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

Research Seminars

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 the authors of the presented paper show that, for some frequently studied diffusion processes, randomly seedings + x individuals can prompt a larger cascade than optimally targeting the best s individuals, for a small x. They prove their 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.

The seminar series is jointly organized by ZEW, the University Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), and the Universities of Bonn and Mannheim. Additional information on the Virtual MD Seminar Series.


  • Ass. Prof. Mohammad Akbarpour

    Ass. Prof. Mohammad Akbarpour // Stanford Graduate School of Business, USA

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