Social Influence and the Diffusion of User-Contributed Content

Eytan Bakshy, Brian Karrer, Lada A Adamic
EC2009

Social influence determines to a large extent what we adopt and when we adopt it. This is just as true in the digital domain as it is in real life, and has become of increasing importance due to the deluge of user-created content on the Internet. In this paper, we present an empirical study of user-to-user content transfer occurring in the context of a time-evolving social network in Second Life, a massively multiplayer virtual world.

We identify and model social influence based on the change in adoption rate following the actions of one's friends and find that the social network plays a significant role in the adoption of content. Adoption rates quicken as the number of friends adopting increases and this effect varies with the connectivity of a particular user. We further find that sharing among friends occurs more rapidly than sharing among strangers, but that content that diffuses primarily through social influence tends to have a more limited audience. Finally, we examine the role of individuals, finding that some play a more active role in distributing content than others, but that these influencers are distinct from the early adopters.