Breaking down your network to understand its nature is no easy feat. Even the best “networkers” labor over their relationships to identify opportunities for those with whom they communicate. Studies show there is even a nexus point between effectively maintaining relationships within one’s network and the size of that network.
These studies, most commonly know as Dunbar's number, point to an maximum network volume around 150 contacts. This means that a person is capable of managing up to 150 relationships within their lives before their ability to maintain those relationships begins to deteriorate.
For those of us who grew up without cell phones or computers this number may even seem pretty large. But imagine how this trend has changed over the past few decades. Factor in cell phones, email, social networks and instant messaging and most of us know immediately that our networks expand well beyond 150 people.
Wanting to know more about the nature of Spoke members’ networks, we sent out a short survey asking them to tell us about theirs. What we heard back was very interesting, so we wanted to share some of those results with you:
* 79% of the respondents have more than 100 contacts in their network
* Over half of the respondents have more than 500 contacts in their network
* 1/3 of respondents estimate they are missing 50% or more of the contact information for their network
* Instant Message is the preferred mode of contact for networks of 0-10, for 11-25 its phone, for 26-500 it’s email and for 500+ its social networks
* 55% of respondents have a client-based tool from an online professional network
These statistics point to the theory that our ability to support relationships is being expanded through the use of social aides. And just as is expected without the aid of technology, the data points to the theory that the smaller the network, the more direct communication is shared between those in the network – hence the smaller the group with whom you communicate, the more direct access the social aide must provide to its users. For example, colleagues may need immediate information in small bits, so a tool like an Instant Messager is most appropriate, while tools like Social Networks become more effective at keeping up with your network when it grows beyond the Dunbar number of 150 contacts.
Of those surveyed, most have what can be considered as a large network and over half have one that is 3 times the size of Dunbar’s number. Of those surveyed, 55% say they downloaded some type of client-based tool from an online professional network. That means they have some type of widget, toolbar, or offline tool offered by the professional network to help the member get more benefit from the network.
Put all this data together and you get a case for the need of social aides to reach beyond our natural abilities to maintain our networks while still be effective. The market shows people understand this opportunity because they are using these tools and more are being developed every day. The question is, which is the best tool for the right job?