Matrix: Social Technology Adoption Curve Benefits –and Downsides

Know The Upsides –And Downsides Of Your Adoption Behavior
Individuals and companies should be deliberate in their adoption strategy, there are benefits and risks to each category. It’s been interesting watching different group adopt social technologies over the past few years, I can see who benefits from being first –and the pains to be a thought leader of both individuals and companies.

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Above, this is the standard Rogers Adoption Curve, it’s important to point out that my matrix below only is in context of social technologies, it will vary from technology to technology.  I found this take on the adoption stages of social technologies helpful in framing how I thought about the following matrix. I built this following matrix in the context of social technologies and adoption by both individuals and mixed in with organizations and industries.

Matrix: Social Technology Adoption Curve Benefits –and Downsides

Categories Description Benefits Downsides
Innovators These brave souls take on new technologies, trial them, then will often evangelize them. I’d put those that adopted Twitter in 2006. or any entrepreneurs that creates new technologies fitting into these categories.  From a corporate perspective, Dell was forced into this arena, and has benefited. Glory for being first, a thought and practice leader.. Will have learned from their mistakes, and have far more experience than any others. Will always be able to tout they were first. Very costly in terms of time, effort to find new technologies that are often flawed. Additionally, since innovation becomes cheaper and more accessible, this becomes more difficult as more entrants to the market launch products. Lastly, while these folks may be first for some technologies, they are often wrong for the many other technologies that did not take off.
Early Adopters This behavior is exhibited by those that try out new technologies in a careful way, often thought leaders. Some analyst firms like Forrester adopted early, and the Tech industry deployed social.  Agencies like Edelman, Razorfish have helped their clients. Learn from the failures of innovators, they reduce risk. Often they have the opportunity to explain how it works to others. Become the case studies that other groups follow Never first, and have to write the playbooks. They may adopt, but at higher costs than the majorities as the technology has not matured. Tech companies adopted social in 2005-2007 as an early industry, but a lack of measurement, and rapid tool change required great effort to stay current.
Early Majority Although thoughtful in their deployment, they adopt faster than the mainstream. in 2009, we saw industries like consumer packaged goods, finance, and healthcare adopt social technologies. I think of when mainstream Oprah joining Twitter as a defining moment as she was ahead of most celebrities and media. Technology starts to mature, reducing risk and costs. Standards emerge, although this group gets to help define mainstream adoption. Some of the cool factor leaves, and brands start to move in on social technologies, scaring off some innovators.
Late Majority This skeptical group only adopts when the mainstream does. Industries that only got on board with social when Obama, mainstream press, or celebrity adoption occurred fit here. Companies adopting in 2009 and beyond. Reduced risk from learning from who’s done it right and wrong, as well as benefits from standard proccesses, and consolidation of vendors. Not seen as thought leaders and don’t benefit from the residual buzz from being ‘cool’, instead come across as a ‘me too’./td>
Laggards Still cautions in deployment, even after the technology has become mainstream. These folks will adopt social technologies in 2010 or later. Cookie cutter deployment from standardization and very little risk.  Deployment may actually be faster and with less effort than those above. In balance with lower risk, lower opportunity for reward. No thought leadership, and little additional reputation or buzz value from the intended investment.

Matrix: Be Deliberate In Your Adoption Strategy
Each category has specific benefits and risks, but rather than just behaving in a way that comes natural, I encourage you in your personal and work adoption to be deliberate in your actions.

  1. Examine your organizations adoption patterns. First, define how quickly your organization responds and adopts to technologies, and factor into your considerations.
  2. Be a Category Ahead Of Your Company. If you’re responsible for new technologies at your company, your personal adoption should be a level or two ahead of the organizations adoption, as you cannot effectively deploy for your company if you don’t personally understand the impacts of the new technologies.
  3. Track The Category Ahead Of You. Find an individual that’s above your adoption category (the early adopter watches the innovator) and be sure to watch their behaviors and learn from them. Adopters are often blazing their own trail, and may not ever follow anyone.

My Strategy: Early Adopter –But Not Innovator
One thing is clear, being first doesn’t mean you’re right, in fact, the Innovators have a difficult time dealing with early and late majority, paving roads of opportunity for analysis, agencies, and consultants. As a result, I make a distinct effort to be an early adopter of new social technologies, but not the innovator, as I find I’d rather be more often right, and expend less energy trying to be first.

Leave a Comment. Share Your Adoption Strategy
Let’s learn from each other, I’d like to know about your adoption behavior and that of your company. Were you deliberate in choosing your adoption strategy? How does it hurt or help your company?