Just a Few Seeds More: Value of Network Information for Diffusion

42 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2017 Last revised: 24 May 2018

See all articles by Mohammad Akbarpour

Mohammad Akbarpour

Stanford University

Suraj Malladi

Stanford University, Graduate School of Business

Amin Saberi

Stanford University - Management Science & Engineering

Date Written: April 1, 2018

Abstract

Identifying the optimal set of individuals to first receive information (`seeds') in a social network is a widely-studied question in many settings, such as the diffusion of information, microfinance programs, and new technologies. Numerous studies have proposed various network-centrality based heuristics to choose seeds in a way that is likely to boost diffusion. Here we show that, for some frequently studied diffusion processes, randomly seeding s plus x individuals can prompt a larger cascade than optimally targeting the best s individuals, for a small x. We prove our results for large classes of random networks, but also show that they hold in simulations over several real-world networks. This suggests that the returns to collecting and analyzing network information to identify the optimal seeds may not be economically significant. Given these findings, practitioners interested in communicating a message to a large number of people may wish to compare the cost of network-based targeting to that of slightly expanding initial outreach.

Keywords: Diffusion, social network, seeding, word-of-mouth, influence

JEL Classification: D85, D83, O12, Z13

Suggested Citation

Akbarpour, Mohammad and Malladi, Suraj and Saberi, Amin, Just a Few Seeds More: Value of Network Information for Diffusion (April 1, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3062830 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3062830

Mohammad Akbarpour (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Suraj Malladi

Stanford University, Graduate School of Business ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

Amin Saberi

Stanford University - Management Science & Engineering ( email )

473 Via Ortega
Stanford, CA 94305-9025
United States

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