# On minimizing budget and time in influence propagation over social networks

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## Abstract

In recent years, study of influence propagation in social networks has gained tremendous attention. In this context, we can identify three orthogonal dimensions—the number of *seed* nodes activated at the beginning (known as *budget*), the expected number of activated nodes at the end of the propagation (known as *expected spread* or *coverage*), and the *time* taken for the propagation. We can constrain one or two of these and try to optimize the third. In their seminal paper, Kempe et al. constrained the budget, left time unconstrained, and maximized the coverage: this problem is known as *Influence Maximization* (or MAXINF for short). In this paper, we study alternative optimization problems which are naturally motivated by resource and time constraints on viral marketing campaigns. In the first problem, termed *minimum target set selection* (or MINTSS for short), a coverage threshold η is given and the task is to find the *minimum size seed set* such that by activating it, at least η nodes are eventually activated in the expected sense. This naturally captures the problem of deploying a viral campaign on a budget. In the second problem, termed MINTIME, the goal is to minimize the time in which a predefined coverage is achieved. More precisely, in MINTIME, a coverage threshold η and a budget threshold *k* are given, and the task is to find a seed set of size at most *k* such that by activating it, at least η nodes are activated in the expected sense, *in the minimum possible time*. This problem addresses the issue of *timing* when deploying viral campaigns. Both these problems are **NP**-hard, which motivates our interest in their approximation. For MINTSS, we develop a simple greedy algorithm and show that it provides a bicriteria approximation. We also establish a generic hardness result suggesting that improving this bicriteria approximation is likely to be hard. For MINTIME, we show that even bicriteria and tricriteria approximations are hard under several conditions. We show, however, that if we allow the budget for number of seeds *k* to be boosted by a logarithmic factor and allow the coverage to fall short, then the problem can be solved *exactly* in PTIME, i.e., we can achieve the required coverage within the time achieved by the optimal solution to MINTIME with budget *k* and coverage threshold η. Finally, we establish the value of the approximation algorithms, by conducting an experimental evaluation, comparing their quality against that achieved by various heuristics.

### Keywords

Social networks Social influence Influence propagation Viral marketing Approximation analysis MINTSS MINTIME### References

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