If you want to become really good at a discipline, you need to master its underlying principles. This is a lesson I’ve now encountered from many masters of their fields, may it be Charlie Munger, Julien Pineau or Elon Musk. Isolated facts mean nothing, it’s all about principles.
The king version of underlying principles are universal principles. They’re applicable to many fields or sciences. Learning them means you can very quickly understand topics you’ve never dealt with before. One of them is the universal principles of critical mass.
Critical mass originates from nuclear physics and describes „[…] the amount of fissile material needed to sustain a nuclear fusion“. In engineering, it’s a stage in the product life cycle from which on enough users adopted the product for it to reach a scale that increases the value of the product itself. Imagine Facebook having enough users for it to make sense to join the platform because your friends are on it as well. The same applies to technology: only with scale are certain technologies valuable. Imagine being the only person in the world with a telephone.
As you can see Critical Mass is a universally applicable principle. And in this article, I’ll explain to you how it applies to Growth Marketing.
Critical Mass can be found in several stages and channels in different ways. In the following I want to outline where I see critical mass in positive application throughout Growth Marketing:
- Backlinks / social shares – a site has enough traffic for the share of users who share content or build a backlink is high enough to sustain continuous growth that attracts new users, of which the same applies.
- Comments – the amount of traffic is high enough to provoke enough comments to lead to discussions in comments for (almost) every article.
- CRO – the amount of traffic is high enough to get statistically significant results from a/b or a/n tests, which in itself improves the site quality.
- CTR – the brand is known to enough users to have good click rates across the board (requirement: optimized snippets), which in itself improves the rankings of the site.
- Relevance – the coverage of relevant information and satisfaction of user intent on a page is good enough to rank on page 1 on Google and attract significant search engine traffic.
- Crawl budget – the amount of PageRank a site / page has is high enough to be crawled with a higher frequency to a 100%.
- Ad campaigns – the amount of money spent to attract enough traffic to generate a positive ROI.
- Facebook page – the amount of fans it takes to constantly get new ones due to the page being suggested to their friends.
Now, let’s look at the negative connotations in which Critical Mass impacts Growth Marketing:
- 404 errors – the amount of 404s is high enough to provide a bad user experience across the board.
- Ad pressure – the amount of ads is high enough for users to bounce back to search results / leave the site.
- Backlinks – the amount of paid links is high enough for the profile to be identified as artificial and therefore the site is penalized by Google.
- E-Mail – the frequency of emails is so high that users are annoyed by it.
As you can see, the universal principle of Critical Mass can be traced in many situations, good and bad. Once you understand it can lead to exponential growth, it becomes a powerful tool. but only if you a) maintain your channel (website / social media profile / ad campaign) b) constantly develop it further and c) keep it up to date. Therefore it’s necessary to invest more resources up-front and then slowly decrease them while getting an increasing ROI.