opinions. The point is that the important part of our networks are often small. If we look after them they will look after us. Importantly they are the most likely people to recommend and refer us.
When it comes to writing content I think about these groups. I write for the group of 50. I can picture now who in my close network this post will hopefully be of interest to. I am hoping they get something from it and will share this post with their network.
For the 5-15 group, I will be sending those closest to me an individual note with a link to this post to help nurture my relationship with them. I know that this is a great way for me to help leverage this post to drive my business.
What I find really helpful here is to work out where to spend my time. We often go searching to increase the 500 when actually what we need to do is look after those closest to us (after all I don't want them to drop the coffin :)
Dunbar’s research led to the concept of “Dunbar’s layers,” where the emotional closeness between individuals was taken into account. This meant that your relationships looked more like layers instead of a cloud of 150 people. The closest layer has three to five people, the next layer has 15 people, then 50, and so on. That inner layer is what makes up your “vital friendships,” or your inner circle of close friends. These are people that you should have in your life to meet up with regularly, talk about personal matters, and maintain a strong emotional connection. In the show Friends, each main character—Ross, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Monica, and Chandler—these five people in their life, making it a pretty decent model to follow on a biological and sociological level.