Publication Type

Journal Article

Version

Postprint

Publication Date

10-2012

Abstract

What is the effect of (1) popular individuals, and (2) community structures on the retransmission of socially contagious behavior? We examine a community of Twitter users over a five month period, operationalizing social contagion as ‘retweeting’, and social structure as the count of subgraphs (small patterns of ties and nodes) between users in the follower/following network. We find that popular individuals act as ‘inefficient hubs’ for social contagion: they have limited attention, are overloaded with inputs, and therefore display limited responsiveness to viral messages. We argue this contradicts the ‘law of the few’ and ‘influentials hypothesis’. We find that community structures, particularly reciprocal ties and certain triadic structures, substantially increase social contagion. This contradicts the theory that communities display lower internal contagion because of the inherent redundancy and lack of novelty of messages within a community. Instead, we speculate that the reasons community structures show increased social contagion are, first, that members of communities have higher similarity (reflecting shared interests and characteristics, increasing the relevance of messages), and second, that communities amplify the social bonding effect of retransmitted messages.

Keywords

Social contagion, Subgraphs, Network motifs, Influentials hypothesis, Community structures, Twitter--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Discipline

Databases and Information Systems | Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing | Social Media

Research Areas

Data Management and Analytics; Sociology

Publication

Social Networks

Volume

34

Issue

4

First Page

470

Last Page

480

ISSN

0378-8733

Identifier

10.1016/j.socnet.2012.02.005

Publisher

Elsevier

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Additional URL

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2012.02.005