Once you have setup a Social Network with an active community it is time to take a better look at what goes on inside the network. Every network has been setup to serve one or more goals like community building, knowledge sharing and social interaction. How can we determine if our Social Network is sucesfull and how to steer it in the right direction? You could monitor the activities on a daily base and try to get a picture on what goes on:
- Which member is the most active, popular, influential
- Which group is the most popular, active, interesting
- What are the most popular subjects
- What type of contents is the most important for you
Altough this is a good way to get started manual analysis will take lots of your precious time. Social Network Analysis provides a theory and the tools to help you with this.
The big question is how do we collect and analyze this data. Most Social Networks have some kind of API (application programming interface) that will allow you to retrieve data on its members, groups, postings, and the relations between them. A very usefull feature to determine content that is worth looking for are mechanisms like five star user ratings. The users themselves rate each article by assigning it a 1 to 5 stars rating for usefullness.
Members of your Social Network should be stimulated to be more active by sharing their knowledge posting articles and replying on other members postings. This behaviour can be stimulated by rewarding users for each postive action with “user points” same mechanism as bonus points in the super market. The collected users points will be shown on the users profile page and can also be translated into a ranking system with colorfull badges for specific achieved goals. This approach is known as “Game mechanics”. Users can then actively build up a reputation and be rewarded with a visual token of appreciation.