The Network Favor Test - How to Choose Quality over Quantity With Your Network Connections

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Today, I sent out my first-ever newsletter.

I had been collecting emails for a while and finally got around to publishing. I had been busy with other projects, like my second book.

My newsletter is by no means one of the prominent newsletters you hear about with thousands of subscribers. It is still in its infancy. I anticipate 100 people at most will open this first edition.

That is a fraction of what is already a relatively small subscriber list compared to many newsletters.

However, I am not focused on the number of subscribers I do not have. I am focused on the subscribers I do have.

Those 100 people are people who take the time to respond to my emails, read my articles, and engage with my products.

They are my true audience.

This dialogue is a two-way street. I respond to their emails and comments, and share tips and advice wherever I can.

I get plenty out of these engagements, too. I learn about their own businesses and brand-building journeys. These people support my digital products, promote my writing work, and even collaborate with me on projects outside of social media interactions.

The point I am making is you should focus on real, genuine connections where there is a two-way value exchange instead of worrying about superficial audience metrics like subscriber counts.

Sure, a massive audience of engaged subscribers on a newsletter would be an incredible asset to have. However, the key word there is engaged, and the most important thing is building valuable connections first. Otherwise, you may end up with a big audience on paper that doesn’t provide much valuable.

The Network Favor Test

I have an exercise for assessing audience value that I like to call the “Network Favor Test.”

Rather than judging your network by follower count, judge it by the number of people you would be willing to do a favor for and the number of people who you think would return that favor.

Those people are your real network connections. They represent the core audience for your personal brand.

I am not saying you literally need to conduct this assessment for every member of your audience. However, I do think it is a good concept to reflect on as you assess your personal branding and networking efforts.

You can ask yourself questions like:

  1. Is my content receiving genuine engagement, like comments and DMs that lead to real conversations? Or is the engagement more shallow, where your posts receive likes and not much beyond that.
  2. How many people have you met through digital content creation and networking that you would consider having a zoom call with, or hanging out with in person to talk business and network?
  3. Have you ever referred someone in your network a job? Have they returned that favor?
  4. Do you buy products from members of your network? Do they buy your products, or engage with your free digital content?

These questions can help you to identify the core segment of your audience that is driving the most value for you.

Network Favor Testing My Own Audience

For example, when I published my first book, one of the best outcomes was the number of genuine conversations it sparked.

Some of those conversations have turned into strong connections. My network now includes several new marketing professionals who I meet with monthly or quarterly to talk shop about marketing strategy.

In these conversations, we bounce ideas off of each other, problem solve together, share references, and have dialogue that is equal parts enjoyable and valuable.

In one instance, I needed help thinking about how to build a new partner marketing program. My friend was working on a corporate rebrand and I had just completed one. We were able to trade tips and work examples that were immensely beneficial for both of us.

It would have been difficult for me to find a case study online for that partner marketing challenge that was so tailored to what I needed. My friend was able to share the perfect advice with a level of specificity and trust I wouldn’t find browsing online.

This anecdote demonstrates the value of building a network full of genuine relationships built on a foundation of value exchange.

Seek out other professionals in your niche and start building relationships. A simple request for a virtual coffee over a video conference call can be the start of a great friendship and invaluable professional connection.

Provide Value to Your Network First, Then Receive It

One of the most rewarding aspects of personal branding is helping others by sharing your expertise, offering mentorship, and supporting your community.

It also happens to be the best marketing strategy for building the types of relationships I outlined above, and unlocking all of the benefits you want out of your personal brand—career growth, income, audience growth, etc.

The more value you provide to your audience, the more likely they are to reciprocate at some point by buying one of your side hustle products, providing a job opportunity, or offering help on a professional challenge of your own.

This is the central message of Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. The book uses a boxing analogy to suggest that people should “jab,” or provide free value, several times before making an ask of their audience in the form of a big punch, or “right hook.”

Eve Arnold, a prolific writer and entrepreneur whom I admire, characterized this strategy by saying:

“You are paying for future you to get paid.”

She is suggesting that by investing time in creating free content now and building an audience, you are setting yourself up to receive that value back later.

Put value out into the world in the form of the content you create and the way you engage your audience, and see what comes back to you.

Final Thoughts on Value-Based Networking

In a world where digital interactions are happening constantly, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle and to feel like you are going through the motions of superficial engagement.

A way to cut through that noise is to zoom in, and focus on building a small number of genuine connections in your networking efforts. These connections will represent the 20% of the “80/20 rule” that provides the most value in terms of supporting your career and personal growth.

And if you ever need to consider how your networking efforts are going, just ask yourself who you might be able to ask a favor of.

To start your brand building journey, get my Brand Credential newsletter, or join 20,000+ readers on my marketing and personal branding blog,

About the Author

Hi, I'm Justin and I write Brand Credential.

I started Brand Credential as a resource to help share expertise from my 10-year brand building journey.

I currently serve as the VP of Marketing for a tech company where I oversee all go-to-market functions. Throughout my career I've helped companies scale revenue to millions of dollars, helped executives build personal brands, and created hundreds of pieces of content since starting to write online in 2012.

As always, thank you so much for reading. If you’d like more personal branding and marketing tips, here are more ways I can help in the meantime:

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