I’ve used social network analysis in the past as a basis for identifying companies & individuals of interest within research I was doing. Social Network Analysis gives a way of analysing and conceptualising social relationships. It focuses on ways of visualising these relationships in a network structure (Explanation adapted from de Nooy, et al – Google Books).
Earlier today I came across an interesting web application for visualising social networks within Twitter called Tweetwheel. Because Twitter offers an API to their service, developing interesting applications such as this is possible. Tweetwheel allows you to view and analyse relationships within your (or anyone else’s) network. Below is a screenshot taken of the analysis of my Twitter network. In it are shown the inter-relationships between people I follow and that follow me.
While that gives a nice and colourful picture, the real strength of of the tool comes when you put your mouse over one of the people (nodes) in the network. When you do, you are shown their connections within the network. For example, when I highlight the IIA (Irish Internet Association), I see all their connections within my network:
A similar tool is available from Twubble. This allows you to see Twitter users that people you follow have in common; giving you a way to identify new people that you may be interested in following. Rather than presenting the information in a graphic, as above, it shows you who, and how many of, the people you follow are following.
So, what use are these types of tools? Depending on what you want to get out of them, the answer varies. As a way to identify new people to add to your Twitter network, Twubble is useful. If someone is being followed by lots of people within your network, there’s a good chance they’ll be of some interest to you.
As I said, in the past I used social network analysis to identify companies and people working on technologies that I was interested in. I did this by interviewing people and talking to them about others operating in similar areas. As Tweetwheel allows you to view other people’s networks, it does make this type of identification a good deal easier; although, obviously your view is confined to twitter users. For twitter accounts being used by companies, this makes it possible to identify customers, users or others interested in the company, and perhaps networks of company employees that follow the company’s tweets.
And aside from that, it does give you a pretty picture!!