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> Moses wrote:
>> Why do people around business tend to identify social networks with
>> gimmicks like MySpace? What do they see that sociologists cannot
> Quick answer - 100 million profiles and non-stop news headlines. It's
> simply more visible.
> The longer answer, and I think more important for researchers to understand
> is this:
> Ironically, SNA is rather "top-down" - it's done from the perspective of an
> invisible 3rd-party observer. Who is SNA most useful to? The managers -
> the decision-makers at the top (ironic again - there is no "top" of a
> network) who are hoping to get some kind of insight into how people relate
> within their organization.
There are some who take a "network centric" view of networks, but there
is huge research in ego networks, or how the networks appear to an
individual inside of them. What you say here is simply incorrect.
> From the perspective of the individual
> salesperson, though, or a marketing communications specialist, what
> relevance does it have to help them get their daily job done more
It depends on how they perceive their job or how open they are to
points of view beyond the narrow ones that come to them from various
stories, myths and gossip that they use to cobble together their view of
> Or what about all the millions of people who don't work in large
> organizations? 3/4 of the businesses in the U.S. don't have a payroll -
> they're sole proprietors or small, owner-run companies. 99.7 percent of all
> employer firms are "small" as defined by the SBA, and employ half of all
> private sector employees. What does SNA mean for these people?
??? - There are many papers and other work about how diversity of
social networks influences success in this area. Wayne Baker, Andrew
Hargadon and many more. Since solo businesses do not have proximity
determined by management, they need to be MORE aware of social networks.
> Small business owners and revenue-generating employees in larger businesses
> want practical solutions, not theory. They also tend to relate better to
> stories and best practices than to high-level analysis and statistics -
> concrete over abstract. The typical business owner would rather read half a
> dozen stories of how other business owners have effectively marketed their
> business in MySpace, LinkedIn and Ryze than a study of how to identify
> thought leaders in MySpace via SNA.
So? The typical business owner would probably prefer to have a six
pack and watch a ball game or go shopping at the mall than read
anything. Arguing that you can reduce complex and interesting subjects
to simple stories says little. Some people will always want to do the
best possible and some the least. You seem to be arguing that it is
easier to sell simple, one dimensional platitudes in the form of stories
to the people who want to do the least. Duh. I know many, many
business people, and like every other group, the top ones work their
butts off and are very interested in new ways of acting and thinking
about things. Creating a business book with the ultimate solution to
everything is as common as rain. I think it is a tad unethical, but I
assume that generally the authors are sincere.
> There are inherit limitations to being an independent observer. There are
> some things that you can learn by doing that you can never learn by
> watching. You can learn to do things intuitively as a participant that
> takes an independent observer a huge amount of time and analysis, only to
> arrive at much the same result.
It really seems like you are totally unfamiliar with the idea of
networks. One of the main ideas of the network model is that the nodes
influence the network as well as the other way around. An other way to
say it is that they do not exist with action. Like all science, network
analysis is concerned with not fooling ourselves. It is all well and
good to say "this caused that," but in the social world this is
exceedingly difficult to verify. Humans constantly make errors about
causation. Someone in Finland could say "every time I sacrifice a
chicken in October, it snows within 3 months, so sacrificing the chicken
causes the snow." You can claim that so and so did such and such on
MySpace and that because of it his business got better, but how are we
to know that is the real and only reason? If something worked one
year, why would we assume it would work the next?
> For example, let's take the matter of identifying thought leaders in a large
> community, such as MySpace. If you can get the data from MySpace, you could
> throw a very large dataset of permanent links and communication events
> (private messages, reading a profile, posting a bulletin, etc.), and after
> some heavy number-crunching, you could create a map of the relationships and
> identify the thought leaders and the supernodes.
> Or, you could go to an experienced participant who knows what they're
> and say, "Identify all the thought leaders and supernodes on such-and-such a
> topic," and within a couple of hours, they could have you a pretty good
> first swipe at it, and within a day, probably have much the same list of
> people the SNA produced.
