Neo4j for Social Network Analysis: A Case Study

Are you looking for a powerful tool to analyze social networks? Do you want to uncover hidden patterns and relationships in your data? Look no further than Neo4j!

Neo4j is a graph database that allows you to model and query complex networks of data. It's perfect for social network analysis, where you need to understand how people and organizations are connected.

In this article, we'll explore a case study of how Neo4j was used to analyze a social network. We'll look at the data model, the queries used, and the insights gained. So, let's dive in!

The Data Model

The first step in any social network analysis project is to define the data model. This involves deciding what entities you want to represent and how they are connected.

In our case study, we were analyzing a network of political donors and their contributions to candidates and committees. We decided to model the following entities:

We represented each entity as a node in the graph, with properties to store additional information. For example, a donor node might have properties for their name, address, and occupation.

We also defined relationships between the entities. For example, a contribution relationship connects a donor node to a candidate or committee node, with properties for the amount and date of the contribution.

Here's an example of what our data model looked like in Neo4j:

(:Donor {name: "John Smith", address: "123 Main St", occupation: "Lawyer"})
-[:CONTRIBUTED {amount: 1000, date: "2020-01-01"}]->
(:Candidate {name: "Jane Doe", party: "Democrat"})

The Queries

Once we had our data model in place, we could start writing queries to analyze the network. Neo4j's query language, Cypher, is designed specifically for graph databases and makes it easy to traverse and manipulate the graph.

Here are some of the queries we used in our case study:

Query 1: Find the top donors

MATCH (d:Donor)-[c:CONTRIBUTED]->()
RETURN, sum(c.amount) as total

This query finds the top 10 donors by total contribution amount. It starts by matching all donor nodes that have contributed to any candidate or committee. It then sums up the contribution amounts and returns the donor name and total amount, sorted by descending total.

Query 2: Find the most popular candidates

MATCH (:Donor)-[c:CONTRIBUTED]->(ca:Candidate)
RETURN, count(c) as count

This query finds the top 10 candidates by number of contributions. It starts by matching all contribution relationships between donors and candidates. It then counts the number of contributions for each candidate and returns the candidate name and count, sorted by descending count.

Query 3: Find the biggest donors to a specific candidate

MATCH (d:Donor)-[c:CONTRIBUTED]->(ca:Candidate {name: "Jane Doe"})
RETURN, c.amount
ORDER BY c.amount DESC

This query finds the top 10 donors to a specific candidate, in this case Jane Doe. It starts by matching all contribution relationships between donors and the specified candidate. It then returns the donor name and contribution amount, sorted by descending amount.

Query 4: Find the shortest path between two donors

MATCH p=shortestPath((d1:Donor)-[*]-(d2:Donor))
WHERE = "John Smith" AND = "Mary Johnson"

This query finds the shortest path between two donors, in this case John Smith and Mary Johnson. It starts by finding all paths between the two donor nodes, using the shortestPath function to limit the search to the shortest path. It then returns the entire path as a graph.

The Insights

By running these queries and others like them, we were able to uncover some interesting insights about the political donor network we were analyzing. Here are a few examples:

These insights would have been difficult or impossible to uncover using traditional relational databases or spreadsheet tools. Neo4j's graph database allowed us to easily model and query the complex network of political donors and their contributions.


In conclusion, Neo4j is a powerful tool for social network analysis. Its graph database model and Cypher query language make it easy to model and query complex networks of data. By using Neo4j, we were able to uncover hidden patterns and relationships in our political donor network that would have been difficult to find using traditional tools.

If you're interested in learning more about Neo4j and how it can be used for social network analysis, be sure to check out the Neo4j documentation and community resources. Happy graphing!

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