Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Spontaneous Diffusion of Information in Online Social Networks

Herald of NTU "KhPI" Scientific Journal, 2008

6 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2010  

Chris Russ

Institute of Applied Informatics

Date Written: April 10, 2008


Online Social Networks (OSN) are new types of web services which provide online communities an environment to gather and meet virtually. The online users are connected to each other via links of trust and utilize the features of the OSN to interact and communicate in an easy socio-technical way. Hence these virtual networks of social relationships have a high potential for influential decision-making and the word of mouth spread of information, but also for spreading fads, rumors, and erroneous information. The power of these new forms of social networks is also recognized by service providers, marketers and vendors of consumer goods. They would all like to (mis)use these existing communication channels to spread product placements, advertising and promotions directly to the connected users. However, just like the old economy businesses, not all attempted marketing initiatives are successful. Most of them fail or do not reach the desired audience.

This paper tries to explain why OSN are a good environment for spontaneous diffusion of information and what phases of development need to be accomplished to reach the optimal spreading rate for one piece information. Therefore, we start with a look at the “Hype Cycle” model of Gartner to explain over-enthusiasm for new technology adoptions. Next we introduce the concept of “social contagion” and the infections spread of information. After a short introduction of OSN, we try to illustrate the phases of a social online contagion development process which can lead to spontaneous and uncontrolled diffusion of information, messages or ideas. The core statement of our approach is that online individuals tend to behave collectively if they observe the virtual behaviors and actions of others. This principle of “other-directedness” can generate a chain reaction of infectious imitation which can sometimes spread uncontrolled through the interconnected social network like an epidemic. This helps to explain why some online information waves can grow extraordinarily high and others fall.

Keywords: Social Networks, information diffusion, social contagion, Web 2.0, online crowds model

JEL Classification: H51, H54, J4, K4

Suggested Citation

Russ, Chris, Spontaneous Diffusion of Information in Online Social Networks (April 10, 2008). Herald of NTU "KhPI" Scientific Journal, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Chris Russ (Contact Author)

Institute of Applied Informatics ( email )

Klagenfurt, Austria A-9020


Paper statistics

Abstract Views