Update from the author: we’ve updated the information and details about the steps in growing your social circle to be current for 2023.
Knowing how to grow your social circle is the key to a number of benefits. Having a wide and diverse set of personal relationships helps with well-being, self-expression, and can bring powerful opportunities for both personal and professional advancement.
Social connections are one of the major components of well-being, but in today's digital age it’s harder and harder to make friends. Work and life always seem to get in the way. Learning how to intentionally expand your friend circle and how to diversify your friend group is more important than ever.
If you’re struggling to find and keep connections, or you just want to know where to start, we’ve got you covered. This ten-step guide to social networking covers everything from planning to execution and is followed up with a few tips on how to make your new connections last. Let’s get started!
Ten Tips on How to Grow your Social Circle and How to Diversify your Friend Group
There are two areas to focus on when you’re looking for a richer social circle. Of course, the size is one of them, and finding more people to build your friend group up is a major part of it, but to really gather the benefits of a rich and diverse social network, you need to focus on different types of people.
These diverse viewpoints will be what help you grow as a person and benefit from all the positive effects we talked about in the previous section. With that in mind, here are ten steps to growing and diversifying your social circle:
1. Set goals – If finding new and interesting friends was something that happened as a natural by-product of your daily activities, you wouldn’t be here. That means you’re going to have to make some changes and plan your approaches. Before you do that, you need to have a think about what your goals are.
Knowing exactly what you want will help you figure out exactly how to expand your friend circle, so lay out your goals, either on paper or at least in your head, before you choose a specific path. Are you looking for recreational activities? Professional growth? Or do you want to learn new things, like how to communicate better, or the inner workings of demographics you have little experience with.
Knowing why you want to learn how to grow your social circle should be the very first part of achieving it in the way you want. Without real goals, you can still follow the rest of these steps, but your efforts won’t be targeted, and this may or may not result in a network that benefits you personally.
Having said that, goals don’t have to be set in stone, or even very specific. Growing your network can be a positive exercise for its own sake. It could be that you simply want to be more outgoing and have more people to talk to, and that’s fine. The key to the first step is simply to have an idea so that you can start planning.
2. Plan your approache – Now that you know whom you’re looking for, you can start to narrow in on where and how to find them. If you’re looking for people with specific interests, social media has plenty of ways to create or join groups and get involved.
If you are looking for people who might give you professional opportunities, consider where you would find them. Perhaps you’ll plan to set up a new LinkedIn profile or attend networking events. Maybe you’ll be planning to use a different approach each week to really diversify your contacts.
When you know whom you’re looking for, you should find it easy to figure out where they’ll be looking, and plan to approach them there. Once you’re ready with these plans, you’re almost set. One thing to consider when planning, however, is how long you have to spend on these approaches.
3. Set a time budget – It’s no good planning to attend all these events if you’re not going to be able to take the time to do it. Factor in your schedule, how much time you’ve got, and whether you can sacrifice time from other things to dedicate to your networking efforts.
If you look at some recommendations, at least for professional networking, you’ll find suggestions of dedicating between 8 and 10 hours a week to the practice. You may have more or less time available to you, but it’s important to figure out how much you’ve got, so you know whether your plans are feasible.
In some cases, you’ll be able to increase your social circle from simply adding some socializing to some of your current activities. In others, you’ll have to seek out the activities that facilitate more connections. If you’re on a strict time budget, consider the former!
You’ll have to think ahead though, and realize that some of this time will be spent maintaining the connections you make; not all of your time budget can be spent on finding new people if it leaves you with no time to look after the ones you’ve got.
4. Strengthen your current connections – Before spending resources on finding new people, perhaps there are connections you’ve already made that you can begin with. Using what you’ve gathered from your goals and planning, look into how to filter your contact list and partition your connections.
You may find that your most available source of new friends is right there in front of you already, and all it takes is to strengthen these connections to build your social circle. However, there are other benefits to your diversification and expansion efforts that come from reaching out to the people you’ve already got.
First, you’ll be in a much better position to benefit from their network. Getting closer to your contacts can be a means to get closer to their contacts too, and be offered introductions to people through them. This will naturally increase your social circle quickly, and you may not even have to leave the house.
Secondly, building on current relationships is a good way to get some social experience that will come in handy later on. This leads us to the next step:
5. Practice – By booking a lunch date with your current contacts to catch up and cultivate a stronger relationship, you’re getting valuable practice in building your group. Setting outreach goals, such as checking up on the outcome of their recent job application, or asking how the holiday went, is all part of the networking game, and the best people to practice this with are the people who already know you.
This way, you can get a feel for what it’s like to network, with a relatively low risk of messing it up. So, network with those you already know, first to build your skills up in a safe environment.
There are other things to practice, too. If you’re socially nervous, you’ll benefit from going to public speaking events and getting used to working with that anxiety. If you are comfortable, but not very good at other social skills like remembering names, you can practice that at home, in the supermarket, or anywhere else in your daily life to improve on the necessary skills you’ll lean on when expanding your friends group.
