Saturday, July 26, 2014

Can Social Network Analysis Be Implemented For Social Change?

In our rapidly changing world, traditionally effective marketing strategies have to be adapted to meet the needs of a very diverse set of demographics.  This is particularly true when dealing with the underserved markets at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid.  How do you penetrate a market that struggles with low literacy rates, lack of trust, and lack of access to traditional media channels?  I believe that social network analysis is the first step.

The dynamics in many slums are based on relationships and unspoken hierarchies.  Following the advice of key community influencers are how many people make their purchasing or lifestyle decisions. The problem is, how do you identify these influencers?

Assuming that money is no object, we would need to survey community members in order to find out where the social dynamics gravitate.  This is particularly difficult to do because, unlike other surveys, you need a significantly larger sample size in order to get an accurate picture.  This is because there are many networks present, and you can'r rely on confidence intervals to determine your levels of accuracy in this case.

For the purposes of this scenario, let's assume that we were able to get an 80% response rate.  This is probably extremely ambitious, but it's always best to aim high.  This survey asked the respondents who they socialized with, who they took advice from, who do they respect, where do they live, occupation, etc.  All of this information will be useful when mapping out the social analysis map later.

Once all of this information has been compiled and the connections have been made, the data would need to be studied.  First, it would be important to determine which people have the highest eigenvector centrality for both "respect" and "advice".  This will identify the key influencers.

Afterwards, it would be helpful to try to find any correlations between those with high eigenvector centrality and any of the other descriptors mentioned (age, occupation, address, etc).  This is important because it helps to answer the question of "why?" rather than just who.  If you can determine WHY someone is a key influencer, you can create a better communication plan because you better understand the needs and wants of a community.

All of this is the first step in crafting a marketing strategy in an urban slum.  Once you have been able to map out the social networks and perform an in-depth analysis, you can make an informed decision about how to move forward with your business strategy.  This will also prevent you from rushing in blind to a potentially hostile business situation.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Can social network analysis identify key players in illicit drug markets?

Pandemic in the illicit drug markets have been problems that every city faces for the last decade. Difficulties to gain information and how the network works are the biggest challenge for officials. With growing social network user, Studies have been shown that with the right data, Social network analysis can be used to track the link between individuals that are involved in the network.

Getting the right data is difficult due to the discreetness of the network itself; therefore the right official needs to be involved to gather data such as:
  • ·      ‘Street’ Ethnographic data
  • ·      Connection of jailed drug traffickers
  • ·      Wiretaps or police records
  • ·      Court transcripts
  • ·      Phone logs
  • ·      Bank logs

Some of the data’s mentioned above can be obtained easily but I believe information from drug traffickers behind bars is crucial to make legit connection.

The SNA will help us to establish the link (ties) between all individuals (nodes) that are involved (usually they belong to a certain group – cell), how each cell communicate, venue of laboratory, the leaders in the areas, and last but not least the top of the food chain or the ‘King Pin’.

Most important network measure will be the role of each node, where they stand in the hierarchy and the closeness of their connection. (Density and centrality depends on data and accuracy of data)

From one example bellow, it shows that each cell is not or not likely to connect with each other, that means if one cell is compromised, the leader can start another cell without compromising the whole network. 

                                            Example of 'Illicit drug markets network map'

SNA will help police official to learn the network, identify key players, and even pin point exact location of Labs and operation. 

Final Assignment: Using SNA to improve the hiring process

A few years ago a background check was the only resource to check an employee's obscure secrets. Nowadays, social networks have replaced this obsolete practice. Networks like Facebook and LinkedIn tell you more about a candidate than you may want to know.

The problem is that there is a los of easy information to gather out there and companies might not know how and when to use it correctly.

Every career services lecture I've ever attended, made it clear: no picture, no religion, no sexual option on your CV; it's ilegal. Protected information they say. Protected?

However, even though it's illegal to ask a candidate for this information, social networks facilitate the task. What you need to do is receive the candidate's resume and start using SNA analysis to your advantage.

