Social Ties and Employment: Best Friends or Acquaintances?

courtesy of Seventeen.com

courtesy of Seventeen.com

A friend of mine was able to get startup funding to the tune of $1M by responding to a simple Tweet from Richard Branson.

One. Million. Dollars.

She then went on to run her company and recently was acquired for a pretty good sum of money..all before she was able to drink. This isn’t necessarily employment, but in terms of financial gain, it seems that social media can potentially be a fantastic medium for networking, where “who you know” is changed into “who you follow and what you have to offer”. A single Tweet can get you $1M in funding. Now, she did have to go in person to pitch her idea to Branson, but the door was opened for her through Twitter. There isn’t any other media that can give you access to Venture Capitalists or CEOs of companies in a transparent way.

(If you don’t believe me, here’s a write up from Business Insider)

I want to explore what is being said about whether or not acquaintances, either friends of a friend or people you follow on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram or close friends are more likely to help you find a job, or really whatever it is you’re looking for at the time.

Latent Ties

weak-ties

We discussed in class the power of latent ties which are social connections that are “technically possible but not yet activated socially [and] are only activated by some sort of interaction between members”(Haythornthwaite, 137). These are basically ties waiting to be connected with you, which have obviously been more common with the advent of social networking. These latent ties have the potential to become weak to strong ties depending on when they’re activated. We have a vast amount of latent ties from all of our social media networking accounts, so what should we do with them?

The Value in Weak Ties

According to the study done around forty years ago by Mark Granovetter, called “The Strength of Weak Ties” he argues that weak ties are where most people find jobs and employment opportunities(Tanner, Forbes). So is it better or more effective to reach out to acquaintances?

One article from Wired Magazine by Clive Thompson called “Your Casual Acquaintances on Twitter are Better Than Your Close Friends on Facebook” seems to argue that casual acquaintances are much better for job hunting. The reason being is that your friends are “too similar” and are usually on the same level as you. Thompson even points out how Facebook curates the content based on what “you most pay attention to” so you’re more likely to “hear more and more often from the same small set of people”(Thompson, Wired). He points to the “principle of homophily” where we are drawn to “people who mirror us” because it makes it “easy to bond” but also means we all have access to the same type of information.

The case for weak ties is that weak ties are “rich conduits of information” that are otherwise inaccessible to those who only hang out and keep in touch with their close friends. What it boils down to is access to new types of information from people in different areas, so does this mean that to be successful or get a job, the more weak ties you have, the better? Maybe. But what about say having strong ties with someone who has a lot of weaker ties? Would it be better to what if we could bypass having to create one’s own network all together?

Thompson does provide a disclaimer in saying that a valuable network of weak ties “doesn’t happen on its own” so keeping those latent ties weak or strong are a crucial part to being able to utilize them.(Thompson)

A critique for Thompson’s argument though is that Twitter, while it doesn’t curate content as selectively as Facebook, has a ton of information to sift to. I know in my Twitter feed there’s a least 40-50 new tweets every couple of seconds, and it would be impractical to try and get through all of them. With that medium it would be tough to manage, unless you have say a spreadsheet or a schedule to keep in contact with all of your weak ties. I have found in my own experience that building relationships is better on Twitter than on Facebook, but at the end of the day, with the limits of both social media platforms in terms of how people interact, they are different in terms of how they handle information, so it doesn’t seem like a fair comparison.

Also, how do we define an “acquaintance” vs a “close” friend on both Twitter and Facebook? Is it amount of interaction between the two people along with time they’ve known each other or how many mutual friends? It’s hard to draw the line between “close” and “sorta close” and “omg who is this” people in one’s social network.

The Case for Strong Tiesties

Adam Tanner, a contributor at Forbes.com, recently published an article called “Your Best Friends Are Still Your Best Way To Get A New Job” and flat out said that Mark Granovetter “is wrong” according to a “new piece of research” which claims that “good friends are the best way to find a job”(Tanner, Forbes). This study was done after reviewing “millions of U.S. Facebook users” and the patterns that were found amongst that data set(Tanner, Forbes). Of course, this highlights a difference between, as Tanner puts it, “in-depth interviews of a small sample” vs “inferred insights from big data about millions of people”(Tanner).

I wasn’t able to find access to that study because it came out two days ago, but it’s interesting to see the big data set vs the small data set, and it’s important to find connections and differences between those two to get a clearer picture. However, while it’s inconclusive, it’s safe to say that strong ties are also something one should cultivate.

While this post attempts to compare strong vs weak ties and their effectiveness to job search, at the end of the day, both articles seem to point out that both strong and weak ties are effective, and both are well worth doing.  As Thompson said in his article, “mindfulness” is key to filtering the useful vs useless ties, regardless of how strong, weak, or latent they are. There’s value in both strong and weak ties, it just a matter of how you use it and what purpose they serve to you(or you to them). They are both relationships that require work and maintenance, with the possibility of great consequences if nurtured fruitfully.

What would be best, in my opinion, would be to really understand what you’re networking for and why you want to keep strong and weak ties with specific people in the first place. Too many people network just for networking’s sake, but you want to figure out what it is you want and who can help you get it, along with helping people connect along the way. What do those people bring to the table for you and your life? It might not be a million bucks, but they could help you in a million other ways.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s