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Mining You Data — From Advertising To Counterterrorism

From retailing to counterterrorism, the ability to analyse social connections is proving increasingly useful.

The economist has an awesome article on the ways in which your social network information is being used — think everything from advertising to counterterrorism. Of course, companies have long mined their data to improve sales and productivity. But broadening data mining to include analysis of social networks makes new things possible.

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 software, says Amrita Gangotra, the firm’s director for information technology.

Still curious? We’ve covered a bit on social networking in the past, see here, and here.