Section 1 – Quick Introduction to Network Analysis


Lesson 2 – Social Network Visualization & Analysis

Whether you’re a student, a researcher, or a marketing specialist chances are you’re studying people, groups and their interactions. Social network analysis (SNA) offers a very powerful toolbox for that and below I will demonstrate how it can be useful.

Consider we have a group that we want to study. Maybe it’s a group of politicians, or your customers, or the people in a classroom. SNA can help us discover some very valuable insights about the group: what are the subgroups it consists of, who are the most influential players, what are the most efficient communication strategies, etc. 

Takeover influence network

The way it works is very simple. Each individual is considered to be a node and their interactions are the relations between them. As a result we get a network graph of individuals, a snapshot of social dynamics. We can then use various methods and tools from graph theory to perform qualitative and quantitative study of this group to find the information we need.

Visualization is an important part of this process. Our eyes are trained to see patterns, so visualizing a social network will give you a global snapshot of its inner structure and help you ask the right questions.

It is also a great method to communicate a certain idea and to prove your point. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all…

Here’s a quick how-to list for you to perform your first SNA operation:

 

1) Identify the network (group) you’re interested in
2) Identify what insights you’d like to have
3) Encode the right data (e.g. “friendships”? collaborations?)
4) Visualize them as a graph
5) Apply various metrics and layout
6) Observe, find patterns
7) Reiterate