The components of a social network

Components of a network

Understanding how social network operates within the context of social collaboration requires understanding of an interdisciplinary framework consisting of subjects as diverse computers, mathematics, Sociology, Psychology, and Ethnography.

In effect, it requires the understanding of the inter-relationships between people, organizations, and societies as a whole.  We can consider individuals, organizations, or groups as separate units.  The key is to understand the ties and interactions that happen within these units.

Implementation of a social network with enabling technology is complex.  It is complex because, the interactions and the ties between the units is continuously evolving and self-organizing.

Let us consider a social network model called the Albert Barabesi model to understand this.  The model is the fundamental principle on which current day ‘internet’ works through its associative links connecting one web page to another.  The model works on scale-free networks.  Meaning, the networks can scale by associating themselves with each other in the network and grow exponentially.  Scale free networks correspond to power law distributions.  It is similar to how the inbound links on the internet websites operate.

The Barabesi social network model has two parts to it.  The first part is the number of new nodes attached to it.  Nodes could be people or groups.  The second part is the number of connections connecting the new nodes.

The greater the nodes and connections, the more likely the social network will grow.  It is like a catch 22 situation, when there is greater social collaboration; there is every chance that the connecting social network will also grow.

The three components

A social network has three main components to it.  When these three main components work in tandem, we can assure that there will be greater social collaboration among the participants.

1.The type of connections between units

There could be myriad connections between the units. As previously, mentioned units could be individuals, groups, or families.  The type of connections among units determines the nature of the social network.  If it is a connection among families and friends, then it is a casual social network like Facebook etc.

2.What flows between the units

It is important to understand what flows between the units.  There could be information or any other contagion that could be flowing.  Depending on the contagion, networks are different.  The contagion could be germs, money, love or even plain simple news information.  The contagion or what flows between the units is also an important component of a social network.

3.The behavior of members in the network

Another important aspect is the behavior of members in a social network. Each individual’s action has an enormous bearing on the rest of the members in the social network.  It is important to understand and know that members should behave responsibly within a social network.  It is highly likely that members imitate other members and they learn from each other.  There are no hard and fast rules.  A social network’s success depends on the members ’behavior as well.

Collaboration through networks

Social collaboration through social networks has dominated the web 2.0 interactions in recent times. Some of the best practices for social collaboration from an enterprise perspective can be found here.

The post explains that for social collaboration to be successful, we need to have smaller projects, select the most promising one, and take it to completion.  As stated above in the three components, the behavior of the members in the social network is important.

When the behavior is right and conducive, others would follow and ideas within an organization or outside of it will be diffused quite rapidly.

There is tremendous potential for its usage and there are benefits to realize as well. Mass social collaborations to get work done based on ‘shared understanding’ is one big area where many complex initiatives like to development of the Linux operating system were accomplished.

In corporate environments, using corporate social networks, organizations have begun to realize the benefits of collaborative problem solving.  Collaborative problem solving further leads to idea iteration and innovation at later stages.


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Ramkumar Yaragarla

I am 43 years old. Founder, Loving dad and Husband. Worked as an IT Business analyst and program manager in several Fortune 100 companies.Alumnus at the University of Warwick, UK. I love the WWW and write on Social aspects of information, Social collaboration, Digital Sociology, Digital Humanities and Work life balance. I enjoy playing on the beach with my 9 year old daughter. I am open to your suggestions and comments.
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