From pushing Twitter’s CEO to change the company’s service to convincing Donald Trump to release a 63-year old from prison, the reality star’s antics stand testament to the power of strong networks. And there’s a lot founders can learn from her
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Whether she’s breaking the internet with raunchy nudes or flaunting her family’s exploits on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim Kardashian West makes headlines wherever she goes. However, looking beyond the glamour of her jet-set lifestyle, it’s clear entrepreneurs can pick up a few tricks from Kimmie’s considerable networking chops.
It should hardly surprise anyone that Kardashian is no stranger to rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Indeed, her ability to navigate among other celebrities was immortalised in the 2014 video game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood in which the player could rise through the ranks by going from being an E-list star to jumping up to the A-list. Having skilfully leveraged her fame through Instagram selfies and media stunts, Kim K has reportedly accumulated $45.5m in earnings.
More recently, Kardashian has used her networking skills to convince Donald Trump to grant clemency to Alice Johnson, who had been serving a life sentence for a one-time non-violent drug charge since 1996. Moreover, in early June it was reported that she’d taken the opportunity at her husband’s birthday party to encourage Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter, to enable users to edit their tweets. Fittingly, she didn’t rest on her laurels to tell her 60 million Twitter followers about the conversation.
Clearly, startup founders can benefit from looking closely at the reality TV star. “Short of releasing one's sex tape – with or without Ray J – entrepreneurs and investors can take quite a few pages from Kardashian's shameless self-promotion book,” said Igor Shoifot, founding partner at TMT Investments, the VC firm.
Recognising that your success is not always determined by who you are but who you know is something most entrepreneurs already understand. Indeed, 78% believe informal networks will be important or very important to scale their business over the next three years, according to research from The Economist Intelligence, the researching unit of The Economist Group. “Some business owners have built multi-million pound businesses on the back of being good at networking – especially in industries where it is very competitive – because people buy from people,” said Jonathan Hamilton a networking expert and director of BNI Networking, the business networking referral organisation, speaking with us. “These meaningful [and] strong relationships are what leads to more valuable introductions and financial opportunities.”
And if you’re serious about growing your network, then the takeaway of the globetrotting socialite is that you can’t afford to rush the growth of your network and to be relentless. “Kim Kardashian does not take no for an answer,” said Emma-Jane Packe, managing director at The Supper Club, the entrepreneur network for scaleup founders. “She is patient and resourceful when attempting to either deepen her influence, change someone’s mind or push an issue. These skills are the fundamental requirements of any good networker. She is unafraid to take rejection, prepared to reassess her approach for different audiences. Crucially, she never, ever gives up. She has a shrewd understanding of what makes her unique and knows that gives her licence to make the right contacts. Finally, and most importantly, she gives back to her network: she returns favours and speaks highly of her contacts.”
Another important factor in Kardashian’s aptitude of growing her network and influence is her use of social media. “Kim and her team have developed an acute understanding of what content is going to sing with her existing followers – that which is contagious enough to drive shares and advocacy,” said Packe. Speaking exclusively to Elite Business, she argued that mimicking Kardashian’s ability to leverage social media could enabled entrepreneurs to prove themselves as thought leaders in their fields and inject some personality into what otherwise risk becoming extremely dry corporate messages. “Overall showing the human side of your business is crucial, of course, in the long run, but don’t expect immediate results,” explained Packe.
However, while Kardashian’s success may have inspired you to grow your network, Chris Newlands, CEO of talkholiday, the travel social network, warned startup leaders to not rush in without a clear strategy. “[Research], target and tailor your approach to the audience who share your values and can advise and support you on your journey,” he said. Everything else is a waste of time.
Given the success of Kardashian, it’s safe to say you should take every opportunity you can to share a few drinks with investors and other founders. Although, we’d advise you to stop short of emulating her ability of balancing a champagne glass on her badonkadonk. Although, on second thought, it would leave a lasting impression.