Social influence maximization models aim to identify the smallest number of influential individuals (seed nodes) that can maximize the diffusion of information or behaviours through a social network. However, while empirical experimental evidence has shown that network assortativity and the joint distribution of influence and susceptibility are important mechanisms shaping social influence, most current influence maximization models do not incorporate these features. Here, we specify a class of empirically motivated influence models and study their implications for influence maximization in six synthetic and six real social networks of varying sizes and structures. We find that ignoring assortativity and the joint distribution of influence and susceptibility leads traditional models to underestimate influence propagation by 21.7% on average, for a fixed seed set size. The traditional models and the empirical types that we specify here also identify substantially different seed sets, with only 19.8% overlap between them. The optimal seeds chosen under empirical influence models are relatively less well-connected and less central nodes, and they have more cohesive, embedded ties with their contacts. Hence, empirically motivated influence models have the potential to identify more realistic sets of key influencers in a social network and inform intervention designs that disseminate information or change attitudes and behaviours.
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We thank to D. Eckles for invaluable discussions. S.A. acknowledges funding and support from the NSF (Career Award 0953832). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Aral, S., Dhillon, P.S. Social influence maximization under empirical influence models. Nat Hum Behav 2, 375–382 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-018-0346-z
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