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Online Competitive Influence Maximization

Jinhang Zuo · Xutong Liu · Carlee Joe-Wong · John C. S. Lui · Wei Chen


Online influence maximization has attracted much attention as a way to maximize influence spread through a social network while learning the values of unknown network parameters. Most previous works focus on single-item diffusion. In this paper, we introduce a new Online Competitive Influence Maximization (OCIM) problem, where two competing items (e.g., products, news stories) propagate in the same network and influence probabilities on edges are unknown. We adopt a combinatorial multi-armed bandit (CMAB) framework for OCIM, but unlike the non-competitive setting, the important monotonicity property (influence spread increases when influence probabilities on edges increase) no longer holds due to the competitive nature of propagation, which brings a significant new challenge to the problem. We provide a nontrivial proof showing that the Triggering Probability Modulated (TPM) condition for CMAB still holds in OCIM, which is instrumental for our proposed algorithms OCIM-TS and OCIM-OFU to achieve sublinear Bayesian and frequentist regret, respectively. We also design an OCIM-ETC algorithm that requires less feedback and easier offline computation, at the expense of a worse frequentist regret bound. Experimental evaluations demonstrate the effectiveness of our algorithms.

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