Detecting influentials in a social network

Why is it that some ideas or products become unusually successful and get adopted widely while others don’t? This question has been puzzling many social scientists, economists, politicians and educators for a long time. Knowing the answer to this question can help deliberately start such successful cascades. In social sciences, many theories have been introduced by economists and social scientists and those theories have been backed by small numbers of case studies. In a recent work, we focused on the popular theories introduced in “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. The basic idea is the crucial effect of three types of “fascinating” people that the author calls Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen on the effectiveness of a cascade. Those people are claimed to “play a critical role in the word-of-mouth epidemics that dictate our tastes, trends and fashions”. We investigated existence of Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen in the blogosphere. We formally defined what it means to be a Maven, Connector or a Salesman and study their effect on the success of cascades in the blogosphere. We also studied the effect of a fourth type of interesting actor that we call Translator, an actor that acts as a bridge between different interest groups and communities. We observe that those four types of important players do in fact exist in the blogosphere. More interestingly, we show that the impact of most of those actors on the effectiveness of cascades is more pronounced when those actors act as intermediaries rather than initiators of cascades.

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