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Introduction to Graph Theory

Graph Theory is the study of graphs, which are structures used to model the relations of objects between each other. Graphs can take many forms, but this post limits their form to nodes which are connected by edges.

Graph Theory can be applied to anything in which relationships exist, making graph theory a powerful analytical tool. For example, in marketing and fashion, you can discover new trends and major influencers whom you may have overlooked. In networking, you can find an optimal way of creating a computer network and locate any points of failure that could cause issues or bottlenecks in the system. Within the context of social media, which will be the focus of this piece, you can view the connections between individuals on the web for more efficient and productive outreach campaigns.


What is Social Graph Theory?

Social Graph Theory is the process of investigating social channels through the use of network connections.  It examines the social network – or the structure of a relationship between individuals or groups of social networks.  While social channels are typically individuals, they can also be groups, organizations, brands or websites.

In the analysis of social networks, each person is represented as a node and the connections or relationships connecting them is an edge. By studying social networks, we can learn a lot about the individual or group.




Key concept: In the analysis of social networks, each person is represented as a node and the connections or relationships connecting them is an edge.


Putting Social Graph Theory to Use

Influencer marketing is a form of relationship-based marketing that focuses on leveraging a set of key individuals who have a certain level of influence over potential buyers – research shows that messaging from influencers tends to resonate better with target audiences than a brand speaking on its own behalf.  Rather than marketing to your entire target audience, you can use influencer marketing to concentrate your efforts on a smaller group of influencers – those who can help you inspire your target audience to take action, whether your objective is to drive sales or build brand awareness.

We have a plethora of tools available at our fingertips to identify and contact the right influencers for a specific brand strategy.  Two of our favorites are the Brandwatch Influencer Dashboard and Buzzstream. Historically, we identified influencers using Brandwatch, then conducted outreach using Buzzstream. However, without adding in a level of social graph theory analysis, we found ourselves blindly reaching out to influencers with very little ROL.

Once a social graph is completed, we can now go beyond the standard methodology of targeting a particular high-level influencer – rather, we can analyze the social graph to identify the mid-level users who are influencing our “big fish.” Yes, we’re talking about reaching the people influencing our influencers. Reaching out to the right people helps The Search Agency conduct outreach efficiently, spreading our clients’ brand messaging across multiple social networks.


How to Visualize Connections

While connections may appear straightforward, it’s a bit more complicated than meets the eye. When you are identifying sets of key players, it is important to analyze each and every relationship.

In the network image below, Node 10 is the most central, according to degree centrality.  However, Node 3 and 5 will reach more nodes. The tie between them is critical – if severed, the network would break into two isolated subnetworks.  In this case, Nodes 3 and 5 together are more “key” to this network than Node 10, since they are able to connect the two subnetworks.





It is important not to simply focus on degree centrality (or, in layman’s terms, don’t just focus on the “big fish”) – often times, you’ll find smaller or mid-level influencers are actually able to spread your message more effectively through social networks – and eventually reach not only your target influencers, but your target audience of potential customers!


Have you used Graph Theory to supercharge your influencer marketing efforts? If so, comment below and let us know how it’s working for you!

1 Comment
  • Alnoor

    Interesting article Jaime, i really liked the way you illustrated graph theory using nodes – very helpful.

    January 19, 2017 at 10:16 am Reply
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