The Personal Brand Benefits of Being an Early Adopter on Social Media

Published on Author Eli Fennell


Have you heard about the latest social media thingie? No, you haven’t?  Not even a blurb on the radio that caught your attention?  A headline when you were too busy to click or tap it?  Nothing?  And you say you don’t care, either?

Well, then, in that case, maybe you’re not an Early Adopter™.  Early Adopters are the Magellans of the internet, and sometimes the George Mallorys.  We go where few have dared to venture, trying out the new fashions, technologies, trends, and obsessions others may eventually inherit early, when they’re still ‘babes in the crib’ so to speak.

Anyone can be a one-off Early Adopter given the chance to try to a new type of potato chip or watch an early movie release, but it takes a certain kind of person to be a serial Early Adopter, to see a shiny new thing and at least give it the old once-over and kick all four tires a few times before dismissing it.

One of those certain types are Personal Social Brands: people who benefit from or even depend on being a known, talked about, shared, and followed figure on social media.  This ranges from anyone in the news media more-or-less to celebrities, contestants on TV shows, bloggers, internet marketers, and others for whom the social medium was almost made.

The problem, potentially, in an Early Adopter Strategy for your Personal Brand, is you could end up wasting your time.  When you’ve built a good network of connections and followers in one or more places, the risk of wasting time to pursue another is enough to put every new network at an unfair advantage: some of the very people meant to help promote it may simply not have time for it because they’ve already invested in and are reaping the rewards of other networks.

This is why, ironically, many early adopters of new social networks aren’t actually the people and organizations you might expect them to be: the ones who early adopted the last group of new social networks first.  They’ve become entrenched, while someone without sufficiently strong ties to the earlier networks feels like they have less to lose and their time doesn’t feel as wasted if it comes to nothing.

Early Adopting in itself, however, done with curiosity, passion, and intelligence, can be worth the time and energy of investment, if used well, and can even help to influence the future of the internet itself.  For those who worry about wasting time, here are some of the benefits showing why you should consider early adopting a new social network, as well as some warnings about how to do so wisely.


1) Well Positioned If It Succeeds

Most new social networks will fail, but when they succeed, the greatest chance for success on the network accrues to those who adopted early.  This isn’t true if you’re already a megabrand, but otherwise, getting in early is a powerful factor in deriving benefits.

Put simply: The early bird catches the social media worm.

The early bird catches the social media worm.Click To Tweet

2) Building New Connections and Followers

Mature social networks, especially Facebook, can connect users with people, content, and brands they want to see far more easily than new networks with fewer users and less information built up about what their users like and want to see and follow.  They’re prone, therefore, to reward those who attract a lot of positive attention, sentiment, and engagement early on.

This happens naturally, anyways, on most networks but can be reinforced deliberately by things like Suggested User Lists, where the network itself seems to be endorsing following a particular account for a given topic or interest.  Also, because they’re not being bombarded with brands and ex roommates wanting to follow them, early users of such networks tend to be more willing to Follow Back/Accept a Connection Request/Subscribe/etc…

For most networks, by design, this process of forming connections actually leads to a positive feedback loop: new potential connections are recommended to users based on whom that they know is already connected to whom else, and whom others that they know are connected to, etc…

Basically, the more connections you form or followers you accumulate, the more you’re recommended to others users, who form connections with you more, leading to you being recommended to other connections of theirs, in a virtuous cycle.

New social networks are the best places to form new connections, especially when compared with established networks where users have already been around for a while and already formed the core of their network of people and things to follow.

New social networks are the best places to form new connections.Click To Tweet

There are many benefits to attracting large numbers of followers, ranging from the strictly personal (forming friendships and other social bonds with new people), to the purely professional (such as attracting more web traffic, forming new business connections, and generally growing a larger audience).

Some, perhaps many, of the new followers you form will also follow you afterwards on other social networks, thus helping to strengthen your efforts on those, as well.  If a larger Facebook audience is something you’re looking for, you can find ones who never found you there by early adopting a new network and gently encouraging them to also consider following you elsewhere.

3) Developing Authority

“Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” is the old saying.  The second and third are easy enough, but what happens in that gray space between leading and following is tricky.  No matter how well you say the same thing dozens of other people have said before you, you’re not going to be taken for a leader.

The bigger problem being, even if you do say something different, in an area where much has already been said and debate before, some will have tuned out, some will not hear the parts where you spoke differently from others, and some will think you mad.

This is also true when it comes to authority on a social network.  People are less likely, in general, to want to hear your ideas when they’re about well charted networks.  The explorer, however, can return with his tales, and who can say the better than how he tells them?  People love a new story, especially when they’ve heard the old story too many times.

People love a new story, especially when they've heard the old story too many times.Click To Tweet

The explorer’s tales become the basis for explorations to follow, if the cost of the questing proves worth the reward.  If it proves he has been honest and accurate, and guided others well to the new land, and regaled them there upon arrival, then his fame will spread even farther.  While “I discovered Twitter early and told others about it” may never be listed as an achievement, many Personal Brands enjoyed success built upon that foundation.

