Mapping Social Networks

After mapping humans’ intricate social networks, Nicholas Christakis and colleague James Fowler began investigating how this information could make our lives better. Now, he reveals his hot-off-the-press findings. (See video below)

This brilliant human social network model sounds very useful also to understand the fascinating social media viral mechanism.

These are the main points that Nicholas Christakis makes:

1) Not all the people in the network are the same.

Different people have different number of connections. In networks representation (pict 1), the nodes are the people and the lines are the connections. The number of connections that a node has, is called the degree of a node.



2) Position withing the network matters.

Central nodes have higher degree (Pict 2), which means that people more central in the network  have more connections than people on the sides. So, for instance, A has more chances to get the thing that is currently spreading in the network and to get it sooner than B. Therefore, the ideal way to track something that is spreading through the network, is to monitor people in the center of the network rather then monitoring random people.

The question at this point is How to figure out who the central people are? (without having to map the full network!)

3) Your Friends have more friends then you do.
This is the friendship paradox. Basically friends of randomly chosen people have higher degree and are more central in the network than the random people themselves. Why? because people with many friends have more probabilities to be friend of random people. So the easy way to get closer and closer to the center of the network is simply to ask random people to nominate their friends.

All this is great, but how can these points be translated for social media strategies?

Well, according to this theory, if we want an idea to go viral through a social network, we have to get the most central people of the network to know about this idea. How do we get to them? By asking random people to involve their friends, which, in social media, means finding creative ideas to engage random people to involve their friends.

Putting it in Twitter terms, it could simply mean engaging random people to retweet your tweets and, in Facebook terms, engaging random people to share and ‘like’ your page, because the main target are not the people you randomly get in contact with, but their friends.

Nick Landucci

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