When can overambitious seeding cost you?

Applied Network Science


In the classic “influence-maximization” (IM) problem, people influence one another to adopt a product and the goal is to identify people to “seed” with the product so as to maximize long-term adoption. Many influence-maximization models suggest that, if the number of people who can be seeded is unconstrained, then it is optimal to seed everyone at the start of the IM process. In a recent paper, we argued that this is not necessarily the case for social products that people use to communicate with their friends (Iyer and Adamic, The costs of overambitious seeding of social products. In: International Workshop on Complex Networks and Their Applications_273–286, 2018). Through simulations of a model in which people repeatedly use such a product and update their rate of subsequent usage depending upon their satisfaction, we showed that overambitious seeding can result in people adopting in suboptimal contexts, having bad experiences, and abandoning the product before more favorable contexts for adoption arise. Here, we extend that earlier work by showing that the costs of overambitious seeding also appear in more traditional threshold models of collective behavior, once the possibility of permanent abandonment of the product is introduced. We further demonstrate that these costs can be mitigated by using conservative seeding approaches besides those that we explored in the earlier paper. Synthesizing these results with other recent work in this area, we identify general principles for when overambitious seeding can be of concern in the deployment of social products.

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