Not all practice has to be done before you get started. It’s important to consider the entire networking and socializing process as a practice in itself; something which you will improve at over time. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel like you’re not ready – getting out there and doing it is the best practice of all. Which leads us neatly to the next step:
6. Go outside – Now it’s finally time to actually get out there and put your plans into action. If you’ve followed the previous steps, you know whom you’re looking for, where they are, and how to get them interested in you.
So, go ahead. You may be going to specific meet-ups, or just hanging around in cafes and chatting with people in line for a coffee. Whatever it is, make sure you take the leap and begin the journey.
Personal connections are a lot better when made in person, so even if most of your approach is focused on online networking, try to fit in as much real-life, face-to-face networking time as possible. Your primary task is to create value for the people you meet, and that’s usually a lot easier in person.
Most importantly, no amount of planning is going to build your network. Put in the hours, and get the work done. If you are nervous, or struggling with the idea of rejection or making a fool of yourself, understand that this is part of the process, and consider using coping strategies such as counting the rejections as opportunities to learn.
7. Contribute – On that note, here’s the key to making friends. This value addition should be the primary focus of each interaction. It doesn’t have to be huge; even asking someone about their day is a positive experience that can add value. The point of this is to express yourself in a giving manner, building trust and transparency among your social circle.
When you’re known as someone who continually adds value to people’s lives, your reputation will precede you, and you’ll be considered as a valued friend and connection. There are so many ways to do this, but fundamentally, you need to be giving more than you take.
This means, don’t contact people only when you want something. Try offering your input where it’s welcome, and consider connecting people to others who might be valuable to them. This is a great trick to forming long-lasting, meaningful relationships.
8. Use apps – If the coffee line or the dog park isn’t populating your friends list as quickly as have has hoped, there are much faster ways to increase your numbers. Apps and social media platforms are great for the quantity side of the equation, so make use of them. For romantic relationships, there are dating apps, but many of these and similar can be used for making friends too.
Apps like Meetup and Bumble BFF create spaces where people looking for friends can meet, and they offer great filters that you can use to find like-minded people, or find more diverse and different people to learn new things from.
Apps and social media are great ways to get in and get involved, and they offer numerous opportunities to add value in the form of knowledge and connection, but there are some serious limitations when it comes to the quality side of the equation.
While some connections can be deep and meaningful when made and maintained exclusively online, most people find that the memorable and significant connections they have, need to be maintained at least to some degree with real-life meetups. So again, where possible, touch up your connections with face-to-face meetings.
9. Join groups – Groups are how you choose how different your contacts will be. There are so many ways to find friends outside that aren’t forced and manufactured networking events. Joining a cycling group can be a great way to organically connect with people around a shared medium. Joining a board games group can be similar, in that the focus is on what you’re doing, not on making friends. This can take the pressure off to be particularly sociable.
Online, joining groups, or creating them yourself, is a great way to share and benefit from knowledge. It’s also a good way to build a reputation as someone who contributes continually and reach more people in a shorter time.
Whether online or outside, joining groups allows you to set your diversity targets. Are you looking for people who are into your things, or are you looking for new things to get into? Groups allow you to make friends from within or outside of your comfort zone, and this is the best tip on how to diversify your friend group.
10. Follow up – Finally, the way you keep your connections warm and stay present in their lives is one of the most important parts of finding and keeping new friends. Whatever your time budget, approach, and skillset, you will be wasting all your resources if you neglect the people you spent all the time and energy finding them in the first place.
Learning how to push relationships to the next level when appropriate comes with time and practice, but the first step to succeeding in this is to follow up on the connections you make. From there, we have a few more tips relating to how to manage these connections.
Learning How to Diversify your Friends Group Involves Practicing Contact Management
With so many new people and so many different perspectives, you might think you have to be a social chameleon to keep up with them. But managing a vast and diverse network of friends doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It does, however, take some level of organization.
Using a contact relationships manager, or CRM is a great way to keep up with your network and keep you on the path to nurturing and building connections. A CRM basically keeps all of your contacts in the same place and can categorize them by useful labels or status. From within the platform, you’ll be able to see when and how you last connected, and whether it’s a good time to reach out and boost that connection.
Dex offers these features and allows you to set alerts based on how long it’s been since you last contacted each individual. It also shows you where you left off, so you can continue the conversation and not forget important details like birthdays or holidays. Dex brings together your LinkedIn and email contacts so you can keep in touch with everyone in the same place.
Using a CRM is a great way to manage the contacts you’ll be getting when you follow these tips and can make the difference between knowing how to grow your social circle and knowing how to keep it populated with strong friendships. Dex is specifically designed for these personal relationships and can help you build stronger connections naturally.
Being around friends and having a meaningful social network brings with it countless benefits to health and well-being, as well as practical opportunities to learn and progress in life. Relationships are important, both for personal and professional fufillment.
As we age, it gets harder and harder to find the right time and environment to make and keep friends. If you’re in this position and trying to figure out how to expand your friend circle, these tips should help.
For many, it’s just a fact of life that making and keeping friends needs to be planned and structured. But when you understand this necessity and work with it, you'll quickly adapt and make time for the people that matter.
Building your network of friends can be broken into three stages: Planning, execution, and following up. Figure out how to work on each of the three stages in your schedule, and you'll soon be making the fulfilling connections that matter to you.