There’s a phenomenon in social media where early adopters get a head start on building profiles versus those that kind of come into the game after the network is established.
My first experience with this was in early 2005 when the university I was attending first got access to Facebook. At that time Facebook was only available to those that had university or college email addresses. And I think they were rolling it out school by school. My school in Wisconsin probably wasn’t one of the first ten or even hundred to get access, but it kind of took over our college when we got access.
Some kids jumped right on board with Facebook. They filled out their profiles with information and started requesting friends. They also started adding photos and those kids seemed to be the ones that got the most friends at least in those early days. And by the time Facebook opened up to high schools and then to everyone these folks were pretty established.
Twitter was an interesting social site. It was basically just the news feed feature from Facebook, but it took off not too long after launching in the Summer of 2006.
According to my profile I signed up in the Fall of 2007 and I remember being fairly early to the Twitter game. Back then the people I followed were the ones that seemed to be established. They posted often. They had a large number of followers. I was trying to figure out what Twitter was so it made sense to follow those using it the most and those that were the most followed.
Vine came along in 2012 and I remember kind of out of nowhere seeing these little short videos on Twitter. I think Twitter bought Vine just a few months after it launched.
The folks that started using Vine right away got a little jump on others and some were able to build big followings and they still have those followings today.
Being An Early Adopter
The same kind of early adopter phenomenon happens on just about all social networks. It’s happened on YouTube and Pinterest as well as newer networks like Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat.
It’s not a guarantee that if you’re an early adopter that you’ll be a star on the network. You simply have a little jump on others that come to the network later on.
The reason you have a jump is pretty basic.
Early adopters have more time to build basic stats like views, follows, followers, etc. Let’s say that you get a new follower everyday. If you join a network a year before most others then you’ll have about 365 more followers by the time they begin. I remember when YouTube first came out in like 2005-2006 and some independent music artists starting putting their music videos up. That was kind of a new thing and those artists were able to get pretty good exposure. Some even got record deals out of it and artists still do that today.
But just by joining YouTube in 2005, 2006 or even 2007 allowed those artists to rack up views before other more established artists joined the network.
Obviously, if you’re a recognizable name or brand you’ll bring your established audience with you when you join a network, but for those that want to build an audience, being an early adopter is a great strategy. There is a growing audience looking for content and if you’re one of a relative few adding content you’re likely to get more attention.
Curiosity + Little Content
And that’s kind of the other main reason why early adopters have an advantage. As new people join a new network they’re curious about it and what it’s all about. They’re going to look around at the content that is there to see what’s going on.
And on a new network there is a relatively low amount of content. So if you’re publishing content you have a pretty good chance or at least a better chance of getting noticed than you are if you join an established network and try to stand out.
Joining A New Network
If you’re looking to grow your brand using social media it might be more beneficial to join a new network. You can become one of the early adopters and get a jumpstart on the others that will join later.
My recommendation would be to join the network and to focus only on that network for awhile. Give it a year and develop a regular posting schedule so you’re adding consistent content and giving yourself the best odds to get discovered by other users.
For example, I listened to a podcast interview with an early adopter on Vine and he had a schedule of posting a handful of videos to Vine each day. I think he shot about five videos and published the best ones each day.
The possible drawback with being an early adopter is that the network you choose doesn’t reach the mainstream. That’s a big risk, but the payoff can be big. It’s a little luck, but even if the network doesn’t make it you can still get discovered, build an audience and take that audience to a new network if things go south.