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Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

Critical mass – can it get lower than 10 percent?

July 28th, 2011 by

Cognitive scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have reported that according to their recent studies simulating social networks, 10 percent is the critical mass for spreading ideas to the mass. If that proportion of the population emphatically embraces an idea, then there is a good chance for a mass follow.

“When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas,” said researcher Boleslaw Szymanski, director of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”

The tipping point (see gladwell, 2000) or the ‘critical mass’ in innovation research refers to the point at which enough individuals have adopted an innovation so that the innovation’s further rate of adoption becomes self-sustaining (Anghern 2005).

Looking back few decades at consumer technologies, critical mass was considered to occur with about 15 percent of users.

With the evolution of social networks as a vehicle to spread ideas (Facebook itself has definitely crossed critical mass) – we do expect that the ratio will be smaller.

The notion of critical mass is becoming more interesting when political ideas (Egypt is a great example) addressed by social network users leverage the network effect (immediate response+ large scale) and spread beliefs and calls for action.

Can critical mass get lower? I believe so! Once people get an illusionary image of the mass (and social networks interactions can generate such effect)- they will address it accordingly.

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5 Responses

  1. Joshua Lagan Says:

    That’s a very informative study from RPI. It makes sense that the growth of Social Media and sites like Facebook would decrease the critical mass. With that said, what effect do you think Google Plus (more specifically their hangouts function), will have with it’s ability to visually share ideas. Assuming it continues to grow in popularity, and people continue to take advantage of it’s topic oriented video chats, do you think Google Plus will lower the Critical Mass percentage again?

  2. Taly Weiss Says:

    Thanks Joshua,
    I believe that Facebook is effective in boosting the perceived mass. This will certainly lower the critical mass. Once Google+ will allow ideas and aims to become a feature by itself – we will certainly see a similar trend.

  3. Max Manus Says:

    Thx. Very interesting.

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