A recent research paper suggests we may have got too focused on valuing networks in terms of who is the best connected. In fact the most influential person in the network comes down to location, rather than connections, as outlined in this blog extract:
The importance of hubs may have been overstated, say Kitsak and pals. “In contrast to common belief, the most influential spreaders in a social network do not correspond to the best connected people or to the most central people,” they say.
At first glance this seems somewhat counter-intuitive but on reflection it makes perfect sense. Kitsak and co point out that there are various scenarios in which well connected hubs have little influence over the spread of information. “For example, if a hub exists at the end of a branch at the periphery of a network, it will have a minimal impact in the spreading process through the core of the network.”
By contrast, “a less connected person who is strategically placed in the core of the network will have a significant effect that leads to dissemination through a large fraction of the population.”
In some ways though this sounds little like the maxim about being in the ‘right place, at the right time’. Certainly from my own experience this seems a worthwhile approach, rather than growing the number of connections in my social network. I suspect it may help if you (to use another saying) ‘keep your eyes and ears open’ to achieve this too!
Download: Identifying Influential Spreaders in Complex Networks (PDF; 3mb). Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1001.5285.