What Is a Social Network Analysis and How Can It Help Your Business?

As businesses look to find ways to maintain their competitive edge, they are being forced to look for ways to become more precise in their performance all the way around. In your business, you will have to develop products or services that are highly responsive to the specific needs of those in your target audience — requiring you to have an understanding who and what drives your customer base. Here is where social network analysis comes in.

The greater the connectivity in your organization, the more comprehensive your ability to engage this need will be. Social network analysis is just one more highly complex instrument that allows companies and organizations to study organizational networks within the company and how they are interconnected. This analysis can also be used to study outside networks, such as those of a specific geographic or demographic group, vendor or contractor.

three people discussing work

What Is a Social Network Analysis

In essence, social network analysis is the mapping out and measuring of relationships within a certain social construct and how they flow. Basically, there are multiple levels of connectivity, with specific groups being linked to other groups — creating unique relationship in groups and between them. When a business is able to perform or obtain a social network analysis, it can help them streamline customer engagement efforts, expand their market, improve the products and services they offer, as well as enhance the overall customer experience. Understanding the internal social mechanism of the company is immensely important when looking to expand or change directions.

What Type of Businesses Benefit from Social Network Analyses

Because of the comprehensive nature of a social network analysis, almost any type of business, at any size, can be helped by this type of analytic data. In a highly competitive business arena, using the metrics provided by a social network analysis can help a small, struggling business find its niche, while determining which internal groups best work together to form a whole. All of this allows the company to develop its services and approach in a manner in which it reaches the market in a highly unique way that distinguishes it from the more generalized services offered on a broader scale.

Ways that a Social Network Analysis Can Help Your Business

The manner in which a social network analysis will be able to help your business will depend significantly on your approach to business. If you are looking to fight for a significant share of the market, it will provide you with the data to best understand how the people and groups within the social network in the company are interacting — giving you an opportunity to leverage that interactivity. While the primary focus will be on internal networks, the knowledge of external data available within those networks will also provide invaluable insight into the market itself.

If you are looking to take a more exclusive approach, social network analysis will provide your company with the data that will show you the unique quirks of a certain smaller group within the organization — further revealing where the greatest level of efficiency and functionality is hidden. Ensuring that the social networks within your company are providing the productivity that is necessary to improve performance and profitability.

Network analysis helps to fill in the blanks of what is happening in the white space of the organization. White space can be viewed as the unknown variables, activities and data that occurs in disconnected areas. The larger a company is, the more likely that certain groups or departments will not be directly connected with others. While it may not be functionally necessary from an operational perspective, understanding how that disconnectivity is impacting the company can be huge, and social network analysis can do this.

4 Tips for Using a Social Network Analysis to Your Advantage

Of course, there are the common ways that social network analysis is being used by most businesses, and it makes sense to exploit those advantages; however, the more innovative that you can be in using the findings associated with the analysis, the more precise your organizational process will be. Following are four quick tips to help get the creative juices flowing.

1. Develop a New Perspective

It is easy for businesses and organizations to get stuck in the rut of functioning through traditional organizational hierarchies, but the data revealed through the network analysis will highlight how some less formal networks can help flatten traditional hierarchical structures for the purpose of developing a more fluid form of engagement and interactivity — without the need to completely dismantle and rebuild the social infrastructure within the organization.

2. Workspace Configuration

You can use the data revealed in a social network analysis to develop an understanding of interdependencies among employees — revealing informal leadership — while determining where connections should be taking place where they are currently not. If the company is large enough, it is possible that there are some employees that may be on different floors, limiting connectivity. The reconfiguration of the workspace will facilitate the connectivity that was non-existent yet vital to growth and productivity.

3. Onboarding for New Hires

Many companies use a mentoring program for new hires. Basically, they pair an experienced employee — often with seniority and a certain level of authority — with an inexperienced employee. The information revealed in a network analysis will provide a lucid understanding of each senior employee and their specific network — allowing the company to pair new hires with a mentor that will expose them to the best opportunity to succeed, not only through their own experience, but through access to their network.

4. Brain Drain Concerns

As employees move closer to their retire date, there are things that happen, and one thing that happens is the development of a concern that they will take that wealth of knowledge they have amassed over the years out the door on their last day. A network analysis will identify the best way to connect these individuals with those who will be best suited to drain their brain and carry on in a seamless manner.

people at the office

Conclusion

It should be the desire of every business to optimize their organizational infrastructure by ensuring that the proper connectivity is in place. Conducting a social network analysis is one of the best ways to make sure that this happens. The number of ways that this instrument can be used in virtually limitless.

Images from depositphotos.com.

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