Other decisions – even those shared by millions – may be the result of "homophilic" coincidence in which two people with similar personality characteristics and backgrounds make the same or similar decisions based on things they have in common, not the example of a common guru, Aral and Walker wrote
Just separating the ordinary from the hemophilic decisions is tricky, the two wrote, though in their paper they were able to identify ways to separate coincidental "homophilic" decisions from those made by following the example of others.
They also identified rules of thumb describing how influencer decision-chains actually work – that is, who wields the influence, when and how, if not why.
- By tracing the progress of decision among 1.3 million Facebook users, Aral and Walker found that, on average:
"We combine estimates of influence and susceptibility with estimates of people’s natural tendency to adopt a product to devise precise and accurate targeting strategies for spreading the product or behavior in the population," Aral wrote.
Mapping the function and use of influence is important in helping focus advertising and marketing to sell products, Aral wrote. However, influencing-the-influencers is a power that can also be used for good.