Network Science: Why Germs, Gossip and Good Ideas Follow the Same Rules

In the pre-Internet world of information scarcity the idea of something going viral would always have negative connotations. But as you know, in the digitoral era, creating a viral loop is every marketer’s dream.

We have co-opted the word viral from epidemiology to serve as a metaphor for how content spreads from one user to another over the Internet. But there is an important distinction between online virality and what the Center for Disease Control tracks in a population. Very few people spread infectious diseases on purpose. It happens naturally in the course of human interaction, often before the disease carrier shows any symptoms of being sick. When on-line content goes viral it is the result of people consciously and enthusiastically sharing information with others.

In recent years the field of Network Science, an academic mashup of sociology, medicine and statistics, has expanded our understanding of the diffusion of innovation in social networks both on and offline. There are two simple but important factors to consider when seeking to exploit networking power: participation and positioning. People who participate in the right networks and position themselves toward the center of the network harvest the greatest amount of value.

In this month’s vlog, Network Science: Why Germs, Gossip and Good Ideas Follow the Same Rules, Steve Moore reminds us it is not about what you know, or what your friends know, but rather what your friend’s, friends know. Networks leverage the friendship paradox, which affirms your friends have more friends than you. In mathematical terms, it is a theorem that the average number of friends of friends is almost always greater than the average number of friends of individuals. That’s the power of a network and you can’t afford to ignore it.

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