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A social map is a visual representation of a social network. Social mapping has been utilized by anthropologists historically for mapping out the connections in the populations they study. On the Internet, it has become a powerful tool for marketing, establishing connections, and studying the way in which online populations interact with each other. There are numerous applications that are designed to generate social maps for a variety of purposes. People who are interested in plotting themselves on a social map can take advantage of free services, many of which are connected with social networking sites.
In some cases, a social map is a literal map that fixes people geographically. Others are more abstract, representing relationships and connections without regard to geography. The map is usually centered around a subject such as a person, brand, company, or community. Connections are represented visually with lines, bubbles, and other elements that provide information about how objects on the map relate to each other and to the central element.
For marketing purposes, social mapping is used to explore digital identities and digital reputation. The explosions of social networking, blogs, and other online tools have forced companies to engage with the Internet in a variety of ways. Social mapping is used by companies to see how they are linked to other elements online and how this impacts their reputation. The social map has become a critical tool for companies that want to know how they are perceived by Internet users and where their sphere of influence reaches.
A social map centered around a brand, for example, might reveal a new market by showing a community that is engaging with the brand online, but is not currently receiving attention from the company. It can also provide revealing information about consumer attitudes; for example, some areas of the social map may reveal negative feelings about the brand. These areas will show where the feelings originate and how they spread, allowing the company to intervene to improve its reputation.
Social networking sites that allow people to connect with friends, colleagues, and people with similar interests use social mapping extensively. Each user has a social map that the site can use to deliver customized content. The site can tailor advertising, event announcements, and other materials to the preferences and inclinations of individual users. This is a service that is much in demand among advertisers. The ability to create targeted campaigns w are highly like to elicit a response from consumers at relatively low cost is an extremely useful and valuable marketing tool.