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Mapping Social Media Activity To Find Who’s “In the Node”!



Marc Smith, a sociologist working with the Social Media Research Foundation from San Francisco, visited the Asian Institute of Management in Makati in early October to introduce the wide-reaching analytical tool he co-created: NodeXL. He spoke at the recent Digital Strategies for Development Summit held at AIM about the value of network analysis for understanding social media “crowds”.


NodeXL monitors social media including Facebook, Twitter, Email, Wikipedia, Flickr, VKontakte, Sina Weibo etc.. It summarises traffic and connections graphically within the Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet application to create visual maps that will tell us things like “people who like topic A did/didn’t like topic B” or “person A is more connected than person B”.



NodeXL map showing 10,000 tweets by 182 users spread word about the “Manila Reborn” campaign

NodeXL is supported by the Social Media Research Foundation, a California not-for-profit which is dedicated to open tools, open data and open scholarship.  The Foundation receives major support from Connected Action a consultancy that designs and analyzes social media network maps to enable clients to plan marketing, educational or political campaigns more effectively. As Marc says, “A NodeXL social media network map is an easier way of reading 10,000 tweets.”


Using NodeXL there are many ways to customize the analysis and visualization of network maps – e.g. each person can be represented by pictures or names of people or topics, and different colour lines can be used for different types of connections etc.. The parameters selected change the readability and value of the maps.


Here’s a detailed overview and the book Marc co-wrote. Many examples of these maps can found at the public website dedicated to collecting and sharing NodeXL social media network maps and reports called  Browsing the range of topics and maps reveals some of the diversity of social media landscapes.


As a real life example, Marc told us about how social media network maps can help boost sales for a mundane product – lip balm to protect from chapped lips, as used in cold climates during wintertime.



Node Mapping was used to identify ways to make Lip Balm appeal for outdoor activities


Few people tweet about lip balm! And lip balm is not sexy! The social media strategy is to aim for topics likely to be of interest to potential users of lip balm, and find the “mayors” of those communities – the thought leaders or trendsetters.


NodeXL can help identify outdoor activity discussion leaders – skiers, hikers, mountaineers, runners, aviators and cyclists. NodeXL social media network maps can find the leading characters in those genres.  In a network these people occupy special locations or positions in the graph and special network metrics (like “betweenness centrality”) provide a quantitative way of ranking them. Messages can be then crafted to target these people and their key interests, rather than broadly advertising, to encourage using lip balm, and help make it a necessary activity accessory.


NodeXL is free and open software and has had over 300,000 downloads and is widely used in university classes that include networks. Marc Smith is @marc_smith on Twitter where more than 6000 people are already following him. Here’s the download link for the NodeXL add-in installer (it only works on Windows (XP or later) and requires Office (2007/2010/2013)).


The Connected Action consultancy seeks work to help pay for for the small team of NodeXL developers, and is thinking in terms of both consultancy fees from companies and government agencies. Connected Action offers remote and in-person NodeXL and social media network analysis training, technical support, customization, and data reporting for clients. Smith also encourages contributions to the Social Media Research Foundation, which manages the releases of the free and open NodeXL project code.


You can quickly contact and communicate with Marc’s team to have them create a free NodeXL map for you. A sample social media network map on a topic of interest to you can help you get an idea of its potential — by just filling out a form.


He noted that the Philippines has the BPO muscle to utilise NodeXL for various projects, both in analysis and in executing resultant campaigns.


But, he added, “you should to take lead out of the gasoline and broaden your bandwidth first!”



Author: Steve Hill  



Photo source:

Top photo – NodeXL Map – and

Graph –

Lip Balm –




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