Who should you target in a social network?

women_social_networking_webI recently gave a presentation to the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce and one of the questions that came up was who should you target in the network?  First, picture a very wide spider web, each line in the web is a connection to another user and each point that connects two lines is a user.  For example, suppose that I am connected to Fred then Fred and I will have a line between us.  If Fred is also connected to Barney then Fred and Barney will have a line between them, and so on.  In this network Fred is very central because he is connected to both Barney and I.  He brings together unique users and thus should be the focus of your targeting (we presented a paper on this, AMA 2014 Poster v2).  To illustrate the importance of centrality let me give you another example that I use in class.  Last semester I had an international student from India and I compared that student to one of the more popular domestic students in the class.  I asked, who should you target? Most of the class said the more popular student because they have more connections.  But wait, that’s probably not the best way to go if we think about this issue of centrality.  The more popular student knows many people, yes, but most of those people know each other too.  By reaching this person you’re reaching the same crowd and if they retweet or repost something the same people will see it.  However, the international student is connected to all of these different groups.  They’re connected to their friends back home, their classmates back home, their friends here, their classmates here.   By reaching the international student the chance that message will be viewed by different people increases and that’s who you should focus on.

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