As firms increasingly seek to harness the potential of networks for marketing purposes, marketers strive to understand and predict how users’ interactivity creates relationships in these networks. In offline contexts, leaders seek to make sense of the various relationships in their organizations, with an eye toward increasing productivity and efficiency.
Professors Asim Ansari and Oded Koenigsberg note that multiple, distinct types of relationships often occur among users of the same network, which existing models that explain how relationships form in a network don’t account for. Simply put, when people connect with each other through networks, they connect via multiple relationships. Online, two Facebook users may be “friends” but may not regularly communicate with each other directly; a user commenting on another’s profile or otherwise actively communicating represents a different type of relationship in the network. Offline, multiple relationships also exist, as when employees in different departments in an organization perform different types of work (for instance, marketing and operations) but still interact with each other. The researchers wanted to know whether the formation of one type of relationship in a network could predict connections via other types of relationships. Working with Florian Stahl of the University of Zurich, they developed a new model for analyzing multiple relationships among a set of network users.