Today I’m taking a slightly different tack. I’m recommending software, NodeXL, which allows researchers and managers to map social networks. The good news is that this is free software that is an add on to Excel. (Sadly it only works with the Windows version). It is easy to use, and if you already know Excel, you can be mapping a social network in a very short period of time.
Social networks are often best viewed visually. You want to see how people connect up and this software allows you to easily picture the network.
All you really need to start is a simple listing of the nodes in the network. The nodes are the people and we can describe their names, give them a size (perhaps based upon their activity), or assign them a colour (perhaps based upon their group membership). This listing of nodes might look something like this:
Node Name Colour Size
1 Frank Green 12 points
2 Amber Orange 14 points
3 Sylvia Red 8 points
You only need one more list — the edges (connections) between the nodes. You can easily assign each edge a weight which lets higher weights represent deeper connections. Frank is best friends with Amber (say weight 10), but only a mild acquaintance of Sylvia (weight 2)
Node Node EdgeWeight
1 2 10
1 3 2
With just these inputs you can create wonderful pictures of the network. You can add a surprising amount of detail to describe strength of connection, add names/descriptors, or highlight differences between people. Soon you will have a fully visualized network that looks wonderful. NodeXL will even supply you with metrics describing the entire network, such as Density, and each node’s place in the network, such as Betweenness Centrality. You can even add in photographs if you have pictures of Frank and his friends.
It is great, and free, software so why not give it a go.
Visit: NodeXL: Network Overviews, Discovery and Eploration for Excel, http://nodexl.codeplex.com, accessed May 6th 2015