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An Empirical Analysis of Strategies and Efficiencies in Social Networks

40 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2010 Last revised: 27 Mar 2012

Nathaniel Bulkley

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Information

Marshall W. Van Alstyne

Boston University – Questrom School of Business; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School

Date Written: February 1, 2006

Abstract

This research examines hypotheses about the efficient and strategic uses of social networks by a specific group of white collar workers. We examine existing theory that relates network structure to performance and put forward two new hypotheses. The first addition merges explore/exploit theory with social networks, proposing that optimal network characteristics evolve over the course of a career from those favoring exploration to those favoring exploitation of knowledge and relationships. The second concerns efficient movement of information through a network, proposing that frequent short communication outperforms infrequent lengthy communication. Using a unique data set containing email patterns and accounting records for several dozen executive recruiters, we find statistically significant differences related to network (1) structure (2) flow and (3) age. Consistent with existing theory, more central position is associated with higher output. Consistent with the two proposed theories, exploration strategies among early career recruiters and exploitation strategies among senior recruiters are both positively associated with performance, while more frequent shorter messages are associated with higher output. Results of this research have the potential to create a more complete understanding of different types of efficiency associated with social networks.

Keywords: social networks, email, productivity

Suggested Citation

Bulkley, Nathaniel and Van Alstyne, Marshall W., An Empirical Analysis of Strategies and Efficiencies in Social Networks (February 1, 2006). Boston U. School of Management Research Paper No. 2010-29; MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4682-08. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=887406 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.887406

Nathaniel Bulkley (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Information ( email )

304 West Hall
550 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1092
United States

Marshall Van Alstyne

Boston University – Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-358-3571 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://questromapps.bu.edu/mgmt_new/Profiles/VanAlstyneMarshall.html

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School ( email )

Center for Digital Business
5 Cambridge Center - NE25, 7th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-0768 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://web.mit.edu/marshall/www/home.html

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