Associate Professor Malcolm Alexander

October 9th, 2017

Researching social networks: Applications for business studies

Social Network Analysis (SNA) has been a small, but active and cohesive, research specialisation in the US and Europe from the 1970s. Mainly focused on small, bounded, ‘whole networks’ , it developed methods to study the dynamics of organisational interactions (such as cooperative work, advice seeking and client referrals) as well as the more ‘social’ networks of friendship, trust and other personal relations. Another stream of SNA used survey-based methods to study individuals’ personal networks as isolated network fragments: ego-centric networks or ‘egonets’.

Since about 2006 Facebook and other social media platforms have revolutionised e-commerce, vastly expanded the scope and scale of individuals’ networking, and created whole new worlds of business opportunity and entrepreneurship. Analysis of the administrative ‘big data’ collected by the servers of Google, Facebook and other IT companies as well as multiple agencies of governments requires wholly new kinds of programming and technical skills far beyond  those used by SNA. These analyses, however, seldom deal with the human dimensions of social networks and network activity.

This workshop champions SNA’s methods for understanding and investigating people’s engagement with networks and their perceptions of what the networks are doing. The workshop will cover the following topics:

  • SNA ‘whole network’ studies: These research projects work with a known, enumerated study population and record the identities of both the respondent (ego) and the other person (alter) to track relationships. Analyses focus on the network paths (chains of connection) and cohesion (density) or on the strategic location of individuals in the network (centrality). We discuss the potential of these studies for promoting organizational change and improvement and their applications in community and inter-organizational studies.
  • SNA survey-based, egonet studies: We make a case for the value of this under-utilized methodology. Data collection requires the initial identification of a respondent’s real world relationships with ‘name generator’ questions. Follow-up questions then elicit information about these specific relations. Analyses deal with the composition of individual networks or the mix of different types of relation (family, business, friendship etc.) within interpersonal relationships. We will suggest how this approach could be used to study the complex mix of network relations needed to sustain the small and micro-enterprises characteristic of developing economies such as Indonesia. We then cover the costs and benefits of the extension of egonet methods to the collection of alter-alter data from the respondent (‘1.5 network’ data).
  • Partial ‘whole network’ studies: Many whole network studies only get data from a subset of a study population. Some egonet surveys can identify alters named by respondents (through an email address or something similar). Data analysis can be adapted to deal with such partial datasets.
  • The workshop will be concluded with an overview of the software packages available for SNA and advice on the basic requirements of data collection for organizational or egonet research projects.


Department of Management

Faculty of Economics & Business UNHAS

Jl. Perintis Kemerdekaan KM 10

Tamalanrea Makassar, Indonesia 90245

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All accepted papers will be Published by Atlantis Press and indexed by Thomson Reuters. All submitted full papers will be peer reviewed by technical committee of the conference. Prominent papers will have opportunity to publish in our reputable Journal Partners (T&C Applied).



Mrs. Fahrina Mustafa +62 8124156075

Ms. Nurul +62 82290047737

Ms. Fitri +62 85255076512

Conference Chair:
Assoc Prof. Andi Reni, SE., MSi., PhD
+62 812 8950 0586
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