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Trends and Outliers

TIBCO Spotfire's Business Intelligence Blog

02/16
2011

Social Network Analysis Can Reveal Secrets About Your Customers

social network Social Network Analysis Can Reveal Secrets About Your CustomersThere is an old saying that a man is known by the company he keeps. Today, the company men and women keep is much easier known – or at least pieced together through online activity. It’s called a social network and, just as the adage states, your social network is a reflection on you. In 2010, Gartner designated social network analysis technology as the second most strategic technology warranting significant investment by businesses. According to this article in The Economist, whether you know it or not, social network analysis technology is being used everywhere, and that trend will only continue as it reveals deeper insight into everything from consumer to terrorist behavior.

Some consumers may feel like they’re getting special treatment from their wireless phone provider. They may have been identified as “influencers” – people who potentially have the power to convince others to stay or switch phone service providers. Influencers get quick call backs, make long calls but receive short ones, receive more calls when social events are happening, and aren’t afraid to call at inconvenient times, such as the middle of the night. Their sphere of influence is easy to identify through the records of whom they call and who calls them.

Everyone knows that networking is critical to business success. So when someone is applying for a loan for a new business, their social contacts are important. Banks may analyze a loan applicant’s social network to see if it includes contacts relevant to the business venture. They may combine that with an analysis of credit card transactions to look at travel or business interactions that are relevant to the new venture. The bank may even get a reduced premium on insurance on a loan for performing a more in-depth analysis that includes an applicant’s social network.

Speaking of insurance, if someone is making an insurance claim, it might make sense to check if their social circle includes people who might not always abide by the law.  Oops – one of their contacts previously shared an address with someone on parole – for insurance fraud. Perhaps that claim warrants some extra investigation?

For those who are already trouble-makers in the eyes of the law, chances are that police have done some analysis of their social network. Combine that with Facebook, Myspace and Twitter messages and they might be able to predict where the rowdiest parties will be. The Richmond, Virginia police department has saved $15,000 in overtime pay by more intelligently deploying extra police based on this sort of analysis.

For someone fortunate enough to have a chauffeur, his or her social network may reveal something about the person they are driving. In fact, identifying the hideout location of Saddam Hussein in 2003, which led to his capture, was primarily the result of analyzing the social networks of his chauffeurs and identifying the rural locations to which they were networked.

How are you using social network analysis to gain more insight about your customers?

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Steve McDonnell
Spotfire Blogging Team

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