Posted by: brandextenders | December 6, 2010

The Six Degrees of Separation

Theories abound in our world about most everything you can think of from how the universe was created to the best way to cure a cold. Think Big Bang theory or Einstein’s theory of relativity. One theory that has always fascinated me though is the one know as the six degrees of separation.

Six degrees of separation

Definitions of the word theory range from “a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation” to “an unproved assumption” and the six degrees theory could fit into either of those. The concept first came about in the late 1920’s when a Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy, wrote a series of short stories, one of them titled “Chain-Links.” The characters in the story believed that any two individuals could be connected through at most five acquaintances and created a game to see if it was true. Karinthy’s theory was that the more the population grew and became connected through advances in travel and communication the smaller the social distance became. The term became iconic in 1990 when John Guare wrote a play, later to become a movie, called “The Six Degrees of Separation” which ruminates on the idea that any two people are connected by at most five others.

In 2008 Microsoft analyzed 30 billion electronic messages (so that’s who’s reading my emails!) and said the theory stands up. Those researchers agreed that on average, each of us is separated to anyone else in this world by 6.6 degrees or fewer than seven people. So theoretically we are all linked by seven or fewer people to Bill Gates, Matt Damon, Oprah, Brett Favre or the Dalai Lama.

I bring this us because many times we think, “if only I could reach (fill in the blank here) I just know I could convince them to buy from me.” With social media growing as it is now would seem to be a perfect time to prove this concept, but where to start? Here are four ways to seek out someone you want to meet:

  1. Start with people you already know. You’d be amazed by who your friends know or who their friends know and this is the best way to start your search. I was talking with a friend about a person I want to connect with and he said, “Oh, my wife’s cousin used to be his agent and I let me email them to see if they can help.” Wow, little did I know!
  2. If you aren’t already on LinkedIn, join now. There are literally tens of millions of members and if you search for someone and find them, it will tell you if someone you are connected to is in their network or if you are out of their network. Either way you can reach out to this person directly or look for others who know them and might be able to introduce you.
  3. Jigsaw is another business networking site where people post business cards of their contacts and you can do the same with your contacts and then use the points you earn to connect with others. There is also a paid membership that makes it easier to connect with less effort on your part.
  4. Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can also look for people on these and most other social media sites, but it gets back to finding someone who knows someone who knows someone and these sites might aid in your search if you simply ask. Post as your status or send a tweet and say who you are looking for and ask if anyone can help you connect. Also use the search box to look for names and see if you can find who you are looking for that way.

The ease of your search also depends a great deal on if the person is an ordinary person or some well-known figure or superstar. There are all sorts of people search engines on the web although most you will have to pay some sort of fee for the search. Your best bet is to start with the free ways listed above and move into paid search if you aren’t having any luck connecting.

Since we’re on the subject, let me ask if you perhaps might have a way for me to connect with any of these four actors: Robin Williams, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris or Tom Skerritt? I have a legitimate project I believe any of these four would be very interested in, but it’s a matter of getting to them. So if you know someone who knows someone who knows someone, etc. please let me know. And thanks, I’ll let you know if it works!

With 25 years in promotional marketing, Steve Woodburn works with clients to develop creative and measurable solutions that solve their marketing needs using promotional products, uniform programs, online company stores, point-of-sale initiatives and rewards and recognition. He builds long-term relationships and becomes a trusted advisor and consultant his clients can turn to for all their brand extension needs. You can reach him at:


  1. hello I was fortunate to seek your Topics in digg
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    • Thank you for your comments. I found the picture for the theme online, but it was not part of WordPress. Google “brands’ and look at images and you may find it.

  2. Is there anymore information you can give on this subject. It answers a lot of my questions but there is still more info I need. I will drop you an email if I can find it. Never mind I will just use the contact form. Hopefully you can help me further.

    – Robson

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