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Articles by subject : Topics : TECHNOLOGY QUARTERLY

Summary: Articles by subject : Topics :
Mining social networks
Untangling the social web
Sep 2nd 2010
From The Economist print edition
Software: From retailing to counterterrorism, the ability to analyse social connections is proving
increasingly useful
TELECOMS operators naturally prize mobile-phone subscribers who spend a lot, but some thriftier customers, it
turns out, are actually more valuable. Known as "influencers", these subscribers frequently persuade their friends,
family and colleagues to follow them when they switch to a rival operator. The trick, then, is to identify such
trendsetting subscribers and keep them on board with special discounts and promotions. People at the top of the
office or social pecking order often receive quick callbacks, do not worry about calling other people late at night and
tend to get more calls at times when social events are most often organised, such as Friday afternoons. Influential
customers also reveal their clout by making long calls, while the calls they receive are generally short.
Companies can spot these influencers, and work out all sorts of other things about their customers, by crunching
vast quantities of calling data with sophisticated "network analysis" software. Instead of looking at the call records
of a single customer at a time, it looks at customers within the context of their social network. The ability to retain
customers is particularly important in hyper-competitive markets, such as India. Bharti Airtel, India's biggest
mobile operator, which handles over 3 billion calls a day, has greatly reduced customer defections by deploying the


Source: Amaral, Luis A.N. - Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University


Collections: Physics; Biology and Medicine