Sinan Aral on Data Contagion

Tweet contagion and even the spread of crazy dance moves is not easily understood because of reflection problem (birds of a feather…) and the tricky causation vs. correlation question.

Pure data makes it hard to suss out why we choose to be friends with certain people and why we listen to or follow some but not others. Network data serves us better as we try to answer these questions as they relate to social and marketing questions.

Sinan Aral, social network analysis prof at NYU Stern School of Business and MIT, created a platform to study how products to go viral. He learned a that few simple features can increase product adoption by a whole lot - namely, those that allow users to invite others to use the product or participate in some way with the idea they are conveying.

Personal invitations are critical for spreading an idea - much more than passive awareness (like wearing the tee shirt) - because it creates more stickiness. People who invite others are more likely to return to the product or event or idea, and their friends are too.