A social network is a social structure made up of a set of social actors (such as individuals or organisations) and a set of the dyadic ties between these actors. The social network perspective provides a set of methods for analyzsng the structure of whole social entities as well as a variety of theories explaining the patterns observed in these structures. The study of these structures uses social network analysis to identify local and global patterns, locate influential entities, and examine network dynamics.
The social network is a theoretical construct useful in the social sciences to study relationships between individuals, groups, organisations, or even entire societies. The term is used to describe a social structure determined by such interactions. The ties through which any given social unit connects represent the convergence of the various social contacts of that unit. This theoretical approach is, necessarily, relational. An axiom of the social network approach to understanding social interaction is that social phenomena should be primarily conceived and investigated through the properties of relations and within units, instead of the properties of these units themselves. Thus, one common criticism of social network theory is that individual agency is often ignored although this may not be the case in practice (see agent-based modeling).
Precisely because many different types of relations, singular or in combination, form these network configurations, network analytics are useful to a broad range of research enterprises. In social science, these fields of study include, but are not limited to anthropology, biology, communication studies, economics, geography, information science, organizational studies, social psychology, sociology, and sociolinguistics.
Computer networks combined with social networking software produces a new medium for social interaction. A relationship over a computerised social networking service can be characterised by context, direction, and strength. The content of a relation refers to the resource that is exchanged. In a computer mediated communication context, social pairs exchange different kinds of information, including sending a data file or a computer program as well as providing emotional support or arranging a meeting. With the rise of electronic commerce, information exchanged may also correspond to exchanges of money, goods or services in the “real” world. Social network analysis methods have become essential to examining these types of computer mediated communication.
Networks rich in structural holes are a form of social capital in that they offer information benefits. The main player in a network that bridges structural holes is able to access information from diverse sources and clusters. This is beneficial to an individual’s career because he is more likely to hear of job openings and opportunities if his network spans a wide range of contacts in different industries/sectors. This concept is similar to Mark Granovetter’s theory of weak ties, which rests on the basis that having a broad range of contacts is most effective for job attainment.
Social Capital Mobility Benefits
In many organisations, members tend to focus their activities inside their own groups, which stifles creativity and restricts opportunities. A player whose network bridges structural holes has an advantage in detecting and developing rewarding opportunities. Such a player can mobilise social capital by acting as a “broker” of information between two clusters that otherwise would not have been in contact, thus providing access to new ideas, opinions and opportunities. British philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill, writes, “it is hardly possible to overrate the value…of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves…Such communication is one of the primary sources of progress.”Thus, a player with a network rich in structural holes can add value to an organisation through new ideas and opportunities. This in turn, helps an individual’s career development and advancement. A social capital broker also reaps control benefits of being the facilitator of information flow between contacts. In the case of consulting firm Eden McCallum, the founders were able to advance their careers by bridging their connections with former big 3 consulting firm consultants and mid-size industry firms. By bridging structural holes and mobilising social capital, players can advance their careers by executing new opportunities between contacts.
There has been research that both substantiates and refutes the benefits of information brokerage. A study of high tech Chinese firms by Zhixing Xiao found that the control benefits of structural holes are “dissonant to the dominant firm-wide spirit of cooperation and the information benefits cannot materialize due to the communal sharing values” of such organizations. However, this study only analysed Chinese firms, which tend to have strong communal sharing values. Information and control benefits of structural holes are still valuable in firms that are not quite as inclusive and cooperative on the firm-wide level. In 2004, Ronald Burt studied 673 managers who ran the supply chain for one of America’s largest electronics companies. He found that managers who often discussed issues with other groups were better paid, received more positive job evaluations and were more likely to be promoted. Thus, bridging structural holes can be beneficial to an organisation, and in turn, to an individual’s career. (Source: Wikipedia)
Since Social Networks, Social Media and its functions form an important part of todays communication, even in business communication, we at CBA are using a few important social networks, such as LinkedIn, Xing, Facbook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+, which bring a great deal of additional traffic to our web portal. This is without doubt beneficial for our web traffic statistics and for our business in general.