Warning : this could get technical... (but the answers "yes" by the way)
The tipping point is a very over used phrase but a very good concept : it is the point where a minority or underground taste/activity becomes something that the majority will eventually all do. It is not the same as the median or when 50% of people are doing it. Rather it is the point where there is no turning back i.e. even if the activity still belongs to a minority it is the point where change is inevitable as the momentum behind the change is now too great for it to peter out.
Gladwell's book was a great cataloguer of this phenonemon but only in a qualitative sense : he gave us no statistical hand holds to guage whether we had reached a tipping point or how far away we are in any particular market situation. You are still guessing whether any particular minority craze is going to be (universally) adopted or not.
So are blogs the CB radios of our time, Big Trucker? Have they tipped?
What follow is an attempt to statistically answer the question for social media i.e. blogs, wikis and all that jazz.
So, there is another well known phenonemon called "the adoption curve". Indeed most marketing bluffers will have used the expressions "early adopters" and "late majority" occasionally. What I didn't know until I looked it up on Wikipedia here is that there are some fairly reliable statistics on "the diffusion of innovations" theory. It has been observed so many times you can measure it. The key numbers are that when less than 16% of a population is doing it then you are only dealing with "pioneers and early adopters". But when you are in the 16%-50% bracket you are in the land of the "early majority".
Just recently I saw some pre-release data from a report by our company Harvard. Having surveyed a reasonably robust sample of Communication Directors on their experience of social media, blogs etc. the following distribution was found:
Already mainstream 12%
Growing part of PR 25%
Experimenting with it 27%
Not investigated it 26%
Not appropriate 10%
This is spookily like the shape of the adoption curve. And if we take "its a growing part of PR" as a pragmatic acknowledgment that it is a real thing happening right now then we have hit the early majority : we're solidly in the 16% - 50% zone. 37% are doing more than experimenting.
But is this a tipping point? Is 37% enough? After all the adoption curve would appear to be a curve with no clear boundary lines. Who is to say where the statistical divide is between the early adopters and the early majority?
I think this author does in Crossing the Chasm.
He uses the same classification as above but with a different nomenclature. In brief he says that after the "technology enthusiasts" and the "visionaries" (the 16%) there is a clear gap - or chasm - before you get to the "pragmatists". If your technology can "cross the chasm" and reach the next group then it is down hill all the way and only a matter of time before you get to the "conservatives" and ultimately the "skeptics".
So Harvard's data - with the crucial 37% data point - suggests that social media has crossed the chasm and is now being adopted by the pragmatists.
10- 4. That's a tipping point, Smokey.