What is a "thought leader" except the opinion of someone who uses the
word? Your argument is a tautology. Though leaders are people who are
called thought leaders. Were there to be a process such as you describe
and a measurable network effect that was identified as "thought leader"
and the two corresponded, that would be interesting, because it would
HINT that their might be some relation between cognition and network
> Perfect? No. Good enough? Probably. And when it comes to stuff like
> this, "good enough" is good enough. If you're trying to identify 100
> influential MySpace members to contact directly, you don't need SNA - you
> need one actual participant who knows what they're doing. I don't mean to
> denigrate or devalue SNA in any way - I'm just saying that there are other
You sent me your book and I commented on it early on. I have told you
then and I will tell you now that I think that you take a narrow,
instrumental view of networks. Your goal is to sell things and to
expand the base of contacts a person has to sell more things. There is
nothing wrong with that, but there is a whole lot more to networks and
knowledge of networks than that.
People with the most diverse social networks (not MySpace networks, but
all social networks, family, work and so on) make more money, live
longer, have better health, get fewer colds, get promoted faster, get
better performance evaluations are the creators, innovators and
entrepreneurs. There are lots of things businesspeople can do that
work at levels below the analytic. For instance, people trust people
who are not fat to make better business decisions, so if someone wants
to be more successful at business, he or she can lose weight. Many of
us in the network world are seriously interested about how emotions,
social learning and many other unconscious processes work through
networks to create meaning and the networks themselves. This is EXACTLY
what a MarCom person should know. If someone goes out and spams MySpace
with requests and offerings, it may get them revenue, but it also may
create a brand that limits the revenue growth. These things are not
black and white.
Sorry if I am being brutal, Scott. I am sure that David and your book
helped many businesses increase their sales and that is what it was
intended to do. I also think that network thinking and the things we
are learning can greatly help both businesses and individuals and I hate
to see attempts to take a small subset reduced to the lowest common
denominator presented as all there is for practical purposes.
> (Valdis - I'd especially like to hear your perspective on the above)
> Nick wrote:
>> What sickens me is that the focus of these business-perspective
>> articles is how these sites are a new way to make money by
>> profiling users or using network effects. This perspective can
>> never work! It is precisely this perspective of exploitation
>> that people naturally resist, and the very same network effects
>> will quickly clamp down on any such perceived threat.
> Generally, I would be inclined to agree, but reality hasn't born that out.
> There were predictions of a mass exodus from MySpace when NewsCorp took over
> - didn't happen. There were again predictions of a mass exodus when MySpace
> removed a bunch of profiles for inappropriate content in order to appease
> advertisers - didn't happen. So long as people continue to receive value
> from their participation, they tend to tolerate a fair amount of
> Anyway, though, I think the answer is simple. there will always be an
> inherent distrust of "outsiders" within these networks. That's why any kind
> of independent-observer perspective or approach to dealing with the network
> is going to be limited. Only a true, genuine participant can really
> leverage the network. This is what the large organizations looking at these
> sites seem to have a really hard time getting.
> People can only have a very limited interaction with, say, "iPod" or "Snakes
> on a Plane". But put the Product Manager for iPod on there, or the stunt
> coordinator for the movie, and you now have the potential for authentic
> I think the rift between academic/scientific researchers and business
> practitioners comes when we start talking about what's "legitimate" or
> "valid". I see a variety of approaches as potentially equally "valid" - the
> question is what is the outcome you're after. If what you're after is a
> strategic-level understanding of communication and relationships within your
> organization, then SNA is appropriate and probably the best solution. If
> what you're after is identifying thought leaders in an online community, or
> figuring out how to get your developers communicating with your field
> consultants, then SNA may help, but it may not be the most efficient way to
> get answers, and it may not give a complete picture. It may not even be
> necessary at all (I have a couple of personal stories about this if anyone's
> I don't presume to speak for all businesspeople, but I hope this helps
> broaden your perspective and deepen your understanding.
> Scott Allen
> LinkedIntelligence.com <http://www.linkedintelligence.com/>
> TheVirtualHandshake.com <http://www.thevirtualhandshake.com/>
> About.com Entrepreneurs Guide <http://entrepreneurs.about.com/>
> Sales <http://members.work.com/Scott-Allen> & Marketing Community Leader,
> <http://www.fastcompany.com/resources/networking/columns.html> The Virtual
> Handshake column at FastCompany.com
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