Applications' Tipping Point and Social Network Influence: study reveals a very interesting new finding

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Science DailyThe Science Daily reports on an interesting result by an Oxford University study, published in this week's PNAS journal. The study reveals that "consumers have a herding instinct to follow the crowd. However, this instinct appears to switch off if the product fails to achieve a certain popularity threshold."

Numbers of the study

The researchers analysed anonymised data that tracked 100 million installations of apps adopted by Facebook users over two months in 2007. The data allowed researchers to observe on an hourly basis the rate at which 2,700 apps were installed by 50 million Facebook users.

They discovered that once an app had reached a rate of about 55 installations a day, its popularity then soared to reach stellar proportions. A typical app was installed by 1,000 users, but the most popular app 'Top Friends' was in a different league, being adopted by almost a fifth (12 million users) of the entire Facebook population.

Dr Felix Reed-Tsochas, a James Martin Lecturer from the Oxford Martin School's Institute for Science, Innovation and Society at the Saïd Business School, said:

"Our analysis reveals a very interesting new finding. Users only appear to be influenced by the choices of other users above a certain level of popularity, and at that point popularity drives future popularity. Below this threshold, the effects of social influence are imperceptible.

Because popularity seems to depend mainly on the choices of other users in the community, rather than intrinsic characteristics of the applications themselves, it does not appear possible to predict which applications will succeed and which will fail ahead of time."

He continued with:

"At this stage, we simply don't know whether this marks an important difference between offline and online behaviour, or whether more detailed and comprehensive data from offline contexts will identify similar collective behaviour in settings that do not involve online environments."

This is interesting indeed, because the success of apps is co-created together with the crowd. Companies need to create the best plausible perception/characteristics of apps that is engaging enough that it will reach the tipping point for further C2C virality, which creates a B2C2C environment.

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