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Scientists develop a mathematical model to better utilize social media platforms

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Illustration : Purabi Deshpande / Research Matters

Researchers from Indian Institute of Science have proposed a mathematical approach to maximize the reach of our social media posts, while keeping the cost to a minimum. 

Social media is soon emerging as a preferred platform for marketing and advertisement among many organizations, advertisers, campaigners and activists, as it allows for a wider reach, reaching millions of potential participants. Particularly, the ability to recommend and share articles, video and other media allows for disseminating knowledge to a wide audience. But, understanding the underlying algorithm of the different platforms like Facebook and Twitter could be key in ensuring maximum outreach of one’s posts. Many platforms utilize algorithms that increasingly populates your feed with the type of content you have earlier liked or shared. Some, like cloud space sharing platforms have turned to incentivizing social media recommendations.

While it provides a worldwide audience, ideas and posts often does not travel too far from the source, terminating after just a few hops from the origin. One of the ways to ensure that an idea travels farther than just a few hops from the source, capped incentives are provided. Dropbox, a cloud space provider, provides an additional 500 MB free space, with each referral, while capping the total amount of incentives to 14 GB. Such a system ensures that once a user has started using a service, the user can then recommend the service to others to gain a small incentive, and helping popularize the service.

For their study, the researchers set an objective of minimizing the cost for incentivizing a fraction of individuals, while ensuring the message reaches a given number of individuals. The study also addressed maximizing campaign penetration with minimal resources.

To begin with, researchers used a mathematical tool called percolation theory to model the problem as optimization problems. Next, using reliability theory, another mathematical tool, the researchers found solution to the problems. The solutions were then tested in real world networks using simulations.

If used wisely, social media platforms have the ability to make or break businesses. The new study allows for a more efficient use of these platforms in developing effective social media strategies.