One would have seen social activists always talking about how there is an acute disproportionation of wealth among the population and how the rich own the majority of people’s wealth proportion and how they get richer by the day.
We can see the shadow of this concept in our social networks too, as the people who have a lot of connections tend to meet more new people, expanding their connections and network every day. One can easily observe that the most likable person in the office is the one who has a lot of friends and connections.
Although, In social networks, someone’s behavior and politeness will win them friends and connection. More importantly, it’s their existing social capital that will catalyze their social network to grow exponentially. You can also observe in parties or functions that people tend to approach influential people like politicians, well-established businessmen, or any actor. One might wonder what is happening in this example with all the people in the function.
To untangle this complex relationship we need to understand a theory called Preferential Attachment. To understand this concept, let’s assume that each person in a network is a “node” and let’s call their connections “edges”. Preferential Attachment theory states that
Nodes that already have a high number of edges are more likely to see new edges to them established, compared with nodes with a lower number of pre-existing edges.
Moreover, the Preferential Attachment model assumes that all nodes are born equal, inequality in their degree of connection or edges exist by chance. After this inequality has been established, it is amplified further.
One would get a better understanding of the application of Preferential Attachment with a few more examples.
Whenever a person wants to buy a certain commodity of clothing or any accessories, what is the first thing that crosses their mind? Of course the brand value of that commodity. Many studies have shown that people tend to buy things from companies with a wider consumer base.
Thus, we can say that it’s the company with a large Social Capital ( social connections or networks of consumers) that tends to attract more people. This idea is also reinforced by the brands constantly reminding and telling us through advertisements that their products are being preferred by a large number of people.
Additionally, whenever it comes to inviting people over for an inauguration ceremony or any such public event we often prefer those people with a huge social capital because we know that most people will love to associate with them and it would make our event a huge success.
In other words, people prefer brands with more Social Capital. The other observation is that of the share market. If one is a new investor where would that person invest, obviously they would prefer those stocks where a large number of the people from their connections are investing.
Moreover, when it comes to the growth of the company or its marketing every brand prefers a person with a considerable amount of social connections to expand their reach. This tells us how the identification of such nodes or persons becomes important in Social Networks.
Apart from this, Preferential Attachment is very crucial for the internal dynamics of various organizations and companies. When it comes to appointments or promotions to higher posts every company needs to find out the preferences of their other team members for the post. Therefore, it becomes important to take the help of Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) to detect such people in Social Networks.
These people will help in the company’s smooth functioning and act as a hub for all the information and feedback. Moreover, when a new person makes a random choice among the neighbors of already chosen employees, it has a high probability of them picking up a highly connected employee. These hub-like people are very crucial to analyze the workflow and employee experience in the company. This will eventually help the company in modifying its strategies or bring in any changes in the existing structure.
We know from the Preferential Attachment hypothesis that these nodes or people tend to expand their networks and build social capital much more rapidly than anyone else in the network. Therefore we can assume that these people tend to attract new employees to the company eventually contributing to its growth. Therefore, it becomes important for every company to identify and work to retain such employees by performing ONA of their employee network.