Social network analysis (SNA) is a method of visualizing social media activity, using network and graph theories. Basically, nodes are graphed in visual relation to each other, representing social media activity such as shares, likes (plus ones, favorites etc.) and comments. We can then apply various calculations to this information, and begin to see important social media activity such as:
- social media activity connected – Simple graph order
- gravity applied to activity – Weighted graph order
- influencer and engager activity – Degree Centrality graph order
- influencer activity – In Degree graph order
- Engager activity – Out Degree graph order
Each of these views on social network activity, help to build a story out of the activity being graphed. From these stories, we can begin to understand the activity in increasingly meaningful ways, and can connect with this activity in increasingly targeted ways.
What are the benefits of social network analysis to business?
Most businesses recognize the need to be active on social media, but many are failing, because they don’t understand it. Social network analysis, helps bring real world numbers, to an otherwise unintelligible mass of data. What was the reach of your most recent social media campaign? Do you understand how much engagement your social posts are getting? Do you understand the difference between vanity metrics, and engagement metrics? These are the types of questions businesses should be asking themselves, and these are the types of questions a business should be getting answers to.
By using social network analysis, you will be able to target your social activity, to those people who genuinely share interests with you. You’ll quickly see where the important social conversations are happening, around the topics which are important to you. Use this information to develop genuine relationships and an engaged audience.
Before beginning a new social media campaign, SNA can help you understand your audience and their preferences in meaningful ways, so that you can craft content which will resonate. Here are some examples of information which will help your campaigns resonate:
- see which words people use most frequently in connection to a topic
- see the top hashtags associated with a topic
- see the top days and times the topic is receiving the highest levels of activity
- find and connect with influencers and engagers within your topic
With social media campaigns, companies are able to reach highly targeted audiences in real time, and with social network analysis you will fully understand the impact of these campaigns. For example, you will be able to see exactly how many impressions your campaign generated.
By better understanding and quantifying social media activity, businesses are much closer to understanding their return on investment (ROI) from social activity. Make no mistake, social network analysis will help you perform better in the right ways on social media, but you will have to be running conversion optimization and goal tracking to complete the picture for ROI.
Can the average small business perform social network analysis?
Yes, using commercially available tools, which connect to the data provided by social networks, small businesses can access big data and make sense out of it. NOD3x is probably the best example of an available tool, with highly developed social network analysis features. The graph orders, mentioned at the beginning of this article, are taken directly from NOD3x and a breakdown of these perspectives is in order.
Simple graph order, basically displays all the activity surrounding a topic, without any formula applied to it. What you’ll see are blue, orange, green and purple nodes or dots, connected by lines. Each color dot, represents a different social activity, like this:
- blue – original post
- orange – plus one, like, favorite etc.
- green – re-share of a post
- purple – comment on a post
Weighted graph order, represents the social activity collected with a kind of gravity applied. Nodes with more connected edges (more connected activity), will appear larger and more central on the graph. The less connected nodes will be smaller and pushed towards the outside of the circular graph.
Degree Centrality graph order, combines two views (in degree and out degree) into one view. Organizing the graph in this way, shows you both influencers and engagers at the same time. This gives you a sense of who is most connected with a given topic, and a sense of how much influencer and engager activity there is surrounding the topic.
In Degree graph order, shows you those people who are influential within a graph (topic space). With In Degree, you see those nodes which are receiving the most activity, so those posts which are receiving the most plus ones, likes, comments, re-shares etc. These are the posts and people, which are seen as having the most influence by the broader community of social participants.
Out Degree graph order, highlights the people which are giving the most activity, and are considered to be the engagers withing the graph. By plus oneing, liking, sharing, commenting etc. the most, these people are the most engaged within the topic space.
Social network analysis elevates social media to a level where businesses can intelligently engage, and more fully reap the benefits of, this rapidly developing sector.