We’ve been discussing social networks a lot as of late, and for good reason. As marketing researchers, we’re often asked to use our knowledge of social networks to develop strategies in which these relationships can be utilized to meet marketing objectives. Often, the best sources for exploring social networks today are online social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, etc. These sites offer a breadth and depth of networking information unparalleled by any other source. Unfortunately, there are some real shortcomings in using virtual networks to infer conclusions about “real world” networks.

Johan Lehrer, editor-at-large of Seed, has a great post over at The Frontal Cortex (by far, my blog of the month) detailing the differences in virtual network dynamics and real world network dynamics.

For more information about the cutting-edge academic research being conducted using these virtual networks, be sure to check out the work of James Fowler, Associate Professor of Political Science at UCSD.