This is what a global conversation looks like.
The annual Social Good Summit (SGS) gathers a global community of world leaders, UN experts, celebrities and activitists in New York City the week of the UN General Assembly to look at how technology and new media can help solve some of the world’s biggest problems. While it began in 2010 as a partnership between the UN Foundation and Mashable, it has spread around the world in the last five years, with partner organizations hosting country events in coordination with Plus Social Good and UNDP.
The theme of the 2014 event was #2030now, encouraging participants to imagine what the world will look like 16 years from now. Using a collection of tweets containing the hashtag #2030now, we were able to map the online and real world communities brought together by this global event.
SGS and Plus Social Good successfully leveraged the power of social behavior to connect people and share substantive ideas, maximizing the potential of social media.
We identified several distinct communities within our dataset. First, the largest community (shown above in dark blue) represents the primary SGS community, based in New York. This group includes accounts of the host organizations UN Foundation and Mashable, primary sponsors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNDP, as well as celebrity endorsers including Pharrell and Alicia Keys.
To explore the global reach of SGS, we turn to the second largest community (shown in light blue below), which acts as a hub for communities in other countries. At the center of the hub is the Twitter account of Plus Social Good, which works with country partners to organize and host the various Social Good Summits held around the world. Other members of this group include the country office of the UNDP, including both India and Pakistan.
Two countries stand out from the crowd. The first is Jordan (shown in pink, bottom left). The @SGSJordan account bridges the gap between the Jordanian community and the Plus Social Good community.
The second distinct country is the Philippines (shown in light blue, bottom right). Notable accounts include many of the speakers from the Manila Social Good summit including Geena Rocero, who also spoke on the NY main stage, as well as Philippine summit organizers, Rappler and Maria Ressa. Facebook’s official account also appears in the Philippines community because Jackie Chang joined the event to speak about their Internet.org initiative.
Growth of New York community since 2012
Rappler held a 4-day summit in the Philippines, including 2 Journalism Forums in Manila and Tacloban, the symbolic epicenter of the worst typhoon to ever hit land. The final day, PH+SocialGood: Tacloban #2030NOW brought together local and national officials, along with NGOs and international aid groups, and civil society in a move to prepare for the effects of climate change, which could bring worse days ahead to a country that sees an average of 20 typhoons annually.
Partly because a tropical storm flooded the capital and bandwidth issues, little of the Tacloban forums registered in the virtual world, despite having maximum on-the ground impact among a population still recovering from Haiyan.
If we compare 2014 with the 2012 engagement map above, you can see how much the New York community has grown and the success of its strategies. In 2012, the New York conversation (blue-purple, bottom left) had Beth Kanter, who specializes in social media for nonprofits, as its largest influencer. Mashable connected that New York conversation with the larger community in the Philippines – one large summit that split into two distinct communities: a network led by celebrities Bianca Gonzalez and Tim Yap (in yellow, upper right); and the journalists and civic society around Rappler (in magenta near center).
What we learned in the Philippines from 2012 and 2014 is that one large event with about 1,000 participants leads to greater social media engagement than 4 smaller events.
It’s a small world after all
Have you ever played “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? The often achievable goal is to link any Hollywood actor to Kevin Bacon through their co-stars. As impossible as this may seem at first, it is not too difficult for anyone somewhat familiar with popular movies. In fact, the idea that we are all connected is not an entirely uncommon sentiment. Mathematicians may brag about the Erdős number. Some of your Facebook friends name drop a little too often. You may meet friends of friends halfway around the globe.
In the world of graph theory, a mathematical definition of these collaboration networks was put forward by Albert-László Barabási and Réka Albert, who observed a behavior they called “preferential attachment”. An intuitive explanation of preferential attachment is summed up in the saying, “the rich get richer”. For example, people just starting out in their careers often choose to associate with someone who is already established in the same field. This leads to a series of “hubs”, individuals who are much more connected than other people.
Online social networks, and indeed the whole world wide web, behave like Barabási-Albert networks. You are more closely to connected with any random complete stranger than our intuitive understanding of chance would suggest.
(Preferential attachment leads to another counter-intuitive conclusion: your friends, on average, have more friends than you do. On Twitter, the people you follow have more followers than you.)
Leveraging social hubs
So your social network is full of bicycle wheels, with heavily connected hubs being orbited by many spokes. The beauty of events like the Social Good Summit is they take advantage of this hub-and-spoke structure, using the hubs as a backbone along which to transfer information.
In 2014, the Social Good Summit was able to connect otherwise very different people by connecting many of the most influential hubs from around the world. By comparing with the 2012 community, you can see how much the SGS community has grown in reach.
This is social media at its finest, facilitating the exchange of substantive information and ideas along new channels and communities. – Rappler.com
Reach is the data analytics arm of Rappler. It uses an in-house tool developed to monitor the growth of communities and the spread of information and emotions on social media.
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