Beyond Worst-Case (In)approximability of Nonsubmodular Influence Maximization

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10660)


We consider the problem of maximizing the spread of influence in a social network by choosing a fixed number of initial seeds, formally referred to as the influence maximization problem. It admits a \((1-1/e)\)-factor approximation algorithm if the influence function is submodular. Otherwise, in the worst case, the problem is NP-hard to approximate to within a factor of \(N^{1-\varepsilon }\), where N is the number of vertices in the graph. This paper studies whether this worst-case hardness result can be circumvented by making assumptions about either the underlying network topology or the cascade model. All of our assumptions are motivated by many real life social network cascades.

First, we present strong inapproximability results for a very restricted class of networks called the (stochastic) hierarchical blockmodel, a special case of the well-studied (stochastic) blockmodel in which relationships between blocks admit a tree structure. We also provide a dynamic-program based polynomial time algorithm which optimally computes a directed variant of the influence maximization problem on hierarchical blockmodel networks. Our algorithm indicates that the inapproximability result is due to the bidirectionality of influence between agent-blocks.

Second, we present strong inapproximability results for a class of influence functions that are “almost” submodular, called 2-quasi-submodular. Our inapproximability results hold even for any 2-quasi-submodular f fixed in advance. This result also indicates that the “threshold” between submodularity and nonsubmodularity is sharp, regarding the approximability of influence maximization.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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