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Hacking the system of social influence: How can we use the mechanics of influence to drive behavior for public good?

This article entitled “Hacking the system of social influence: How can we use the mechanics of influence to drive behaviour for public good?” discusses social influence in the realm of social media. It addresses how one might go about quantifying the influence a person has over their peers, and how to most effectively use social influence and networks to create behavioral change. The article starts by talking about several ways that people try to quantify social influence. Google, Yahoo, Klout, and Facebook all have different methods they use to determine a user or persons social influence. Yahoo and Klout’s methods both estimate a person’s influence by calculating the size of each users’ network and their friends networks. Facebook recently patented a method of identifying local influencers which measures the rate at which a piece of content is shared within the personal network of an individual user. The article also goes into the distinction between having a large network and having a lot of influence over the behavior of the members of your network. For example Kanye West has 13 million Twitter followers, but the majority of people don’t follow his advice or do what he says. The article also discussed “homophily” in social networks, or the tendency of people to associate with like minded people. Groups like this can have a tendency to group think and be resistant to change, whereas outliers in a social network may be more like to adopt new ideas and change their behavior.

We have been talking about social networks from the first day of this class and social networks is what this article is all about. In the ever growing and changing world of social media, social influence over your peers and followers is something that is becoming more important and impactful in the world around us. I thought it was interesting in this article to learn about how big companies are trying to model social networks and the ways in which they are trying to do so. This article also gets at the idea of strong and weak ties that we discussed in class when it discussed how the size of a person’s network does not necessarily lead to having influence over the members of this network. In order to properly and effectively model a social network you need not only just to consider what connections exist but also the nature of those connections. The article discussed how triadic closure in a social network can lead to new behavior traveling from person to person within a network, eventually leading to large scale change. I thought this article was an interesting discussion about social networks and their growing importance in our world and that the ideas brought up in the article related to and complemented what we’ve learned in class about social networks.

Hacking the system of social influence: How can we use the mechanics of influence to drive behaviour for public good?

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