What does it mean to be #influential in the age of #socialmedia? New ABS Special Issue on Networked Influence

This post is the first in a series posts highlighting some of the research articles featured in a new Special Issue on Networked Influence in Social Media recently published by the American Behavioral Scientist (ABS) (Issue Editors: Drs. Anatoliy Gruzd, Ryerson University, and Barry Wellman, University of Toronto).

Much of the difficulty in understanding influence in social networks (especially those formed on social media sites) has to do with the inability to define influence, and then distinguish it from a number of other factors. For example, is it the actual content of a message being exchanged that exerts the most influence on users? In other words, can user-behavior within social media networks be explained in terms of users seeking useful information for some discrete and identifiable purpose? Or, conversely, is it the nature and/or context of the relationship between exchanging actors that exerts influence on user behaviors? That is, can user-behavior be explained in terms of users being influenced by celebrity or prestige, for example? Questions like these came out of the Social Media & Society conference in 2012 & 2013 and are now at the center of a special issue recently published by theAmerican Behavioral Scientist (ABS) on Networked Influence in Social Media. Selected papers from this issue were also presented at #SMSociety14 as part of the session on Networked Influence in Social Media.

In this special issue, Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd, Director of the Social Media Lab and Dr. Barry Wellman, Director of NetLab presents leading-edge work that delves deeply into how the characteristics of social media might affect the nature of influence in networks. The articles selected for this issue tackle the notion of ‘influence’ in online and offline social networks with a focus on social networks formed and maintained on social media sites. In particular, Dr. Gruzd and Dr. Wellman wanted to understand online social influence in all its diversity who is exercising influence, how it is done, how to measure influence, what its consequences are, and how online and offline influences intertwine in different contexts.
In their introduction piece to this special issue, the issue editors laid out their central thesis which postulates that social influence has become networked influence. Influence is networked in two ways: by occurring in social networks and by propagating through online communication networks.

More details about their thoughts on this subject and about this ABS Special Issue on Networked Influence in Social Media can be found in their Introduction to the Special Issue which is available at: http://abs.sagepub.com/content/58/10/1251.abstract. In addition, here is the link to the Table of Content for the full ABS issue http://abs.sagepub.com/content/58/10

In the coming weeks, we will be featuring a series of blog posts from some of the contributors of the special issue. Stay tuned!