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Adoption rate model for Social Networks

Vincenzo Cosenza, an Italian digital strategist, has just finished his latest research on Social Networks Adoption Lifecycle.

Cosenza has applied the Innovation Adoption curve by Everett Rogers to social networks. The model  shows the stages in the adoption process for a new product by a consumer with the intention to plot their actual state and, hopefully, understand their future trajectories.

Everett Rogers” says Vincenzo “in (Diffusion of Innovation, 1962) has linked the spread of a certain innovation and its subsequent adoption by users with different categories of psychographic characteristics: innovators (representing 2.5% of the population of potential users), the early adopters (12.5%), anticipating the majority (34%), the latecomer majority (34%) and the laggards (16%)



He then continues explaining the results of this research in more details:

In the innovators area you’ll find Friendfeed, which unfortunately stopped innovating after its acquisition by Facebook; Foursquare, the most famous location based social network with 10 million users; and Google+ with its explosive adoption rate (25 million users in 4 weeks). 

In the stage of early adoption, we find professional social networks like LinkedIn and Viadeo, or those generics like Orkut (owned by Google), VKontakte (leader in the Russian territories), Bebo. Badoo is the only service designed specifically for the purpose of dating. MySpace, after reaching the early majority is now fighting to conquer a niche (it passed 225 million users to 125 million because of mismanagement and the rise of many of Facebook). 

Renren, the largest Chinese real name of the Social Network Service, and Twitter have managed to reach the early majority. And finally we have QZone, China’s largest nickname network built on the back of Tencent QQ Messenger, and Facebook, which has conquered the masses seems determined to hit the bar one billion users.

The following is the Info-graphics elaborated by Vincenzo:

Social networks adoption lifecycle


But he also take into account another interesting reference to a variation of the model of Rogers. Geoffrey Moore ( in Crossing the Chasm, 1991) talks about a gap as a critical step for the adoption of the first two groups and the third.

The clearing of this chasm corresponds to entering that area where the solution is used by people that are not looking for innovation or technology any more, but they are trying to fulfil their needs.



Despite the interesting point expressed in his article there are few limitations that I have expressed:

1. The “Adoption Rate” established by Vincenzo is fairly arbitrary since it sets the equation of 1% point for each 10 Million users. This is questionable since not all of the social networks reported were designed with the purpose of reaching the 1 Billion user (equal to 100% on the graph produced).

Some will remain a regional variant of a social network, and therefore they have been developed with the intention of becoming the prominent technology adoption in that market.

This point could contributes therefore to raise the adoption rate, for example, for Orkut or Qzone and, from there, their position on the bell curve in the model should be further down, or up.

2. The trend displayed in this graphic should maybe take into account another crucial point which is maturity of the product. For instance, if you take a well established network like LinkedIn, ( its IPO is the proof of a consolidated trend that goes beyond the limit of the virtual market to sets its boundaries within the real stock exchange market ), its attribution to the group of “Early Adopters” sound like a limitation.

LinkedIn is well above that stage and it is now affirming itself among the most successful professional networking systems. The success and maturity of a product, in this case, seems to overtake the evaluation made based on the model of Rogers. This observation brings me to my third point.

3. Perhaps we should make an additional effort to find another model that can better describe this phenomenon. And in that respect I think it’s essential to take into account the following two elements:

Evaluation of the product life cycle: very similar and very close to the model of Rogers is the one established by Theodore Levitt in 1965 in “Exploit the Product Life Cycle” (Harvard Business Review article).

The 2 models are almost identical (at least graphically), with the difference that, if Levitt is referring his study to any product that you will find on any of the shelf around the world, Rogers focusses on the idea of the innovation and its capabilities to be absorbed by a set group of individuals, each with its own aspirations, impulsions and motivations:

Industrial product life cycle

The concept of point of Critical Mass: a key element which helps to better delineate the limits of expansion in a process of technology adoption. Within the rate of adoption there is a point at which an innovation reaches critical mass. Enough individuals have adopted an innovation to the point where the continued adoption of the innovation is self-sustaining.

In describing how an innovation reaches critical mass, Rogers outlines several strategies in order to help an innovation to reach this stage. These strategies are:

i. Have an innovation adopted by a highly respected individual within a social network, creating an instinctive desire for a specific innovation.

ii. Inject an innovation into a group of individuals who would readily use an innovation, and provide positive reactions and benefits for early adopters of an innovation.

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