By using networks like Facebook, you can find out how the candidate looks, does he/she likes to party? Is he/she gay or straight? Is she pregnant and will I have to incur in extra expenses? or any other piece of information. Also, focusing and measuring the types of relationships the candidate has, might let you know what other assets the candidate has. Go to LinkedIn, check the candidate's profile and see what conncections he/she has. Maybe the social network he/she carries might bring more added value to your business than the skills he/she posses.

However, (this is the pro bono advice) never use social networks as your last resource to make the decision. It's perfectly legal if you use a public information prior to the interviews. Nevertheless, if you have already interviewed the candidate and at the end you find out something that doesn't please you, you can't use it. This is were it gets illegal.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Text Box: Figure 1 Decorents Facebook pageThere is a big issue today for the success rate Startup companies have had, and why is entrepreneurship so highly promoted if the numbers are so bad, it is said that between 3% to 5 % (Blodget, 2014) of startup companies are successful. This came into my attention and so we have imagined a good investigation if we had unlimited resources for Social Networks Analysis in startup companies. To set an example I will use a very curious entrepreneurship initiative my family had 3 years ago. My sister my aunt and my mother created a new business that provides rental services for parties, they rent everything you would need to have a great party like covers for chairs, tablecloths, Inflatable pools and figures, entertainment, fancy furniture, dishes… among other products. The idea started without any marketing whatsoever in my hometown Barranquilla Colombia; they never used any outbound marketing at all and very little inbound marketing, nevertheless they did offer their products to some clients that initially were very satisfied. The idea therefore had a 3% to 5% chance chance of being successful, but 3 months later they were having inventory issues and all types of requests that only successful companies have, those were great news for them. But how did this happen? It is very unlikely that a business strategy that does not involve long term outbound marketing, or even digital marketing will still today work as business model. Well the answer for this is basically that social networks did their job very well, word of mouth and buzz is one of the most effective marketing in business.

Without having consciousness of strategy they started selling Decorent’s products and services by finding people who were very much likely in the entertainment business or show business, without knowing for real they were creating very strong connections with well-connected people in the industry. Their first event was for a big company that was preparing a party for their employees, after that first party the company kept on calling them on and on and referring them to other companies. Afterwards, other big companies would call them to organize their events.


In this company 3 partners and their netowrks would join their efforts and networks to promote Decorents. It is key to understand the context of the place where Decorents was funded.

Barranquilla is the headquarter of the company, and it is located in the Atlantic coast of Colombia where the people enjoy relating to each other and where social networks are very important for business, if a sales person has no relation to top management it is very difficult to close a deal. The 3 partners of the company fortunately are well connected and they used this advantage to generate growth to their business.

Today Decorents is trying to find out why are they so successful and how did they reach it, they believe it would be very useful to know how does the connections made are making their company have such great sales. A Social Network analysis through surveys is possible to do and it would be great for the company. Actually Decorents has Facebook, and to understand a little bit better how does it work we have used the Text Box: Figure 2  Decorents Social NetworkNamegenweb software to understand better how the network is working right now. Previously we got information that many of the clients were already friends in Facebook, for this small company then this network analysis is feasible. If we had enough resources we could find out why this social network is divided in two small networks, what percentage of the friends are actually clients, if this is related to the 3 cities they are attending now, why is one of the networks bigger than others, if the communications or relations in one of the cities is better than the others, and what can be done to have the same success in the headquarter’s city location than in the others.

We believe that with this information, the historical data, and a good HR agency, Decorents could hire the appropriate people for their expansion plans in Colombia. A network analysis would be one of the most important analysis we could make for hiring the new personnel. Also it would be interesting to make a company network analysis to understand how companies relate each other in each city, targeting only the key staff that Decorents could approach for offering their services.

Decorents market is actually segmented this way:

Market Segmentation
Solutions Offered
% Share
High Income Families
Parties, matrimonies, events, cocktails..etc
Governmental  Institutions
HR events, corporate events, cocktails, political events
Private companies
HR events, corporate events, cocktails, parties


By doing this research we may find a magical solution to increase the success rates of Startup Businesses in the future.



Blodget, Henry. 2014. Business Insider. [Online] 2014.