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Social networks, Social Media and Social Network Analysis / Redes sociales, Medios sociales y Análisis de redes sociales

July 27, 2011

When members of a community communicate, collaborate, discuss common issues with one another or with members of other communities, they create a Social Network. Thus the term “Social Network” refers to the social structures composed of groups of people that are interconnected through different types of relations, such as friendship, kinship or common interests.

Social network

Image 1. Social network, image taken from here.

The term Social Media is defined as a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010).

Nowadays, the concept of Social Media is top of the agenda for many business executives. Decision makers try to identify ways in which companies can make profitable use of social media applications. Despite this widespread interest, there seems to be a very limited understanding of what the term Social Media exactly means. What is more, it is frequently confused with the concept of Social Network.

Indeed, there is a strong link between social media and social networks, since social media imply using social networks as a means of information distribution. For example a music clip on YouTube can be liked, commented, and shared by YouTube users. But it can also be shared among Facebook users or through Twitter messages. But it is important to establish clear distinctions between these concepts, especially as both are becoming more and more significant in business, e.g. advertising or impression management.

Social Media

Image 2. Social Media, image taken from here.

Social Network Analysis is the application of techniques of network analysis to the study of social relations. These networks are described as sets of nodes and ties which are represented as lists, matrices or graphs. The nodes are usually individuals or organizations connected by means of some specific interdependency: job, friendship, kinship, common likes and dislikes and so on.

This is for example the case when you go to a classroom, draw each student as a node and then ask them who their friends are and draw ties between the nodes to illustrate their relationships.

Networks can also contain nodes connected by different ties, for example persons and events. In this case we can draw networks of people who have participated in the same events, people reading the same books, sharing the same video clips on YouTube and so on.

The systematic representations of networks allow researchers to calculate different indices based on mathematical methods. For instance, we can identify “key players” whose removal would cause the overall disintegration of the network. Social Network Analysis and Social Networks are often confused and used synonymously.

Social Network Analysis

Image 3. Social Network Analysis, image taken from here.

You can learn more about Social Network Analysis in the book “Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications” (Wasserman and Faust, 1994) and you can have a look at what is going on today with Social Network Analysis in the conference Sunbelt or visiting the International Network for Social Network Analysis website.

Here we have some questions to our readers:

Do you use social media?
Do you use social media to disseminate the results of your professional activities or to attract new clients?
Why do you think it is important to study social networks?
What would you like to know about your social networks?

Please, feel free to leave a comment with your answers to the questions and your opinions on the subject.

(Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010) Kaplan, Andreas M., Haenlein Michael, (2010). “Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media.” Business Horizons, Vol. 53, Issue 1, p. 59-68

(Wasserman and Faust, 1994) Wasserman, S. and Faust, K. (1994). “Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications”. Cambridge University Press, New York.


Cuando los miembros de una comunidad se comunican, colaboran, debaten asuntos comunes con los demás o con miembros de otras comunidades, se crea una Red Social. Por lo tanto, el término “Red Social” se refiere a las estructuras sociales compuestas de grupos de personas que están interconectadas mediante diferentes tipos de relaciones, tales como amistad, parentesco o intereses comunes.

Social network

Imagen 1. Red social network, imagen tomada de aquí.

El término Medio Social se define como un grupo de aplicaciones de internet creados según los fundamentos ideológicos y tecnológicos de la Web 2.0 y permiten la creación e intercambio de Contenido Generado por el Usuario (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010).

Hoy en día, el concepto de Medio Social está a la orden del día para muchos altos ejecutivos. Los directivos intentan identificar formas en las que las empresas pueden hacer un uso rentable de las aplicaciones de medios sociales. Contrastando el interés tan extendido sobre el tema, parece haber una comprensión limitada de lo que significa el término Medio Social. Incluso se confunde frecuentemente con el concepto de Red Social.

Realmente existe un enlace fuerte entre los medios sociales y las redes sociales, ya que los medios sociales implican el uso de las redes sociales como medio de distribución de información. Por ejemplo un vídeo musical en YouTube puede ser puntuado, comentado y compartido con usuarios de YouTube. Pero también puede compartirse entre los usuarios de Facebook o a través de mensajes de Twitter. Es importante establecer distinciones claras entre estos conceptos, especialmente cuando ambos se vuelven más y más significativos en términos de negocio, por ejemplo en publicidad o gestión de impresiones.

Social Media

Imagen 2. Medios sociales, imagen tomada de aquí.

El Análisis de Redes Sociales es la aplicación de técnicas de análisis de redes al estudio de las relaciones sociales. Estas redes se describen como un conjunto de nodos y enlaces representados como listas, matrices o grafos. Los nodos son normalmente individuos u organizaciones conectados por medio de alguna inter-dependencia específica: trabajo, amistad, parentesco, intereses comunes, etc.

Este es el caso, por ejemplo, de estar en una clase y dibujar cada estudiante como un nodo, entonces preguntarles quiénes son sus amigos y dibujar enlaces entre los nodos para ilustrar sus relaciones.

Las redes pueden contener también nodos conectados por diferentes tipos de enlaces, por ejemplo personas y eventos. En este caso podemos dibujar redes de personas que han participado en los mismos eventos, personas que leen los mismos libros, comparten los mismos vídeos en YouTube, etc.

La representación sistemática de redes permiten a los investigadores crear diferentes índices basados en métodos matemáticos. Por ejemplo, podemos identificar “jugadores clave” cuya eliminación causaría la desintegración de toda la red. El análisis de redes sociales y las redes sociales a veces se confunden y se usan como sinónimos.

Social Network Analysis

Imagen 3. Análisis de redes sociales, imagen tomada de aquí.

Se puede aprender más sobre análisis de redes sociales en el libro ”Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications” (Wasserman and Faust, 1994) y se le puede echar un vistazo a lo que se está haciendo hoy en día en materia de análisis de redes sociales en la conferencia Sunbelt o visitando la web de la red internacional para el análisis de redes sociales (International Network for Social Network Analysis).

Aquí dejamos algunas cuestiones para nuestros lectores:

¿Utiliza medios sociales?
¿Utiliza medios sociales para difundir los resultados de actividades profesionales o para atraer nuevos clientes?
¿Por qué piensa que es importante estudiar las redes sociales?
¿Qué información le gustaría conocer sobre sus redes sociales?

No dude en dejar un comentario con las respuestas a estas preguntas o sus opiniones sobre el tema.

(Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010) Kaplan, Andreas M., Haenlein Michael, (2010). “Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media.” Business Horizons, Vol. 53, Issue 1, p. 59-68
(Wasserman and Faust, 1994) Wasserman, S. and Faust, K. (1994). “Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications”. Cambridge University Press, New York.

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