Toby Daniels: Dedicate 20% of Your Time to Supporting Your Network



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Most people know how important relationships are for their work and career. Your network is almost always your best source for referrals, advice, job opportunities, sales leads, and support. Almost everyone I talk to about their network says that they want to be more thoughtful and helpful with people, however, they have trouble making the time for it, and when they do find the time, they’re not sure where to start. 

Toby Daniels takes a methodical approach to growing his network and supporting the people within it. 

Toby is the Chief Innovation Officer at Adweek, the leading source of news and insight serving the brand marketing ecosystem. He’s also the Founder & Chair of Social Media Week, which Adweek acquired in January 2021. Prior to the acquisition, Social Media Week was owned and operated by Crowdcentric Media, which Toby led as CEO for over ten years. He’s been featured on, The NY Times, The Next Web, Huffington Post, AdWeek, PSFK and Fast Company. 

In my interview with Toby, he describes his network as “the fuel that has enabled so much of the success that I’ve had.” The pandemic showed him how important relationships are more so than any other time. 

“When we went remote, our relationships and the strength of our network were all we had”, Toby says. He managed to maintain productivity and connection and ultimately sell his company, Social Media Week, at the end of 2020. “This would never have happened if I hadn’t spent the previous two decedates intentionally investing in my network”, Toby added.

I asked Toby about the network building approach he used to start, scale, and sell Social Media Week and how he finds time for relationship building. 

Scaling and Selling a Global Events Company

Toby started Social Media Week in 2009 after a trip to Burning Man. He was inspired by the self-organization of the experience. “There are rules and philosophies but the elements of the experience are entirely unique and a product of self-organization”, Toby says. He wanted to apply that approach to an event that was industry focused. 

The first thing Toby did to get it started was bring 25 people in his network together as an advisory board. He described this group as people who were smart, successful, and well connected and were ultimately critical to the success of the business. 

The group then created a list of potential partners. These partners would host events in different cities, and help reach a broader audience to attend the events. 

Social Media Week ultimately grew to 30+ international markets in 10 years, reaching hundreds of thousands of people each year in-person, and millions of people online.

The Concentric Circles Approach to Network Building

Toby says that none of the success would have been possible without his concentric circle approach to network building. You can use this approach to growing and strengthening your own network. 

Toby explains that in the center circle, you have a “highly concentrated, small number, high degree of influence and impact people.” This inner circle then helps you meet the next circle of second degree connections, and those second degree connections can help you reach a very broad network of people in the outer circle. 

Within each circle, you communicate and engage with people in different ways, Toby says. He strives to foster connection and community and do so in a way that allows him to reach out to the next circle out. 

Finding the Time to Build Relationships

Toby is ultra focused on output and productivity, and says that the amount of time that you spend on something does not necessarily equate to a better outcome. However, he aims to spend about 20% of his professional time on his network.

Toby says that after years of doing this, it becomes a habit. He doesn’t need to schedule it. 

Toby spends this time intentionally engaging and supporting the people within the circles of his network. He’s always thinking about what connections he can make to support other people’s goals. 

“It always pays dividends in all kinds of different ways. You don’t need to expect anything in return”, he says. It just works. 

Connect with Toby on LinkedIn