I always liked it to try out new things – to be the first. For example, when I bought this tea-to-go cup with integrated tea strainer and the specific tea just produced for that, or the vegetable powder which makes it possible to have kale and spinach for my smoothies always at home without buying it fresh – or do you remember Tamagotchi back in the days? I was the first amongst my friends with one. All the people around me got interested and asked me where I bought it and suddenly they also bought it. Can you relate to that? Wouldn’t it be great to find these influencers online and get them to ‘sell’ your products? But how to identify such influencers in communities and network?
Consumer Society is always looking for the next big Thing
Living in a consumer society, we always need something – a new TV, laptop, smoothie blender or just an advice for a new shampoo. Some decisions are made out of a reactive decision-behaviour because our involvement and emotional level is very low and happen to be mostly spontaneously. However, some purchase decisions need more cognitive and emotional examination. That’s when we ask the people around us and the internet for advice and their experiences. These people, generally, can appear as you, me, a member of your family, a friend, a colleague or a blogger or youtuber. Even if we didn’t know we would need something, suddenly we do because one of these influencers is using it or talking about it.
What is an Influencer?
Influencers are a type of opinion leaders. Opinion leaders are people who have a high expertise and knowledge in a specific area and who are able to influence the attitudes and behaviour of others frequently. Everybody knows people like this and people take their advice seriously because they are a valuable information source and have great social power. Influencers do not have a high expertise in just one area like opinion leaders do, but they have a strong communication network and are a knowledgeable source of information. They can be described as activists, connected, impact, active minds and trendsetter. These people are active participants in their communities, with a large and well developed social network in which others trust them and perceive them as a credible information source. The amount and variety of people who are (possible) influencers online is tremendous with an even greater number of people searching for advice. Influence online is even greater than in face-to-face communication in which people can only meet a few people at the same time. This is where social network analysis comes into play.
What is Social Network Analysis?
When I heard social network analysis for the first time I just thought that it’s the analysis of social networking sites such as reach, engagement rate, etc. I was surprised when I found out that it isn’t just about online networks – because it has its roots in the offline world. Its area of application is very broad. For example, it can help to identify how diseases spread or with it, you can analyse terrorist networks. But it also visualises the diffusion of information within organizations and you can identify emerging leaders and role models. Most important for the application in Marketing nowadays , it can help to detect influencers and track who is most shaping discussions about a brand or a topic.
„Social network analysis [SNA] is the mapping and measuring of relationships and flows between people, groups, organizations, computers, URLs, and other connected information/knowledge entities.”
What SNA actually does is it visualizes the relationship between people such as e.g., the relationships in a karate club or an organization, but it can also show trending topics of blogs or interactions on Facebook fan pages. It does it with the help of nodes and links. A nodes (or in some literature it is called a vertex or an actor) is a circle. It can be a person, groups, e-mail addresses, URLs, Facebook posts or anything else. The lines between the nodes are called links (or sometimes edges, ties or arcs). They define the relationship between the nodes e.g., friendship or interactions.
In the next blog post you will learn the key elements of SNA, examples will be given and how to analyse it and which tools can be used.