Author | Marketer | Speaker

I help companies turn data, ideas and relationships into reach and influence. 

Early adoption and social adstock

Roger's Bell Curve

[box title="Note"] This is an advance excerpt from The Social Media Side Door, my book about the ways social media has rewritten the rules of access and influence. Subscribe to receive more excerpts, tips, and side door strategies.[/box]

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he technology adoption lifecycle has been studied exhaustively ever since Everett Rogers developed his famous Rogers Bell Curve in 1962.  As more of a population adopts a technology, adoption becomes less expensive. However, as a communications technology edges closer to saturation, other costs emerge for its early users. Increased activity volume requires more attention and follow-up.  The exclusivity that once appealed to early users—and the related benefits of being in an elite circle—all but disappears. As more people start using the medium, access is given to anyone and everyone. This is when gatekeeping kicks in as a set of tools and practices that preserve the value of the medium, while reducing the costs associated with being accessed more easily.

Most decision makers aren’t actually early adopters, and they’re usually not even in the early majority of users when looking at total adoption. But they can be considered early users within their peer group. Executives, for instance, actually tend to lag behind the general population in personal social media use. Of Fortune 500 CEOs, only about 14 are active on Twitter—less than 3%.  Among US internet users in general, that rate jumps 333% to 13% of the population.  Let’s consider one CEO’s use of social. Brian J. Dunn, CEO of Best Buy, has tweeted 1,680 times as of this writing. More than 14,000 people follow him, and he’s mentioned about five times per day.  This relatively manageable level of inbound activity allows him to respond to “regular” people, like librarian Adam Haigh, who tweeted that he enjoyed Dunn’s article in Harvard Business Review.  But what happens when that number goes up to 10 or 20 mentions per day, let alone 112 (the average number of emails received by corporate users daily)?  Being accessed becomes burdensome when the number is big enough.

Advertising adstock is a way of talking about advertising’s influence on what we buy. At its most basic level, repeated exposure to advertising rapidly increases awareness, until the rate of awareness-building slows, and then plateaus, due to saturation.  A similar effect can be found in social media, but on more than just influence. Let’s call it social media decay. Social media decay occurs both on the individual and systemic levels. When a user first ventures into social media, every event seems significant. Friend requests, Twitter mentions, LinkedIn messages, blog comments—these are all events that excite for hours due to their relative infrequency at early stages of social media use. There is also the pay-off aspect; the effort we’ve been putting into building a blog readership, or growing our Twitter networks, is starting to yield a return. My first few blog posts received almost zero interactions. Then, on my fourth or fifth, out of the ether, a blog comment appeared. I remember how it felt—like it was all uphill from there. This one positive interaction resonated throughout my entire day, and I could barely wait to write another post and see what would happen next. You’ll see this degree of excitement lead to a lot of sad exchanges with spammers on early-stage blogs. An automated spam-bot will leave a generic, barely legible comment like this one from “Dentist Barry,” pulled from the spam filter on my blog:

 Hello your  website is  great .I  am with your side that you are  making your horizontical knowledge.I  would love to know  more of your  site.Will come back!

And the new bloggers, bless their souls, will approve the comment, and leave enthusiastic replies:

 So glad you liked it, Barry! Thanks for your kind words, and I hope you like my next post, too!

But the real comments and social interactions keep you going, making you hungry for more.

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© 2016 Ian Greenleigh