Influencers’ Role Complexity Moderates the Benefits of Eigenvector Centrality for Diffusion in Social Networks

Valentina Assenova, Management, The Wharton School

Abstract: Existing research on the diffusion of innovations has focused on the benefits of using central influencers to trigger adoption cascades in networks. Yet, prior work has not examined how influencers’ role complexity moderates these benefits. Role complexity pertains to being embedded in complex networks with multiple types of ties, for example, co-authorship and co-patenting ties. This paper examines and offers evidence that influencers’ role complexity moderates the benefits of eigenvector centrality in network-based diffusion processes. Using data from a network-based intervention seeding influencers, I demonstrate that influencers’ role complexity undermined adoption among their contacts. The findings reveal important scope conditions on the benefits of using central influencers to diffuse innovations through networks.

Read the full working paper here (PDF).

Michelle Eckert is Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Mack Institute, where she works to engage students, researchers, and corporate partners in opportunities for collaboration. Michelle received her B.A. in Art from Valparaiso University in 2007. Her background includes two AmeriCorps terms of service working to teach mathematics, computer literacy, and job readiness skills to out-of-school youth in Philadelphia, focusing particularly on promoting access to post-secondary education.