What is the network value of my/your network?


Posted on: June 14, 2012 by Rob Price

What is network value?

In recent months, a number of people have asked me this question. It is framed in different ways, and the network in question is invariably different.  What is the value of my network?

Social Value - picture taken by Eoscommunicatie's PhotostreamLinkedIn

In terms of network value. A great example was an ex-colleague who runs a LinkedIn group that now has over 30,000 members. Undoubtedly that represents a massive reach, in geographical terms and spanning all sectors of business. At the time however, he hadn’t understood how to, or indeed even whether he should, personally profit ( network value) from that network, where profit is as much about leverage or influence as it is about finance.

Business card collector and an interactive network

Whilst we have a gut feel about the relative size and strength of people’s networks, network value, how do we measure that? There is clearly a difference between the business card collector – paper or LinkedIn – and an interactive network, which itself is most likely a collection of separate yet linked communities. I can think of more than one colleague over the years that has a phenomenal personal network, and yet didn’t necessarily convert that into the business value that perhaps others expected.

Klout; measurement of network influence, network value

As a measurement of network influence, I can go to online tools such as www.klout.com, but currently that is only measuring online influence as driven from the social networks. And furthermore, as my score (currently only 38, down from my usual 44-45) is miserable in comparison to President Obama or Justin Bieber. Yet I’m not sure what it tells me of the value of my network to me, or indeed to my employer or to my network. I am not in the same networks as those individuals, nor am I looking to be, and nor are their networks of immediate business value to me.

Social Network Analysis

My more recent measure of my network value has arisen from a commissioned Social Network Analysis of email communications (with the awareness of our employees). In essence, this has modelled the internal social networks within our UK organisation through an analysis of the email traffic, looking only at the to-from fields. There are many ways to analyse this output data, but let us concentrate on centrality (in this case, through indegree – check your graph theory). In essence this is an indicator of the degree with which colleagues see you as the “go to point” of the organisation. The person with the highest centrality in our London based employees? My PA. She is indeed central to everything, as many of us would recognise now the data speaks.

But can we make an explicit link between any of the variants of centrality, and/or reciprocity, and the effectiveness of that network to drive value? In my PA’s case, her centrality to the network was not explicit, was not conscious. It was discovered. Now it is conscious, does it make a difference? Can it be consciously grown, or is it just there?

How about the conscious network? At the start of May, I passed the 1,000 connections landmark on LinkedIn. It is by no means the largest number of connections that I’ve seen someone have, but nonetheless it is a reasonably sized network. But so what? What has this network delivered to me? Or is it just a typical bloke collecting thing?

Actually in business terms, there has been some value for me. I have recruited permanent employees from that network (because they have been aware of vacancies). I have brought in Associates through that network (because they have been aware of opportunity). I have been contacted through that network because my contacts, or their contacts, have been able to find me (though admittedly with my – recently increased - fair share of spam).

Social Presence

Yet there has been no “score” to date that measures my network based on not only my social presence, but also the emails that I receive requesting assistance, or the conversations in a corridor, or the instant messaging, or the recommendation of a colleague or a client to another that Rob will know someone who can help.

 

Identify networks

What I have found through implementing a tool to conduct Social Network Analysis (SNA) through email communications (and shortly OCS/Lync conversations) is that I can measure more than I could before.  It tells me things that I already knew – but I see that as evidence to support the (obvious) hypotheses. There are strong networks between those working on common clients or business units for example. It tells me things that I didn’t think about. My PA is at the heart of more than I would have guessed. It will help us to identify networks (communities) that we couldn’t previously identify, and allow us to support and nurture their interaction and growth. To help convert the strength of both those explicit and those hidden networks into increased efficiency and value for those network members. That’s the plan.

But I’m interested to know what else is out there, and how else you have found to maximise the value, or just measure the value, of your networks.

How can I, or how can we, quantify our Social Capital.

Foto is taken by Eoscommunicatie's Photostream.

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About Rob Price

COO for Worldline UK&I and member of the Scientific Community
Rob is COO for Worldline UK&I, the European leader in the payment and transactional services industry. He was previously Head of Digital for Atos UK&I, is a member of the Atos Scientific Community and was a founder of the award winning CIO/CTO Atos blog, the predecessor to Ascent. He successfully melds inspiration and creativity with strategic direction and implementation, focusing on driving more efficient and effective exploitation of technology and services to drive positive business outcomes and better connect our clients with their end consumers. The insight gained through both operational delivery roles and strategic Digital evangelist roles ensures that he views the Digital Revolution from multiple perspectives. Find him on twitter @The_Digital_COO

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