Information Diffusion in Social Networks

I was listening to Guy Kawasaki when he recently visited Bangalore and gave a few talks and a workshop on Twitter. One question that often pops up is how Guy manages to follow 180,000+ people. His simple answer was that he does not follow their public time line. I understand that because even with less than 2000 people, I have trouble keeping up.

What Guy actually does is track mentions of a few phrases including his name and direct messages. This reduces the load some what but it can still be considerable.

So let us take a hypothetical scenario. I want a piece of information to be propagated to 20 of the top tech bloggers who are actively interested in a specific subject area.  I can’t see anyway this can happen reliably through Twitter. We don’t know how they sample messages. We don’t know how frequently they follow their public time line. We cannot mention all of them in the Tweet. Many of them (understandably) hate to be directly messaged. So how do we really reach them?

This report on Information Diffusion provides some ideas on  how information propagates through Social Media.

“Those who respond very quickly to e-mails, technology addicts who are always connected, are the ones responsible for spreading certain rumors or campaigns quickly via Internet,”

if information is so interesting that it reaches many people, the diffusion is faster because these people quickly forward the message. This explains why some computer viruses quickly spread via e-mail in a matter of hours, despite the fact that the email response time is one day. However, if information is not so interesting, the diffusion is slower because it is controlled by those persons who take a long time to respond; this causes some rumours or bits of information to remain dormant in social networks a long time after they are released.

Will lists alter this? May be. It depends on the patterns of use. I think we still have a lot to study on how to effectively communicate marketing messages on Twitter and reach the right people.