The Power of Weak Ties: Tips on How to Become “The Connector”

Dec 1, 2021

The saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know” holds substantial weight, especially in the entrepreneurial arena. In the book, The Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell describes the connector as someone who knows a lot of people in the community and is able to bring people from different worlds together. Connectors are able to make things happen because of their access to their vast network of people and ideas.

Whether you are a founder, investor, entrepreneurial support organization, or anyone else in the ecosystem, the ability to provide value by knowing the right person is immense. It can be for a startup looking for a pivotal hire, a venture capital firm searching for the next unicorn, an organization requiring a partnership for a large event, or any other circumstance involving time, money, and opportunity.

So, what exactly is the strength of weak ties and how does it relate? In 1973, Stanford sociology Professor Granovetter published a paper titled “The Strength of Weak Ties”. With ~63,000 citations on Google Scholar (November, 2021), his paper is considered one of the most influential pieces in social science. In his paper, he talked about social networks and explored the impact of different types of connections (strong & weak) on job opportunities. When he surveyed 282 workers, he found that 84% got their job through weak-tie relationships. Why was that? With strong ties, they are wanting to help but the majority of them are filled with people similar to you. So, being able to meet with people from different walks of life while maintaining strong ties can pay dividends.

How can someone become a better connector? Below are some tips on how to expand your connections.


1.     Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Going out to events in the community to meet strangers can be an uncomfortable experience. Not a lot of people enjoy throwing themselves out there because it makes them feel vulnerable. However, having the confidence to strike up a conversation is powerful in building connections. To add, being comfortable with being uncomfortable will benefit more than just someone’s social life. Be confident, smile, and introduce yourself!

2.     Be Curious & Listen

When talking with the majority of people, talking about only yourself can be off-putting. When meeting with new people, look to ask thoughtful questions and be an active listener to build connections. There is a reason why we have two ears and one mouth! Learn about their likes, dislikes, and ideas to better navigate the conversation. You never know when you will hear valuable information.

3.     Reconnect

Even though establishing a connection is a pivotal step in building connections, being able to maintain and build those connections are important as well. If you come across as a person who is out and about just to connect and benefit themselves, that can also be off-putting. Make sure to check-in intermittently with connections, both old and new. That can be as simple as a text or a meet up for coffee.

4.     Practice

Just like with anything else, practice makes practice. Just because someone is not a natural extrovert does not mean they cannot be a successful connector. Practicing the above steps will help in making connections more natural over time. Even though the process may not be smooth, stay persistent and have a good attitude!