While I don’t have time to blog about this in-depth, I found it compelling enough to post it just about completely in-tact, as it was sent to my by Ellis Simon via an email pitch to me as a blogger.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Hernán Makse, professor of physics at The City College of New York (CCNY), has shed new light on the way that information and infectious diseases proliferate across complex networks. Writing in “Nature Physics,” they report that, contrary to conventional wisdom, persons with the most connections are not necessarily the best spreaders.
“The important thing is where someone is located in a network,” said Professor Makse in an interview. “If someone is in the core, they can spread information more efficiently. The challenge is finding the core.”
That kind of information could help marketers and public relations practitioners conduct more effective of social media and social marketing campaigns. It could also help epidemiologists target resources to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
To identify the core, Professor Makse and colleagues used a technique call k-shell decomposition. In this process, network nodes with just one link are removed until no single-link nodes remain. The remaining nodes are assigned a k-shell value of one. The process is repeated with higher k-shell values assigned to remaining nodes after each round of cuts. Those nodes that cannot be reduced to a single link are identified as the core of the network and have the highest k-shell values.
In the study, the researchers examined four networks representing archetypical examples of social structures: members of LiveJournal.com; email contacts in the computer science department at University College London; inpatients of Swedish hospitals, and adult film actors. The latter group was studied because it is a distinct subgroup of the acting profession whose members rarely appear in other genres, Professor Makse explained.
Each network member’s position in that network was plotted on a graph with the number of connections along one axis and the k-shell value along the other, e.g. (100, 5), (50, 25). The team found that nodes with many connection hubs located at the periphery of a network, i.e. low k-shell values, were poor spreaders.
However, nodes with fewer connections but locations near the core, i.e. high k-shell values, were just as likely to spread information or infections as similarly situated nodes with more connections. Hence, they conclude the most efficient spreaders are located in a network’s inner core.
“In the case of LiveJournal, someone with a thousand friends but a low k-shell level will have less impact than someone with a hundred friends but a high k-shell level,” Professor Makse said. “Small players and big players spread just as well if they are at the core of the network.
For the spread of disease, nodes located in high k-shell layers are more likely to be infected and they will be infected sooner than other nodes, the researchers found. “The neighborhood of these nodes makes them more efficient in sustaining an infection in early stages, thus enabling the epidemic to reach a critical mass such that it can fully develop.”
This knowledge could greatly help public health officials trying to head off an epidemic in situations where limited quantities of vaccines are available, Professor Makse said. “You try to identify the most likely spreaders and vaccinate them first.”
The researchers explained the existence of hubs at the periphery of real networks as a consequence of their “rich topological structure. In a fully random network, all hubs would exist near or at the core and they would contribute equally well to spreading.
While high k-shell value nodes were found to be the best single spreaders, regardless of their connectivity, this did not necessarily hold up for situations involving multiple spreaders. In those cases, connectivity between hubs did not accelerate the spreading because of the overlap of infected areas created by the different spreaders.
“The better spreading strategy using (multiple) spreaders is to choose either the highest k or k-shell nodes with the requirement that no two spreaders are directly linked to each other,” the researchers wrote.
I have been a professional online community developer since 1993 on Artswire, TMN.com, Howard Rheingold‘s Brainstorms, and on The Well — this paper does a stellar job of explaining social ties in the context of online communities and social networks.
What this says to me is that no matter how well-hewn your social media news release, your email pitch, or your copy is, there are two things that are more important than any of that: How compelling and interesting is the message? How targeted is the pitch?
For me, as a geek, a nerd, and as a social media marketer and digital PR executive, this is pretty amazing on both counts and directly relates to me and the future of Abraham Harrison — directly influencing the future of our services: what we offer and how we offer them.
What can we do as a social media marketing and PR company to get as close to the core of the social media as possible, which goes back to some OD studies that I did back in the day for my church.
There are apparently concentric rings radiating from a core. The first ring might be called the “apostolic core.” These are the “apostles” of the church.
Each ring outside of the inner core have less stake in the organizational community.
There are always people leaving and moving on so keeping the organization relevant and vibrant required bring not merely more people but more of the right people with the same vision and passion for the community of faith as possible, so that they become not only stakeholders of the community but also the shareholders — owners, if you will.
This is important because they will become the stewards of the community and keep it healthy, happy, whole, and fed.
Organizational Development is not simply relevant to building a happy healthy Episcopal Church community or a Fortune 500 financial services company, it is essential toward building an effective, healthy, solid, stable, and empowered social networking site as well.
I always say that the most important people you bring into your social network are your first 20, then your next 200, then your next 2,000 — and by that time the DNA of your community has already been defined, especially since word of mouth and “invite your friends” is, by its very nature, very nepotistic and incestuous.
Warning: if you go for quantity and not quality early on — choosing the right fit and the best synergy — then the future of the community will have more to do with a vision not only quite a bit different than yours but sometime in direct conflict with your goals — to the point of being cancerous and harmful to the host: the community.
Sometimes this “corruption” of initial vision and goals can be a beautiful thing — it can signify that the members have taken it as their own and now have an ownership and investment in a future that is shared by owner and member.
However, there are also the tenants that trash the place and are impossible to even evict without razing the place to the foundation and starting again — and that never works because after a full community reinstall, there is always trust issues and a feeling of vulnerability and dread. The scars can remain forever.