4) It Can Give You ‘Superpowers’

Seriously.  Sort of.  It won’t make you invisible, but being an early adopter can gain you access and status on a social network other users don’t enjoy, such as testing new features early, or having special powers of moderation, etc…  Late adopters are less likely to gain access to these.

5) It Keeps You Sharp

The social media landscape and toolset is constantly changing and evolving.  Today’s Network To Be On, is tomorrow’s Remember That Place?  A strategy built years ago may no longer work today.  The network no one thinks about now could be the new You Have To Check This Place Out of tomorrow.

Early Adopting forces you to try new tools, old tools in new ways, and to stay ahead of the learning curve and the trend lines.


Danger, Will Robinson! – Early Adopting Is Not Without Its Hazards

The main risk of an Early Adopter strategy for a personal brand (apart from the risk of killing their brand, which is generally no more likely on one network than another) is also the most predictable: it could be a giant waste of time.  It’s helpful, then, to quickly determine a couple things:


1) Can I Use a Similar Strategy Here?  If the network and its audience are suitable, you could possibly copy your efforts from elsewhere without too much difficulty.

2) Can I Find a Tool to Make It Easier?  A cross-posting or scheduling tool like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Friends+Me can make it easier to share to multiple social networks, though they’re sadly not usually early adopters themselves (with some exceptions), preferring somewhat established networks in general.


If not, then ask the follow-up:

3) Can I Justify the Effort, If Only Because I Enjoy Doing It?

If it takes very little effort, or even if you just enjoy using the new network, that can be reason enough.  You’re more likely to succeed on a network you’re passionate for, and you’re more likely to be passionate for a network that you enjoy using personally.


Don’t necessarily abandon ship at the first sign that the new network isn’t a gold mine, either: the real gold, as usual, is hidden in veins under the surface requiring much labor to get to.  If your strategy isn’t working, consider trying to adapt it, though do be willing to say, “This isn’t right for me… yet.”  Do so, however, only after seeking out help and guidance if available, and giving it a fair chance.

Be prepared to cut-and-run, though.  If the effort for the reward proves insufficient, beyond a fair to slightly-more-than-fair go, put it aside and keep an eye open either for signs of future improvement, or at least for some tool like a post scheduler to allow you to include it in your strategy at no risk.  If that never happens, let it go, but again: keep checking for improvement.  And be open to someone suggesting that perhaps you are, in fact, just doing it wrong.

When a tool does allow you to duplicate or nearly-duplicate your efforts to multiple networks, as I’ve suggested, then remember that if sharing to a network can’t be done right, i.e. if what you’re sharing can’t delight the users of each network, it probably shouldn’t be done at all.  Cross-posting shouldn’t be obvious for what it is to casual users of a network at the very least, and ideally you should do some optimizing for any networks you intend to share with even if you are using such tools.

That said, if the tool is available to do it right on the new network without neglecting the ones you’re already using, then by all means use it!  At least then, if the network does take off eventually and you weren’t putting much time into it, you can say you did something, you got started, which is better than starting from scratch (in general).

And there’s one more thing.


Thought Leadership.

When you build authority, as already mentioned, people will follow you, sometimes to the edge of the world (wide web) and back, sometimes into the very depths of (cyber) hell.

For an Early Adopter type, being a Thought Leader on a new network can be a dangerous temptation: if it’s working for them, they can cry the praises of the network and why everyone needs to be on it to the highest heavens, only to find themselves the last man standing the day the network shuts down.  In the process they can waste the time of a lot of other people, as well.

Personal profit motive can further cloud this judgment, as with the social network Tsu, whose promise of paying content creators and social media mavens for their activities on the network, in a pyramid-style reward scheme, led to a craven and naked rush by many social media professionals to forcefully push as many of their followers as possible onto that network.  They either didn’t believe in or weren’t aware of the Overjustification Effect and why it was almost inevitable their users wouldn’t stick around even if they did sign up for it.

I would add, from recent observation, a similar if less distasteful fanaticism has taken root in some circles for the ‘Video Streaming Platform Du Jour’, beit Meerkat, Periscope, Blab or whatever else, with content creators often rushing like packs of hungry beasts chasing scraps from one to the next to the next, calling each one ‘The Future’, telling anyone and everyone they can that they have to be on it, etc…

This is the Dark Side of Early Adoption: you can lead others to disaster, as well.  Temper your efforts to promote new networks and guide new users with the wisdom to give people good advice when and if they ask (or simply need to know, whether they ask or not) whether there will be anything to gain for them.  That is especially true if real world money and decisions rest on your advice.  Bear that in mind when reporting your findings to others.  Avoid the Dark Side.

Avoid the Dark Side of being a social media early adopter.Click To Tweet