Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Diffusion of Social Media

Working in small groups, students in my Building COM Theory class last week went out and surveyed 10 people each. Although the sampling is unscientific and the data was only collected to set up a class discussion, we found something worth mentioning. The gap between awareness and adoption appears to be much narrower with social media adopters than it is with adopters of other innovations.

Below are two of the students' graphs. One is for HDTV. The other is for YouTube.

In general, the gap between awareness and adoption of HDTV looks to be about 3 or 4 years. You get HDTV in 2008, you probably heard about it in 2004 or so (if not much earlier). But for YouTube, the awareness and adoption curves are almost identical -- you hear about YouTube and you might very well be watching a YouTube video, or even uploading your own clip, that same hour.

The "innovation-decision process" as Rogers called it, moves very fast.

In our follow-up, I suggested that this is because of the nature of the innovation. Accepting an invitation to join a social media group (even one as large as YouTube), often means becoming aware and adopting almost simultaneously. "Trialability" is high. Students came up with some other good explanations:

1. Cost -- YouTube is pretty much free if you have computer access. HDTV is a different story! (Rogers' trialability)

2. Ease -- The investment of time and energy is also minimal. If someone sends you a link on e-mail, all you have to do is click. (compatibility, observability?)

Rogers also said that the innovation-decision process is faster with early adopters. This could well be the case with a sample that consisted mostly of friends of COM majors at UH.


David Onoue said...

I think this is a very interesting study but I think there are some issues not addressed.

First, cost. Sure YouTube is a free service but what about the cost of the computer you are view the video's on? That cost money and sometimes the cost of the computer may be greater than or equal to the cost of buying an HDTV.

I think the problem that arises is Product vs. Service and I'm not sure you can necessarily make a connection.

I also see a problem with the ease because clicking on a link to view a video is no harder than turning on the TV on and watching a show.

I think it's nice to talk about relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability but I think you also need to look at the Innovation decision process: Knowledge, Persuasion, Decision, Implementation, and Confirmation.

Again I think if you looked at perhaps a flat screen TV vs. a HDTV to look at the rate of adoption, I would find the study more valid. I just don't think you can compare a product and service against each other.

Tom Kelleher said...

Good point that it would be worthwhile to look at this from the adopters' decision side (keeping in mind that the unscientific sample is made up of mostly people with TVs and computers, and that some of the TVs might be HD-ready and just awaiting the HD 'service.') Note the caveat in the original post that this isn't meant to be a generalizable study.

I still think it's instructive to look at the attributes of the innovation. So for example, cost may indeed be an attribute to discuss (as you have done in your comment) in comparing innovations. Your comment on ease of use also suggests an attribute of the innovations to consider. If HDTV and YouTube are different on these attributes, then that's worth attention. That is, I don't see the differences as a 'problem' in the sense of logic. I think you CAN (and should) compare different innovations based on their attributes.

The product v. service idea you mentioned and social media v. non-social media might be good places to look from here.

Anyhow, many thanks for checking it out and responding, David. And you don't even have a grade on the line!