Seeding influential social network members is crucial for the success of a viral marketing campaign and product diffusion. In line with the assumption that connections between customers in social networks are binary (either present or absent), previous research has generally recommended seeding network members who are well-connected. However, the importance of connections between customers varies substantially depending on the relationship's characteristics, such as its type (i.e., friend, colleague, or acquaintance), duration, and interaction intensity.
This research introduces a new Bayesian methodology to identify influential network members and takes into account the relative influence of different relationship characteristics on product diffusion.
Two applications of the proposed methodology - the launch of a microfinance program across 43 Indian villages and information propagation in a large online social network - demonstrate the importance of weighting connections in social networks.compared with traditional seeding strategies, the proposed methodology recommends substantially different sets of seeds that increased the reach by up to 10% in the first empirical application and up to 92% in the second.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Bayesian method, Multigraph network, Product diffusion, Seeding strategy, Social network analysis
Persistent URL,
Series ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal Journal of Marketing Research
Chen, X, van der Lans, R.J.A, & Phan, T.Q. (2017). Uncovering the importance of relationship characteristics in social networks. Journal of Marketing Research, 54(2), 187–201. doi:10.1509/jmr.12.0511