How Do You Attract Early Adopters?

by Jay Deragon on 09/24/2008

It seems that everyone looking for the next golden nugget in the social networking space is studying the behavior of early adopters. The theory is that to create the next big thing find something worthy of the early adopters time and attention.

In a recent article in the New York Times titled How Many Web Services Can One Person Use? Claire Cain Miller writes: “ How many more new social networking or micro-blogging or video-sharing site can one person use? Most of us don’t have time to respond to voice mail and e-mail every day, let alone check our Twitter updates and Facebook accounts and Flickr friends. And even if we have the time, do we need another site that helps us share and connect and network?”

“The biggest chasm is no longer between early adopters and mainstream users. It is about finding and retaining the early adopters to begin with,” said Fraser Kelton, director of business development at AdaptiveBlue, who talked about the problem at a conference presentation
called “The Real, Long-lasting (and Negative) Impact of Web 2.0 on Technology Adoption.”

“Brad Burnham, a partner at Union Square Ventures, which invests solely in these Web services, has been thinking about the problem too. Unlike a few years ago, he said, to get someone to use a Web service now you have to get them to replace something else in their life.”

“Now, in order to even get the attention of the core group, you have to ask them to replace time or a behavior,” he said.

“The future, they said, is in Web services that do not require users to change their behavior by, say, adopting a new service or transferring all their friends’ contacts from one service to another.”

Could They Be Wrong?

I wonder whether any of the pundits who claim to know what it takes to attract early adopters are in fact early adopters? Too many times we hear from people and institutions who claim to be experts about all this “social stuff” but who do not use the tools of the trade on a regular basis.

I consider myself an early adopter and one who uses the tools and studies the marketplace six days a week at least 50 weeks out of the year. I am connected to thousands of users globally, have moderated dozens of communities, get invited to hundreds of other communities and basically live, sleep and eat this stuff. Here is what it takes to attract me to anything:

  1. Demonstrate and share the value I’ll receive i.e. time saving, greater utility, improved functionality, community value etc. etc.
  2. Clearly communicate the differential of your offering
  3. Answer this: What does the offering help me do better?

If you can honestly answer 1, 2 & 3 then you won’t have to ask me rather the very attraction of your offering will draw me to it as it will millions of others, early adopters or not.

Also, please hear this. If you try and trap me by lying about anything in 1,2 & 3 you’ve lost me and my friends forever.

Get it? What say you?

{ 1 comment }

Kate Carruthers September 24, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Experts in social media and social networking who don’t use the technology? Hmmmmm, they don’t sound like experts to me. The real experts in the space are almost obsessive compulsive in their usage of the technology.

As one of the early adopters you describe I filter new tools & products for adoption (as opposed to testing or just checking them out) on a few simple criteria:

1) Are they better than something I already use – do they help me do stuff better, faster?
2) Do they actually work & provide utility as promised?
3) Do they get the online culture & not be annoying in their communications?
4) Will there be sufficient community uptake? If they are social they need uptake to be interesting for me.

These are pretty similar to yours. I suspect many of us use similar filters.

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