I had an encounter the other day on the London Tube.
A couple of people walked up to me and asked “Can we take a picture with you? We’ve been given an assignment to photograph ourselves with random strangers”
That got me thinking.
On the face of it, yes, we were random strangers to one another, but were we really? If I tracked these people down on social media and connected with them, there’s actually a good chance we’d turn out to have mutual friends, or at least mutual friends-of-friends.
How much of a random stranger is anyone these days?
Six Degrees of Separation
The concept of six degrees of separation, popularised by the film of the same name, suggests that you can link any person in the world to any other person by six stages of friendship, family connection or some other kind of association. Even if the exact statistics don’t bear close examination, the principle holds good.
This was proposed in the pre-internet world, when opportunities for connection were far sparser than they are now.
Online social media has created a connected world like a complex tapestry covering the globe. The people sharing a traffic jam with you, or sitting in the same train carriage or plane, may all seem to be random strangers, but the chances are that you have online connections with a surprising number of them.
Social media is almost as old as the internet, starting in forms like small newsgroups, where people could discuss mutual interests. Since the early 2000s, it’s taken off to the extent that Facebook is now estimated to have over 1.18 billion active users.
LinkedIn is smaller, with around 400 million members, but it’s far more business oriented — not the place to see pictures of cute cats, but perfect to connect up with the global business community.
All the major social media platforms (and many of the minor ones) have their place in connecting to people who could be useful to you.
Facebook may be better if you’re trying to get the attention of the general public, and LinkedIn if you’re selling to business, but both have value for any business, along with others such as Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
On any of these platforms, you may have many contacts you’ve never met physically, but that’s only the start.
Once your contacts start sharing your content with their contacts, and perhaps some of those share with their contacts, you never know who your message might reach.
It may even reach some ‘random strangers’ you meet on the Tube.