Applying social network analysis to strengthen and grow the global B Corp network.
Social Network Analysis (SNA) allows us to visualize and measure the connections between individuals, information, and organizations. Applying SNA can reveal how various stakeholder groups within a network are connected, and how information and resources flow through that network. From this, SNA can identify individuals or organizations who are key influencers exhibiting high degrees of “social capital” within a given community or around a given topic. While not a silver bullet, SNA is an important tool for network and community-building efforts.
When paired with emerging real-time and public data sources such as Twitter, SNA can expand your ability to quickly identify promising leads, distribute key messages through the most influential sources to reach your target audience and track online conversations in real-time.
What is Social Network Analysis? To understand how SNA can identify key influencers and track conversations online, let’s first quickly review the components of a network map:
A node is any individual or organization in the network. Using Twitter data, a node represents a particular Twitter account. The size of an account’s node is proportional to its influence.
An edge is a bond or relationship that connects two individuals that can be assigned a weight depending on the strength of their connection. On Twitter, an edge can represent a follow, a mention, or an overlapping conversation depending on the type of analysis you require.
Map Your Target Audience – To begin the network analysis, we must first identify a target audience that you want to reach. Your target audience can be segmented on Twitter not only by their profile information, but based on the conversations they’re actually having online. For example, if we wanted to target those who were in support of SB 270, the California legislation to ban plastic bags, we could segment Twitter users who have recently used the hashtags #PlasticBagBan or #BantheBag, validating their posts for the right sentiment to ensure accuracy.
When a specific target audience has been identified, we can gather data on where they collectively receive their information. B Lab, “the nonprofit behind B Corporations,” coordinates a network of over 1100 B Corps across a wide range of industries. They recently approached Converge to help understand and grow their network.
For one network analysis, we looked at 57 of the top performing environmental B Corps (based on the 2014 “Best B Corps for the Environment” ranking) of interest to B Lab. We started by pulling data from the twitter API to determine how connected the 57 B Corps were with one another. Once the data was collected, cleaned, and analyzed it was visualized using a network map. In this map (depicted below) we segmented these 57 target organizations by size and colored them green (microenterprise), blue (small business), and yellow (midsize business). This analysis allowed B Lab to see the underlying structure of their B Corp network and identify those companies that are the most influential. Not surprising, B Lab was followed by the highest proportion of B Corps (making it the most influential actor) in the network represented by their Twitter handle @BCorporation.
Identify Influencers & Optimal Media Partners – Next we wanted to identify the individuals or organizations outside the B Corp network that were the most influential with these 57 B Corps. Starting with a list of over 73,000 external influencers, we ranked accounts by their degree of influence within the network (determined by the number and variety of connections they shared with the 57 B Corps). From this we were able to extract a list of the top 295 (0.05%) influential individuals or organizations outside the B Corp network (colored pink in the network map). Consequently, we were able to make targeted and actionable recommendations to more effectively reach B Lab’s audience.
Reveal Promising Leads – Our analysis also immediately revealed strong leads for potential B Corps – organizations that are likely to fit the B Corp criteria and be receptive to B Corp certification – based on their existing connections in the network. The table below shows a very high-level look at some of the top leads, influencers, and media sources we identified for this particular target audience.Track the Online Conversation to Monitor & Refine Your Marketing Strategy – Finally, we can track the conversations that matter to you, which allows us to monitor how key influencers are leading the conversation and engaging with your target audience. For example, we can test & refine specific messages or hash tag campaigns, pinpoint communities talking about you or your product, and highlight the topics and types of content that are most likely to generate buzz.
In this example, we tracked conversations on Twitter that used #bcorp or #bthechange and key influencers that were actively leading the conversation about B Corps.