What is Social Network Analysis?
Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a powerful way of analysing the social structure of your network. But, we get it, it can be an abstract concept that needs debugging! Here we attempt to provide an easy definition, explanation and an example to help in this process.
Firstly, and quite potentially most importantly, when we talk of Social Network Analysis, we are not talking about your social media networks (or not entirely). Not your Facebooks or your Instagrams, we are talking about a technique a lot more profound than connecting with your friends and relatives by liking a post or loving a photo.
Social Network Analysis according to the team at WE&B is:
An analysis of your entity’s social structure in terms of influence and networking ability.
Great! But, what does this mean exactly?
Let us take you through a hypothetical example.
Mandy works for a company based in Spain that is looking to obtain new clients for their innovative plastic recycling technology. Mandys company has been pushing circular economy principles for a long time with their products. Recently, Mandys company noticed that their plastic recycling technology could work really well a certain area of France where plastic waste is problematic. The problem Mandy faces is that she doesn’t know any French organisation, companies or contacts in the sector. She checks with Bill, the most senior member of the company if he knows anyone within his personal contacts. Bill does a quick mental search and remembers that he once met a guy at a conference that worked for the French waste agency. He can’t remember his name nor his company name but would check through his emails and get back to Mandy.
Meanwhile, Mandy turns to Google and searches “Plastic Waste Management Organisations in France”. Mandy has to search through a myriad of information before finding an organisation that she could potentially make contact with.
We are fairly certain that every organisation has gone through this same process. We know this because this is what we did at WE&B before conducting our own SNA analysis. Even if you have your own database of contacts, we are sure that going through it is a painstaking and laborious process that is challenging to know the real worth of each contact within that database.
Now – at WE&B – we have a comprehensive database, analysis and visual representation of every organisation that is a 1st and 2nd degree contact of ours. This is to say that the social structure of WE&Bs’ contacts are now mapped with the connections between each organisation understood. We know if we have worked on a project with an organisation, how strong that connection is and who within our own network holds the influence and the networking ability. In other words, if we want to initiate a project in Niger –never having worked there before – we would know exactly who to be in contact with.
Now, back to Mandy and her dilemma. There are 3 steps to take here through to get to the point of having complete control over her network and knowing who is who.
Reflection and report on your current network situation
Build up from your or an existing stakeholder database and/or map and RETHINK it together, to co-create the social structure you want to see
Stakeholder database based on the social structure analysis
Gathering evidence following the Social Network Analysis method – a quantitative approach based on a new database creation through an iterative survey and snowballing sampling process
Sleek visualization of your stakeholder map
Map visualization – the creation of an interactive map to allow you in a visual manner to see the key players, influential actors, partnerships, etc. in your network
Through these 3 main steps, Mandy would have a greater knowledge of who in France she could contact, how strong that relationship is to her company and which other contacts within her companies network would get here there.
Hopefully this has allowed you to debug Social Network Analysis and to provide you with a clearer understanding of what the processes of SNA is all about from WE&Bs intepretation.