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Forecasting contagious ideas

'Infectivity' models accurately predict tweet lifespan


A tweet's virality is modulated most by its early spread rate and a gradual loss of interest over time


Source: PLOS


Estimating tweet infectivity from the first 50 retweets is the key to predicting whether a tweet will go viral, according to a new study.



As online social networks and media continue to grow, so has the importance of understanding how they influence our thoughts and opinions
  • In particular, being able to predict the spread of social contagions is considered a key goal for those social information networks.

  • Although models developed in the field of infectious diseases have been used to describe the spread of ideas, studies have not used real data to estimate how infectious the information is.

  • The authors of the present study used about one month of Twitter data, comprising over 12 million tweets and more than 1.5 million retweets, and estimated each tweet's infectivity based on the network dynamics of the first 50 retweets associated with it.

  • Then, they incorporated the infectivity estimates into a model with a decay constant that captures the gradual decline in interest as online information ages.


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