What happens when hype is no longer hype but a real trend? Can you afford to miss benefiting from social technologies?
These are questions I get about using social media as part of the brand strategy conversations. This is when I introduce the theory of Technology Adoption Lifecycle (aka Rogers’ bell curve) to illustrate product adoption to better understand how new ideas and technologies spread especially in today’s digital culture.
Fundamentally Innovators seek new ways of doing complex tasks and are willing to take the risk hoping to gain competitive advantage over time.
The Early Adopters want speed and cost savings to drive other innovations that’s mostly perceived advantage.
I see the rest of the adopter groups (early majority, late majority and laggards) as Mass Market. This group relies heavily on the concept of social proof and wants proven process from credible source that demonstrates significant cost savings over the existing way of doing things.
Now let’s apply this concept to social media.
Adopting at the Right Time
The idea of adopting new technology is to improve productivity and fuel growth, not to chase the hype or follow the trend for the sake of doing it.
You need to ask yourself this: How much risk are you willing to take investing (time, resources, money) in social media? Does your organization have the resources to execute the adoption of this new platform?
Regardless of how mature social media is, it has to fit within your brand strategy.
Don’t get me wrong, the timing of adoption is important and it could bring unexpected opportunities, but not if you’re unable to optimize the value from it.
You need to have the right adoption strategy at the precise time that gives you the longest lifetime value at an acceptable level of risk.
You can see some examples of mergers and acquisitions by companies attempting to harness innovation in the adoption lifecycle. Recently eBay sold Skype for $1.9 billion and acknowledged “that it had overpaid for Skype by about $1 billion — the purchase price was $2.6 billion but the Times has reported the total cost reached $3.1 billion after bonus payouts to founders.”
Being a happy Skype user myself, I know the value of Skype today but eBay’s timing of the acquisition was simply off not to mention it didn’t fit with their business model.
A better approach would be to find something that aligns with their line of business in auction listings, classifies and ecommerce. EBay does own paypal, which is a great buy because it actually enhances their online auction business and helps to extend their brand to reach more customers. Looking from the hind side, a company like Craigslist (they do own 25% of it) would probably make more sense to go after.
One factor to keep in mind is sustainability of social technologies. This can be seen by the rapid adoption of the earliest social technology: email.
As a technology spreads widely, the economy of scale expands but its value will start to shrink.
Email is supposed to improve our communication and productivity but as we’re at the end of adoption lifecycle spam has exploded, “now accounts for 90.4% of all e-mail,” costing us more time, resource and money to manage email.
When a technology starts to get commoditized, it’s time to innovate.
This is why companies like Google is re-inventing the email landscape with Gmail going heads on against Microsoft’s Exchange email.
For social media one could argue that we’re still in the Early Majority section of the Mass Market and we’ve yet to see the explosion from the Late Majority section.
Regardless, the adoption of social media will continue to grow according to Forrester Research. I like their consumer social technology profiling tool that allows you to check the profile of your customers.
Take away: Adopt social media for your brand when you’re ready, even just to experiment, you still need time and resources. Focus on aligning your brand strategy to help you achieve your business goals. If you need social media strategy, you can start with this.
Are you an Innovator or an Early Adopter?