A novel approach to online social influence maximization

Research paper by Wen Xu, Zaixin Lu, Weili Wu, Zhiming Chen

Indexed on: 05 Feb '14Published on: 05 Feb '14Published in: Social Network Analysis and Mining


Online social networks are becoming a true growth point of Internet. As individuals constantly desire to interact with each other, the ability for Internet to deliver this networking influence becomes much stronger. In this paper, we study the online social influence maximization problem, which is to find a small group of influential users that maximizes the spread of influence through networks. After a thorough analysis of existing models, especially two classical ones, namely Independent cascade and linear thresholds, we argue that their idea that each user can only be activated by its active neighbors is not applicable to online social networks, since in many applications there is no clear concept for the issue of "activation". In our proposed influence model, if there is a social influence path linking two nonadjacent individuals, the value of influence between these two individuals can be evaluated along the existing social path based on the influence transitivity property under certain constraints. To compute influence probabilities between two neighbors, we also develop a new method which leverages both structure of networks and historical data. With reasonably learned influence probabilities, we recast the problem of online influence maximization to a weighted maximum cut problem which analyzes the influence flow among graph vertices. By running a semidefinite program-based (GW) algorithm on a complete influence graph, an optimal seed set can be identified effectively. We also provide experimental results on real online social networks, showing that our algorithm significantly outperforms greedy methods.