Klick Health

A theory on social platform adoption

Senior Director, Social Media

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Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about how social platforms move from trial to habit in our daily lives. The trigger for this thinking was a self-awareness of how I first tried foursquare and then migrated that trial to a habit. Foursquare was a perfect test bed because the act of checking in to a location does become habit and can reinforce behaviors such as going to the gym in the morning or showing brand allegiance to, say, Starbucks.

So, how does social media gain more mindshare as users become immersed? My thinking followed a life cycle of social platform adoption:

During the middle segments of the life cycle there is recommendation and promotion (advocacy) for the platform because of the network value (more people on the platform makes it more valuable to the participant).

However, each platform has to survive an ROI assessment by the individual. I don’t think that most people consciously think about the ROI in those terms, but they do decide whether they think the time spent on the channel is worthwhile.


Calculation of ROI, use of platform is only viable while value > investment:

U > 0 while U > (V - (R + I) + f(momentum))



Here’s an example of the calculation with my own use of foursquare:

So, while I haven’t applied numeric values to these variables, it turns out that Foursquare has a positive Usage value… for now. It’s main threat would be a good Facebook mobile app that worked fast enough to actually use (hey, it could happen).

Health Topics

So, how does health use of social media modify this calculation? Health topics, such as the proctologist example above, are treated differently than more casual actions such as getting a coffee or going to the gym.

Value = increased by ability to connect with others and potentially have material effect on individual’s health and lifespan plus emotional health by talking with others who really understand. This increased value can then withstand higher investment and risk.

Investment = isn’t materially higher than non-health social usage. Unless we have those who use the social channel as a PHR (although this seems unlikely). Then investment is higher but so is perceived value.

Risk = much higher for health social. Stigmatized conditions (Hep-C, AIDS, constipation, obesity, etc.) carry social risk that can effect relationships and work progress. There is risk from insurance coverage re: being dropped or clauses that limit treatment for pre-existing conditions. (The ACA may change this risk calculation, but it will take a while before US citizens trust the insurance companies to adhere to the law.)

Updated Equation

So, we come back to the equation:

U = V-(R+I)+f(M)

An example for the use of Facebook could be:

Usage = (ambient awareness and social persona) – ((others’ posts and employer opinions and privacy) + (time away from productive work, mobile app frustration time)) + f(real-world friends usage, discovery of new friends, checking routine, and messaging routine)

Platform Multipler

It is possible that there a platform multiplier on the value and investment calculation based on the design and usability built in. This would modify the equation:

U = p1(V) - p2(R+I) + p3f(M)

So, the next questions I have are how can we quantify these variables. Sociology and psychology almost certainly have measurements for the main aspects already: risk, investment, habit, value, etc. so it is a matter of tracking down those measurements and conducting experiments to prove or disprove the value of the equation.

For now, however, it remains an interesting way to think about the value of different social channels.

What do you think? Is this equation useful? or is there a better way to think about the value of different social channels?

Image credit: Rainer Ebert

More About the Author

Brad Einarsen

Brad is Klick's Senior Director leading the social practice. His group ensures that clients get the best bang for their buck on the social platforms.

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