Socially, your clients are pretty predictable. We all are.

We spend 90% of our time at one of three places: work (or school); home; and a ‘third place,’ which satisfies our need for recreation, community, and hobby. Ideally, the three work together and complement one another.

Thirty years ago, the ‘third place’ may have been Church. Worship services filled the need for social interaction, a common purpose, and enlightenment. Today, many social introverts turn to Facebook or Pinterest for the same. What really lights people up, though, is when they can reaffirm their position in a group through sharing common interest in their mutual ‘third place.’ This is why scrapbooking blew up: it wasn’t about the expensive paper. This is why WeightWatchers just. won’t. die. This is why Billy Graham can still ask your parents for money every month, even post-prison.

The ‘Third Place’ theory is propagated most famously by Ray Oldenburg.

Within these three places lie 90% of the people with whom your members interact on a given day. We’ll call these groups of people ‘Social Bubbles,’ and they are influenced by – and, in turn, influence – the others within those social ‘bubbles.’ When Sally leaves the house each morning, she says, “After work, I’m going to the gym and then I’ll be home. Can you pick up bacon today? We keep running out!” Her spouse wonders, again, why she gets SO excited about this box¬†stuff…that’s Bubble #1.

At work, Sally always returns from the Noon Group looking a bit less ‘put together’ than when she left. There are jokes that she’s having an affair, because she’s always flush and excited, she’s also happier in the afternoon, and she’s always showing off her ‘guns’ at the water fountain. She’s more decisive, and people have noticed. The men seem a little scared to take her up on the offer to ‘come with,’ but Jill in the secretarial pool….well, she’s listening intently. Jill is in Bubble #2.

When Sally goes to her box, it just might fill the same role that Church does for others: the community, the selflessness, the common giving. It’s reinforcing on many levels deeper than just the sweaty ones. Those people make up Bubble #3, and we’d like to swell their ranks.

The people closest to Sally are the ones most likely to be influenced by her. THEY are your next clients…not the guy who sees your 75% off ‘trial’ advertisement. They will see Sally every day; she will ask them what they’re eating for lunch. She will ask them what they thought of 12.2. They will have an answer for her, and the connection reinforces itself.

Occasionally, a new Sally will come along, who belongs to a Social Bubble with a high affinity for OUR bubble. Sally will belong to a running group, or a weight-loss challenge at work, or a ‘boot camp’ on Thursday mornings in the park. These are the best bubbles, and should be handled with the most care.

A final thought: Bubbles are fragile. They’re naturally drawn to one another through their intrinsic charge, but push them hard, and they pop. Be patient.

This article was written by Chris Cooper.

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