Who controls social networks?

    In the world of Facebook, users play the role of either kings (or trendsetters ) or lemmings. Such conclusions were made by researchers whose purpose was to analyze how information is disseminated on social networks.

    The debate about how ideas and behaviors are exchanged in social groups has been going on for decades. According to the so-called hypothesis of influential persons, which was widely used, for example, in the book “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell , the comparatively small group of people has the greatest influence on those around them. For example, if the parents of a child who is popular at school buy an iPhone for him, then many other children will follow suit. Critics of this idea argue that the point here is rather how ready the society is to accept new ideas.

    The dispute remained unresolved, because to set the correct experiment in this area is a rather complicated undertaking. But now researchers have the opportunity to take advantage of the help of social networks such as Facebook, with their army of hamsters with a multimillion-dollar audience. And what’s great, do it absolutely free.

    Two researchers from New York University (Sinan Aral and Dylan Walker) used for their purposes a certain application from Facebook, which allows users to rate films and recommend them to their friends (which application is not specified at the request of the company). The application operates as follows. If you rate a movie, a message is sent to several of your friends selected at random, notifying them of the rating, and a link to the application itself is also sent. The more friends who install the application after receiving a notification from you, the higher the degree of your influence. The shorter the time elapsed between receiving a notification and installing the application, the higher your friend’s sensitivity.

    In 44 days, almost 8t users sent over 40t notifications to 1.3 million friends, and about 1000 of those friends installed the app. Researchers then built a model of the spread of “infection” through this social network. If the hypothesis in question is true, most mailings should come from a small number of key people.

    As it turned out, in reality it is necessary to take into account influence and susceptibility at the same time. For example, it turned out that people over 30 are more influential, that peers have the greatest influence on each other, and that women have more influence on men than on each other. But the most interesting thing is that the same person does not combine influence and receptivity (at least among Facebook users), there are only trendsetters and their followers.

    The distinction between influence and receptivity can be of great importance for the development of Internet marketing. It can be assumed, for example, that Facebook will create statistics on these indicators for its users, and will show them more advertising or focus on them when introducing new products to the market so that they influence the rest with their “influence”.

    Prepared based on ScienceNOW.

    Also popular now: