Being first has its advantages and disadvantages

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

Being first is winning, we might think but that’s only  sometimes true.

For example, Google wasn’t even the first search engine. There were several before it, including Yahoo, which launched almost two years before the now-dominant Google.

Today in 2015, Google, of course, tops all searches with 67 percent.

So just being first doesn’t guarantee the top spot in the long run. But being one of the first does help.

Google still launched in the mid-1990s when the Internet was still pretty new to most consumers. Social media wasn’t in many job descriptions – if any – yet, and many used dial-up to check their AOL email accounts.

Imagine if a new search engine would launch now and how hard it would be for it to get a decent amount of the market. Search engine Cuil, for example, launched in the late 2000s. Have you heard of it?

Google was early. Definitely. The topic when to join a new trend, launch a product or social media strategy does affect many organizations today. Some even wonder if we can just out-wait a trend. It might just go back to the good old days, some say. Doubtful, honestly.

Think about Facebook and Twitter – the more established networks. They aren’t new, but yet many organizations continue to evaluate what they should do on them – if anything at all. Some attempts aren’t that social at all and mistake the networks as advertisement delivery channels.

The brands that are using them correctly and effectively – for the most part  – hopped on the bandwagon years ago. They tried and experimented. They may not have been the first, but they were part of the group of early adopters – or shortly after.

Does that mean organizations shouldn’t hop on a network now? Is it too late? Nope, it’s not. Starting today is better than never starting. A year from today, you can say you have a year under your belt.

The key is to give it some time and not compare your first day to somebody else’s 10th year.

Hey, why do they have 500,000 followers and I only have 1,000? Because we just started. Give it time.

It’s certainly a fine balance. There are hundreds of social networks that organizations could in theory hop on. Many of them are irrelevant to many audiences.

Even MySpace, which I often reference in presentations as not being that useful anymore still sees 59 million monthly visitors.  It’s pretty much become an entertainment and musician kind of site. So if that’s your niche, you probably should pay attention. If it’s not, don’t go there. I know I don’t.

Sometimes it’s about getting involved quickly  to see if the involvement might be worth it.

In addition, being first in a particular field or industry can lead to earned media. Newspaper articles or a story on the TV news can help raise awareness for an organization.

I remember the firsts for social media networks on media channels:

“So and so set up the entire donation drive entirely through Facebook.”

That was really only news the first time it happened – because it was new. The second organization doing the exact same thing – especially in the same media market – wouldn’t get the same kind of coverage.

So there are pros and cons of being an early adopter. In general, I think it’s OK to hop on the bandwagon early on, but first consider these items:

  • Is our target audience/community even active on the network?
  • Would we fit in? If yes, how?
  • What would we say to add to the experience?
  • Who will post to the network, monitor conversations and respond (aka workflow)?
  • How will we measure success?

Don’t be afraid to get involved and try, but let’s make an education decision. Quickly.