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How To Get One Million Users

Submitted by on February 15, 2011 – 11:39 am20 Comments

The number one million, doesn’t mean what it used to… but it is still an important number in mobile health technology. Mainly because we haven’t heard it used much, in the context of adoption. The fitness and nutrition category has bested the coveted one million user mark, but I haven’t seen any other category touting the number one million when talking about their user base. For example, if 25.8 million Americans have Diabetes, how many of the 590 Diabetes related iPhone/iPad apps have you heard of talking about their one million users?

Being that the one million user threshold is a milestone that I’m interested in, I did some research and charted the amount of time it took some popular Web 2.0 companies to reach one million users:

Chart of Months to One Million Users

I performed this research via Google Search, and tried to pull the information from the site itself, when possible. We can see from the graph that MySpace was an outlier, and immediately start to ask why. If you ask Jonathan Abrams, founder of Friendster, MySpace’s rapid growth can be attributed to the fact that MySpace was a Friendster clone that worked AND that MySpace opened up their electronic doors to minors.

Are Young People the Key?

I find this last fact to be very interesting. Especially when looked at relative to the other services growth rates. Facebook started in colleges and universities and reached one million users in ten months. Foursquare targeted young people who go out on nights and weekends and took a year to reach one million users… While Twitter has always appealed to the over 30 crowd, and also took twice as long to reach one million users.

I think this raises an important question in the adoption of online services. Taking out all other factors, as the age of a user base decreases, does the likelihood for massive, rapid adoption of the service increase? My theory is that it does… and this is a direction we’re headed with Mood 24/7.

If this is the case, then what are the implications for health technologies? And why aren’t we designing more tech-health services for an audience that has the highest likelihood of spreading them?

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  • Hi Chris,

    Interesting post.

    I’ve read a lot in the past about the difference in adoption of different social media vehicles.

    Under-age and college-age students still seem to largely shy away from Twitter – at least in the U.S. – and, of course, don’t have any need for LinkedIn (although the need to be on LinkedIn is changing for senior university students and new university graduates).

    People under 25 years of age, however, seem to be a critical audience if you want to grow your social medial platform or application quickly. They appear to adopt social media quickly if it enhances their ability to connect – especially with people they know.

    So, I guess the question is, can people under 25 years old help spread the adoption of health and the related technology platforms and applications? I think, if the application meets their needs, then, yes, they can absolutely help and their adoption would steepen the adoption-rate curve.

    The follow-up question(s) then is/are, what are the health-related topics that younger people find important and would want to share with their friends?

    Mood 24/7 may be one that has some interest to them if you included fun, social-sharing-worthy aspects to the app. Can there be an option that would allow them to post their mood to Facebook? Many of the younger users may use more playful options but some, perhaps, may ultimately gravitate to something that steers toward being more serious when it’s needed.

    I wonder, too, if there’s a way to tie-in the geolocation services that many people love, particularly on Facebook and Foursquare? That might include some useful information for you on Mood 24/7 and may provide some interesting information to retailers and restaurants (are people happier when they’re at a particular Starbucks?…are they even happier when they tag others who are with them at that Starbucks?)

    That’s my off-the-top-of-my-head reaction to your piece.

    Great discussion topic, Chris!

    With respect,

  • Chris Hall says:

    You touched on a couple things that I’m interested in, Carol. Young people tend to share things more voraciously than any other age group. If we know this, then how can we apply it to health? Instead of saying things like, here is health with a share button… how do we design services that young people feel are worth sharing from the ground up? Things that may be more consumer than clinical, even… When building health applications, what if we narrowed our focus from “people with condition X” to “young people with condition X” and iterated based on feedback from that population?

    Along those lines, what if a “health experience” didn’t feel like one? I made the point in a DM conversation on Twitter that I didn’t truly know how disconnected I was, until I bought an iPhone. The utility of the tool itself made my previous way of doing things feel obsolete, just by using it. How does that translate to health?

    I’m exploring things that are very similar to what you’ve come up with, Carol. And I really appreciate your take. :)

  • nick huhn says:

    I admit that I sat in this room wondering what the hell Chamillionaire was doing on stage, but I think after watching this you’ll agree that he has a lot of intelligent discussion to bring to the table when it comes to tech & social innovations. In some way, I think his thoughts parallel your own here, Chris. Spot on, chap.

  • Hi again Chris,

    I saw your reply last night, but didn’t have any terrific immediate thoughts.

    I don’t know that this add-on is terrific, but my brain must have been working on this while I was sleeping ;)

    When I re-read your comment I thought, I think what Chris is saying is, why create separate health apps? Why not embed the concept of health within apps and sites that people already use?

    Remember when Twitter used to ask you something like, What are you doing? (I just checked and now they ask, What’s happening?)

    What if we asked something like, How are you feeling? Maybe it’s simply a mood face like Skype uses.

    I think there’s something to interweaving health into what’s being used instead of making it a separate place to go and consider. Kids don’t think about privacy the way we’ve been trained to think about it. It could be an interesting place to start.


    P.S. I’ve had an iPhone for a while and, yes, it does connect you – in a way that feels overwhelming sometimes. I’ve been told I’m an app queen, but I’m really an experimenter. I ultimately only use a handful of apps with regularity. None of them are “health apps.”

  • fran melmed says:

    hey chris. i think this is really interesting. a few rambling comments:

    ok. you hook the youth. their health needs are different, so does whatever you hook them with expand vertically as they age? the young don’t give too much thought to medical insurance, life insurance and retirement savings, but that changes as they get older. so, if you design something to attract them while they’re young, how do you evolve to keep them while they age and to attract those of us who are already old(er).

    i agree with you and carol that we need to integrate with what we’re already using. it kills me that i have so many places to go, and it gets worse when i think about helping clients engage employees in better health. they have an intranet, email, smartphone, health sites, social sites, etc. so many company-sponsored sites and social networks get poor traction because they aren’t linked to the “real” day-to-day needs and activities.

    finally, one million users is only as good as what they’re doing. there’s a huge chasm between downloading vs using.


    • fran melmed says:

      btw, i was using medical and life insurance and retirement savings as examples of places where the young and old(er) differ in their priorities.

    • Chris Hall says:

      What if you could design a system that allowed the user to determine the value of the system’s utility?

      For example, I use Facebook to keep up with close friends who live all around the world. (I was in the Air Force and my friends move around) My mom, however, uses Facebook to see pictures of her grandchildren… (My wife and I share a lot of pictures of our kids on Facebook as part of keeping up with friends) Facebook didn’t have to change anything about itself to be useful to two people 30 years apart in age. Instead, each Facebook user is able to determine their own personal value derived from using the platform.

      What I find most interesting is that my mom is only using Facebook because I am using Facebook. I made her an account so that she could watch her grandchildren grow up in between visits, and I showed her how to log in… :)

      If this has any chance of translating in health, we first need to build the systems that are useful to young people.

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