Fashionably late adopters

Emerging media can no longer be considered a new phenomenon. Innovators and early adopters have been honing their craft across multiple social media channels for several years now, haring off in new directions and creating a sense of urgency to join in the race. But what about those businesses or organizations still hesitating on the sidelines?  Is it time for them to come out of their shells, stick their necks out and catch up? Or, have they already missed the boat?

As it turns out, late adopters actually enjoy some advantages to being fashionably late.

Typically, the industries that are still cautious about establishing a social media presence are the most conservative and risk averse. They are often faced with the added pressure of regulatory or compliance restrictions. Examples include, financial services, medical institutions, legal firms and not-for-profit associations, where brand messaging has historically been controlled by a handful of authorized and highly trained professionals.  While innovators are out in front, taking risks to gain competitive advantages, late adopters hang back waiting for credible evidence of proven processes to mitigate exposure and manage risk. In effect, claims Adam Egbert, companies on the cutting edge are the guinea pigs, adopting and proving new methods and technologies. Fortunately, latecomers can leverage the experience of those that have gone before.

By virtue of its public accessibility, social media strategies are easy to observe, evaluate and even imitate. While innovators and early adopters try everything new on for size, testing, integrating, measuring and running themselves ragged, late adopters can examine these enthusiastic efforts to judge what is worthwhile in the marketing mix, and how the puzzle fits together.  The latecomers have the benefit of watching what is trending, learning what works to engage an audience on YouTube, Facebook or Pinterest. Views, shares, followers, pins and likes are openly available and very revealing. The marketing industry itself is a valuable source of insight, with experts freely discussing best practices with empirical data to support their approval or dissent. Formal analysis by highly respected organizations such as Stanford, Harvard and MIT can also assist key decision makers with the transition to becoming a social business.

Late adopters who have expressed deep skepticism or risk aversion towards social media over a period of years, will have cultural adjustments to overcome when considering a change in the course of their traditional marketing strategy. While it can take a long time to reach internal consensus and approval to join in, once the decision is made, catch-up can be implemented relatively quickly, without the extended production schedules often associated with traditional media.

If control of the conversation remains a significant concern, it makes sense to ease into the world of emerging media. Lee Schneider recommends blogging as the perfect starting point. Content is controlled by the designated author/s, and reader comments can be moderated before posting. It is easy to accurately track audience engagement and the beginning of an online brand community can be established.

The writing is on the wall that social media is here to stay, and whether that’s a Facebook wall, a Pinterest board, a blog post, or all of the above, the good news is it’s never too late to join in and catch up.