IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Tie Strength, Embeddedness, and Social Influence: A Large-Scale Networked Experiment


  • Sinan Aral

    () (MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142)

  • Dylan Walker

    () (School of Management, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215)


We leverage the newly emerging business analytical capability to rapidly deploy and iterate large-scale, microlevel, in vivo randomized experiments to understand how social influence in networks impacts consumer demand. Understanding peer influence is critical to estimating product demand and diffusion, creating effective viral marketing, and designing “network interventions” to promote positive social change. But several statistical challenges make it difficult to econometrically identify peer influence in networks. Though some recent studies use experiments to identify influence, they have not investigated the social or structural conditions under which influence is strongest. By randomly manipulating messages sent by adopters of a Facebook application to their 1.3 million peers, we identify the moderating effect of tie strength and structural embeddedness on the strength of peer influence. We find that both embeddedness and tie strength increase influence. However, the amount of physical interaction between friends, measured by coappearance in photos, does not have an effect. This work presents some of the first large-scale in vivo experimental evidence investigating the social and structural moderators of peer influence in networks. The methods and results could enable more effective marketing strategies and social policy built around a new understanding of how social structure and peer influence spread behaviors in society. This paper was accepted by Alok Gupta, special issue on business analytics .

Suggested Citation

  • Sinan Aral & Dylan Walker, 2014. "Tie Strength, Embeddedness, and Social Influence: A Large-Scale Networked Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(6), pages 1352-1370, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:60:y:2014:i:6:p:1352-1370
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2014.1936

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:cup:cbooks:9780511771576 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Raghuram Iyengar & Christophe Van den Bulte & Thomas W. Valente, 2011. "Opinion Leadership and Social Contagion in New Product Diffusion," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(2), pages 195-212, 03-04.
    3. Stephen Leider & Markus M. Möbius & Tanya Rosenblat & Quoc-Anh Do, 2009. "Directed Altruism and Enforced Reciprocity in Social Networks," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1815-1851.
    4. Hinz, Oliver & Skiera, Bernd & Barrot, Christian & Becker, Jan, 2011. "Seeding Strategies for Viral Marketing: An Empirical Comparison," Publications of Darmstadt Technical University, Institute for Business Studies (BWL) 56543, Darmstadt Technical University, Department of Business Administration, Economics and Law, Institute for Business Studies (BWL).
    5. repec:eee:ijrema:v:25:y:2008:i:3:p:151-163 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. David Godes & Dina Mayzlin & Yubo Chen & Sanjiv Das & Chrysanthos Dellarocas & Bruce Pfeiffer & Barak Libai & Subrata Sen & Mengze Shi & Peeter Verlegh, 2005. "The Firm's Management of Social Interactions," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 415-428, December.
    7. Frenzen, Jonathan K & Davis, Harry L, 1990. " Purchasing Behavior in Embedded Markets," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 1-12, June.
    8. Christophe Van den Bulte & Yogesh V. Joshi, 2007. "New Product Diffusion with Influentials and Imitators," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(3), pages 400-421, 05-06.
    9. Sinan Aral, 2011. "Commentary--Identifying Social Influence: A Comment on Opinion Leadership and Social Contagion in New Product Diffusion," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(2), pages 217-223, 03-04.
    10. Puneet Manchanda & Ying Xie & Nara Youn, 2008. "The Role of Targeted Communication and Contagion in Product Adoption," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(6), pages 961-976, 11-12.
    11. Brown, Jacqueline Johnson & Reingen, Peter H, 1987. " Social Ties and Word-of-Mouth Referral Behavior," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(3), pages 350-362, December.
    12. Easley,David & Kleinberg,Jon, 2010. "Networks, Crowds, and Markets," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521195331, December.
    13. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
    14. Cosma Rohilla Shalizi & Andrew C. Thomas, 2011. "Homophily and Contagion are Generically Confounded in Observational Social Network Studies," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 40(2), pages 211-239, May.
    15. Sungjoon Nam & Puneet Manchanda & Pradeep K. Chintagunta, 2010. "The Effect of Signal Quality and Contiguous Word of Mouth on Customer Acquisition for a Video-on-Demand Service," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(4), pages 690-700, 07-08.
    16. Catherine Tucker & Juanjuan Zhang, 2010. "Growing Two-Sided Networks by Advertising the User Base: A Field Experiment," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(5), pages 805-814, 09-10.
    17. David Godes & Dina Mayzlin, 2004. "Using Online Conversations to Study Word-of-Mouth Communication," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 23(4), pages 545-560, June.
    18. Catherine Tucker & Juanjuan Zhang, 2011. "How Does Popularity Information Affect Choices? A Field Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(5), pages 828-842, May.
    19. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 1998. "Learning from the Behavior of Others: Conformity, Fads, and Informational Cascades," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 151-170, Summer.
    20. Juanjuan Zhang, 2010. "The Sound of Silence: Observational Learning in the U.S. Kidney Market," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(2), pages 315-335, 03-04.
    21. Arun Sundararajan & Foster Provost & Gal Oestreicher-Singer & Sinan Aral, 2013. "Research Commentary ---Information in Digital, Economic, and Social Networks," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 24(4), pages 883-905, December.
    22. Duncan J. Watts & Peter Sheridan Dodds, 2007. "Influentials, Networks, and Public Opinion Formation," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(4), pages 441-458, May.
    23. Catherine Tucker, 2008. "Identifying Formal and Informal Influence in Technology Adoption with Network Externalities," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 54(12), pages 2024-2038, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:proeco:v:216:y:2019:i:c:p:287-304 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Ravi Bapna & Akhmed Umyarov, 2015. "Do Your Online Friends Make You Pay? A Randomized Field Experiment on Peer Influence in Online Social Networks," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(8), pages 1902-1920, August.
    3. repec:eee:ijrema:v:36:y:2019:i:1:p:3-19 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:wdevel:v:122:y:2019:i:c:p:306-324 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Liangfei Qiu & Asoo Vakharia & Arunima Chhikara, 2019. "Multi-Dimensional Observational Learning in Social Networks: Theory and Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 19-01, NET Institute.
    6. repec:eee:phsmap:v:508:y:2018:i:c:p:213-222 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:8:p:2677-:d:160894 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:eee:proeco:v:197:y:2018:i:c:p:317-329 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:eee:joinma:v:47:y:2019:i:c:p:129-143 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:eee:phsmap:v:509:y:2018:i:c:p:256-264 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Ruoxuan Xiong & Susan Athey & Mohsen Bayati & Guido Imbens, 2019. "Optimal Experimental Design for Staggered Rollouts," Papers 1911.03764,
    12. repec:eee:ejores:v:273:y:2019:i:3:p:1005-1015 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:eee:jbrese:v:82:y:2018:i:c:p:160-170 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. repec:eee:phsmap:v:499:y:2018:i:c:p:490-497 is not listed on IDEAS


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:60:y:2014:i:6:p:1352-1370. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Matthew Walls). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.