What if instead of a score, you could visualize the impact a person, business or topic has in a social network? What if instead of using complicated listening tools, you could see in an instant who is talking about your company or its products and how you’re connected to them? What if you could tell who the major influencers or connectors are that everyone else is listening to? From what I’ve seen from the social network maps from NodeXL, this is all possible and a whole lot more.
It’s difficult to have a discussion today with any organization who doesn’t tell you some version of this: Advertising is becoming less effective, yet I can’t figure out why, let alone understand how to adapt. I keep hearing that advocate and influencer marketing is more effective, but I haven’t figured out how to find the right people that clearly impact my potential buyer.
Well allow me to speculate. We now live in an increasingly saturated world — a world where ads are placed nearly everywhere – a world with so much marketing noise it’s hard to separate fact from fiction – a world where even the big TV networks and news corporations no longer have the ability to create overnight product successes.
Our saturated world is causing people to tune out of traditional forms of advertising and turn to industry experts or influencers to make sense of it for them. The old magic formula for selling product through proven media channels has disappeared. So smart organizations are turning to thought leaders, influencers and experts to endorse and promote their products.
But how do you accurately find them and how do you know who is really having an impact on the organization? Moreover, can I look at the influencer or expert’s network to understand who they influence?
To the untrained eye, the map is a little difficult to decipher (Smith is working on simplifying it for the rest of us) but I am at the center of that blue mass in section G1. Smith tells me that the Forbes community in G3 is supportive of my articles (that’s good to know) but there are a whole lot of people in G2 that I don’t know and are not connected with that are discussing topics related to me. Smith says that I should make the effort to get to know them because they could be very helpful with my goals. In G4 – G34, those are communities of people that I may or may not know – but are discussing my content – and I should seek to extend my network into those communities.
The Six Basic Types of Twitter Social Networks
Below using analysis from NodeXL, Smith outlines the 6 major types of Twitter social network types. What’s exciting is that this tool empowers companies to understand not only the social network around them, but who is most important in it. This huge expansion in social network understanding allows organizations to find hidden prospective customers, connect with the true influencers in their industry, and A/B test the impact of their social campaigns (NodeXL allows multiple ways of looking at the network data).
Let’s briefly explore each type, and then I’ll provide some relevant, real world examples for you to look at on the NodeXL site:
1. Polarized Network: Most often seen in politics or political issues, this pattern emerges when two groups are split in their opinion on an issue. Here’s one on Egyptian crisis.
2. In-Group Network: Seen at conferences and tight knit groups of people, this type of network rarely ventures outside of its membership. A big miss in most cases if you are a brand. Here’s an example of one for Social Business.
3. Brand/Public Topic Network: Most often seen when a person or company becomes a brand and people other than your customers are talking about you. Notice all of the disconnected users that are isolated from the brand and not connected. Car companies are a good example of a brand network.
4. Bazaar Network: Most often seen with medium sized companies or political issues with various community involvement (see the Texas Abortion Law example)
5. Broadcast Network: As its name implies, these individuals or companies have the power to light up the network – or in this baseball team example, have the ability to light up the Twitter scoreboard. News organizations also display a classic broadcast pattern.
6. Support Network: Think customer support. These types of networks are known to be good at customer service.
In case you’re wondering, a lot of this research came out of Microsoft or in partnership with Microsoft research. The following are other people and institutions that are involved including Stanford, The University of Washington and the University of Maryland.
Truly, these maps are very impressive and a big leap for organizations wishing to understand their impact in social networks. But for companies and individuals to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the network maps, NodeXL will need to make it easier for users to understand them and take action. Smith assures me this is right around the corner.
In fact, Smith tells me the maps will be much more interactive and actionable. That will make finding influencers and new customers incredibly easy.