September 2010 Archives

sna-map.jpgSocial network analysis has been a part of social media analysis (not the same thing) for a long time, but it hasn't been central to the social media discussion lately. Mostly, SNA shows up in the form of link analysis, which is used to identify online communities and influencers. A recent conversation on intelligence applications of social media data got me thinking about how much more could be done with the many expressions of connections online.

Looking for less obvious connections
Link analysis is relatively easy work, since the data you're looking for is helpfully encoded in HTML. Follow the link, map the connection, and continue. But think about all of the other connection data that is being generated, and how it could be used to map social networks or model influence in the real world:

  • Explicit social graph data
    Sometimes we make it easy, by making our connections on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn visible to the world.

  • Follower/following
    Twitter follow connections are probably weaker than other social network connections, but these connections are mostly public. Asymmetrical follow tells you something different about the relationship.

  • @replies
    Probably weaker than a social network connection, but stronger than a follow. @replies indicate some level of active connection (which may be one-way).

  • References in text
    A mention of an article or book may not include a link that a crawler could follow, but it's still a citation.

  • Mentions in text
    References to people, organizations, and topics within the text of a post. The text might even describe the nature of the connection (e.g., "my friend Bob," "Bob, my former boss").

  • Sharing
    Bookmarks, likes, and other sharing services provide another source of links from identifiable parties.

  • Book reviews
    What do you read? Which authors? Who comments on your reviews? Are your reviews voted up or down?

  • Community membership
    Besides direct connections with individuals, we're joining discussion forums and online communities, which connect us to other members.

  • Forum posts
    Active engagement in a community is a signal. Comments on a common thread suggest a connection, or at least common interests.

  • Blog comments
    Commenting on a blog indicates that you read it (unless you're a spambot).

  • Check-ins
    Check-ins reveal where people go. Who else checks in at the same place? At the same time? What about accidental check-ins?
The big picture
Each of these sources is connected to an entity—a user account that belongs to a person or an organization. If you can identify the same entity across multiple services, then you can build a more complete picture of that entity's connections. The differences between types of connections might lead to a deeper analysis of the network, too.

As social becomes a feature of seemingly everything online, the potential to use SNA to build richer analysis only grows. Social media are giving us many opportunities in indicate our connections, both explicitly and implicitly, constantly adding to the public data pool. Whether this is more of an opportunity for analysis or a threat to privacy depends on your point of view.

Image by Marc Smith.

This is one of those posts where the probability that you'll comment is inversely proportional to the probability that this idea is useful to your work.

Quality Thinking Time at Defrag

DefragDo you have your calendar handy? What are you doing November 17th and 18th? If you're serious about the topics we discuss here—social media, analytics, intelligence, and everything else that matters—you should be in Broomfield, Colorado for Defrag. After last year, it's at the absolute top of my conference list for the year, and it should be on yours, too.

This year's agenda is all over our topics. Plus, I get to speak this time. Considering the quality of the Defrag crowd, it's an amazing opportunity.

If you look at the calendar, you'll notice that Defrag is the same days as WOMMA, which is important to a lot of people who read this. The solution is simple: send your marketing folks to WOMMA to hobnob and your strategists to Defrag to swim in the deep water.

The Early Bird price is good through September 30th, and Eric says you can use take 10% off that with the discount code eb1.

Update: The early bird price has expired, but you can take 20% with a new code, spkrmagic1.

Defrag 2010
Omni Interlocken Resort
Broomfield, Colorado
Information | Registration | Blog | Twitter

If you're going, let me know. We can do a social media analysis meetup on the 16th.

img_data.jpgToo much information. And increasingly, too many disparate sources of data, many with their own analytical tools. So it's interesting to see a new crop of startups offering tools that pull analytics data from multiple sources into a single dashboard for analysis and reporting.

This is one of those posts that started as a more detailed look at a few tools, but as I was looking around, more platforms kept popping up on the radar. So it's become a list, which is probably just as well. Some of these guys are semi-hidden in beta testing, so any detailed description is going to be out of date soon, anyway.

If you're spending too much time trying to corral performance data from multiple online sources, try these on for size:

(Also available as a Twitter list.)

Analytics mashup
What these platforms have in common is the ability to create charts and dashboards that combine data from web analytics and social media sources (Leftronic is different, because of its emphasis on large-screen dashboards for public view). So if you want to see the correlation of Twitter followers and website visitors, you can. If you want to track multiple accounts on one dashboard, you can. If you want to stir in data from your internal databases, some of them will let you do that, too.

What if
Remember the RSS tricks post from a couple of years ago, how you can assemble useful applications by using RSS inputs and outputs as a pipeline between services? With so many APIs going in and out these days, one of these dashboards could be the user interface for some interesting manipulations. For example:

What if you were to combine online sources (social media) and internal company data, run them through some text analytics, and pipe selected metrics out to one of these dashboards to mash them up with web analytics (which you've already linked to business performance). Would you find the elusive social KPI you've been looking for?

It's a list. I've missed somebody. Tell me, and I'll add them.

About Nathan Gilliatt

  • ng.jpg
  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Studying complexity and futures.
  • Principal, Social Target

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