How many of your Facebook friends actually influence your behavior?

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Eric Barker  -  
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The success of Internet social networking sites depends on the number and activity levels of their user members. Although users typically have numerous connections to other site members (i.e., “friends”), only a fraction of those so-called friends may actually influence a member’s site usage. Because the influence of potentially hundreds of friends needs to be evaluated for each user, inferring precisely who is influential—and, therefore, of managerial interest for advertising targeting and retention efforts—is difficult. The authors develop an approach to determine which users have significant effects on the activities of others using the longitudinal records of members’ log-in activity. They propose a nonstandard form of Bayesian shrinkage implemented in a Poisson regression. Instead of shrinking across panelists, strength is pooled across variables within the model for each user. The approach identifies the specific users who most influence others’ activity and does so considerably better than simpler alternatives. For the social networking site data, the authors find that, on average, approximately one-fifth of a user’s friends actually influence his or her activity level on the site.

Source: “Determining Influential Users in Internet Social Networks” from Journal of Marketing Research,Vol 47, Issue 4, Aug 2010, 643-658

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What kinds of friendships does Facebook promote?

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Eric Barker  -  
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“…Facebook promotes mainly weak, low-commitment ties.”

Facebook offers the possibility of increased social contact via a process known as ‘friending’, whereby users create personal profiles and accumulate ‘friends’ on a reciprocal basis. The making and maintaining of friendships has been shown to be particularly important to young adults, but there is a strong debate in the literature on computer-mediated communication about the value of the often weak ties that are created. Relatively little is known about the kind of contact that is made on Facebook in the UK context. This study interviewed 16 second-and third-year undergraduates who all joined Facebook soon after it was launched in UK universities in October 2005. This article explores the extent to which the nature of the Facebook site fosters particular kinds of social interaction, and how students seek to manage their Facebook ‘friendships’. It finds that Facebook promotes mainly weak, low-commitment ties.

Source: “‘Friending’: London-based undergraduates’ experience of Facebook” from New Media & Society, Vol. 11, No. 7, 1209-1229 (2009)

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