The social graph can save your life

A social graph is a fascinating concept. It is the visual depiction of connectivity between people and, in the very recent times, things. It was amazing a few months back to pull up our LinkedIn social graphs and see the plot of our professional lives. For the first time, we could see our careers in beautiful colors and sweeping patterns.

The graph was pretty but the interactive functionality was the remarkable part. By selecting a single point, we could see exactly how disparate networks connected and were able to see a pattern in the data. Visualized patterns are fascinating and are quickly becoming a driver of things we didn’t imagine before. It may seem counter-intuitive, but knowing that a pattern exists is more important than knowing why it does.

Trusted doctors

What if the social graph can save your life? A GigaOM story explained how hactivist’ Fred Trotter, using a Freedom of Information Act request, was able to build a visualization of millions of government-tracked physician referrals. What emerged was his “DocGraph” that essentially maps trust and competence.

Rather than archaic scoring or survey methods, Trotter created the visualized data representing what actually happened. Call it a map of truth.

The same article brought up Palo Alto startup, HealthTap, which graphs the 17,000 doctors in its referral network and makes it available to its members. Users can discover the physician ‘circle of trust’. It could save your life to have that kind of information.

A graph of connectivity has implications that have far greater impact than knowing friendships and favorites. We can make critical decisions based on what it tells us.

Activating ideas

This benefit of a visualized social graph isn’t limited to hot-button issues like our medical care. Marketers use it to foster engagement with their audience. By knowing how people are connected, we can decide how to push ideas into the network most effectively. By knowing where key connection points exist, similar to what we found on our LinkedIn graphs, it becomes far more predictable for how messages will move across a community.

Knowing key connectors on a social graph gives marketers the ability to target personalized messages to the exactly the right places (and people) likely to bring the best responses based on preferences, history and connection (including weak versus strong ties). We’ve always wanted to do this but never had the granular detail to know the best way to execute.

Knowing the business

With the advent of enterprise social, the graph shows us how to get work done faster, how to spread messages and where to reinforce culture. For human resources, it is a tool to redesign work and work teams, address entropy and build incentive programs for collaboration. It blows away the hierarchical model that is a relic of the industrial age.

And it goes beyond humans. Powerful social media software allows people to subscribe to ‘things’ like particular business events that could be the publishing of a report, news coverage of a competitor, the performance levels of key applications and much more. The pattern that emerges from the interaction of humans and things brings even more information that can be used to better design business.

Mining the social graph stands to change the way business is done. As we become more experienced, we’ll continue to find new and better ways to use the information that’s coming from social applications. It will help us make better and better decisions. This should be interesting.


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Categories: Social / Collaboration

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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3 Comments on “The social graph can save your life”

  1. November 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm #


  1. The nexus of healthcare forces | Successful Workplace - December 16, 2012

    […] have always had to know an enormous amount of information. Visualization of data changes the doctor-patient relationship, putting much more power in the hands of the customer who can anywhere and anytime see who the best […]

  2. Are we stupid? Of course the NSA crunchs our call data. | Successful Workplace - June 8, 2013

    […] similar (if more simplistic) capability was on Facebook and LinkedIn a while back and we were all amazed at the colorful patterns that emerged from our relationships. I took the […]

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