Early Adopter Disease

Not quite dead yet.

I’ve been accused of being an early adopter of technology and social media platforms.

But I’m really not.

Here are the stages of technology adoption and the percentage of the population in each stage, according to Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle mode:

  • Innovators – 2.5 percent
  • Early Adopters – 13.5 percent
  • Early Majority – 34 percent
  • Late Majority – 34 percent
  • Laggards – 16 percent

I fall into the Early Majority category.  I don’t jump into new technology or platforms until I see evidence that they are working.  This is also the advice that I counsel most of my clients – and clearly the path taken by 84 percent of the population.

The reason I bring this up is because Innovators and Early Adopters are crucial in getting technology into the mainstream, but lousy at predicting their demise.  Because for this select group, the demise is usually the time when the technology is embraced by everyone else.  In other words the mainstream.  Let’s call it Early Adopter Disease.

Once a technology goes mainstream or even hits a bump in the road, this is the group predicting the end.  Haven’t we all seen the headlines declaring “Blogging is Dead” or “Twitter is Dead” or “INSERT TECHNOLOGY HERE is Dead”?  Early adopters don’t like it when their new technology is no longer new – and even worse – popular.

This has started to happen with Facebook.  Lately I’ve been reading social media and marketing experts (many of whom are early adopters) declaring that Facebook is on the decline because of a report this month that user growth has slowed and even declined in the U.S. and Canada.

Here is a post by small business consultant Gene Marks who argued that:

“… Facebook could easily become like MySpace, Palm, cassette tapes, dial-up modems, Sinead O’Connor, Fotomats, dot-matrix printers, public phones and Sharon Stone.  Things that have seen better days and have, for the most part, faded away into obscurity.”

Believe it or not, I agree with Marks.  Facebook will, eventually, go away.  In fact, I guarantee it.  All technology does.

But Marks and others like him miss the point.  Marketing and communications happens now – in the present.  And Facebook – at this moment in time and in the foreseeable future – is the largest communications platform in the world.  It has 700 million users, generates more web traffic than any other website (including Google) and is the fastest and easiest way to potentially reach millions of people – or just a crucial few who want to hear what you have to say.

That’s the beauty of Facebook.  Is their Facebook fatigue?  Yes, probably.  But with one in three internet users on the platform, Facebook isn’t going any where in the near future.  People will probably go in and out of it – taking breaks and vacations from it – much like people do now with the Internet, mobile phones and television.

And, yes, Facebook will eventually become obsolete just like cassette tapes.

But let’s take a closer look at cassette tapes for a moment.  From the 1970s to the late 1990s, it was one of the two largest formats for prerecorded music (along with LPs).  In 1990, at the height of the tape cassette industry, 442 million tape cassettes were sold worldwide.  To play these hundreds of millions of cassettes sold each year, people bought tens of millions of cassette players: home stereo players, car stereos and portal players (like the Walkman).  It was a multi-billion dollar business.

If you were a recording artist or tape cassette manufacturer and you opted out of selling your music on cassette tapes or stopped building cassette players because early adopters were declaring the format dead because of the introduction of the compact disc in the late 1980s, you would have missed out on a lot of business.

And about Sinead O’Connor.  Her first two albums sold a total of 9.5 million copies.  That sounds like success to me.


Wikipedia chart of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle

Gene Marks post “Would I Invest in Facebook? No, thank you”

Fox News: “Facebook on the Decline”

“One in Three Internet Users on Facebook”

Wikipedia “Compact Tape” entry

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