Modeling of information diffusion on social networks with applications to WeChat

Liang Liu, Bo Qu, Bin Chen, Alan Hanjalic, Huijuan Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
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Traces of user activities recorded in online social networks open new possibilities to systematically understand the information diffusion process on social networks. From the online social network WeChat, we collected a large number of information cascade trees, each of which tells the spreading trajectory of a message/information such as which user creates the information and which users view or forward the information shared by which neighbors. In this work, we propose two heterogeneous non-linear models, one for the topologies of the information cascade trees and the other for the stochastic process of information diffusion on a social network. Both models are validated by the WeChat data in reproducing and explaining key features of cascade trees.
Specifically, we apply the Random Recursive Tree (RRT) to model the growth of cascade trees. The RRT model could capture key features, i.e. the average path length and degree variance of a cascade tree in relation to the number of nodes (size) of the tree. Its single identified parameter quantifies the relative depth or broadness of the cascade trees and indicates that information propagates via a star-like broadcasting or viral-like hop by hop spreading. The RRT model explains the appearance of hubs, thus a possibly smaller average path length as the cascade size increases, as observed in WeChat. We further propose the stochastic Susceptible View Forward Removed (SVFR) model to depict the dynamic user behavior including creating, viewing, forwarding and ignoring a message on a given social network. Beside the average path length and degree variance of the cascade trees in relation to their sizes, the SVFR model could further explain the power-law cascade size distribution in WeChat and unravel that a user with a large number of friends may actually have a smaller probability to read a message (s)he receives due to limited attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-329
Number of pages12
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Accepted author manuscript


  • Information cascade
  • Stochastic model
  • Social networks
  • WeChat
  • Random recursive tree


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