Staying Ahead of the Curve

23 04 2010

With new and emerging technologies coming out at staggering speeds, it has become necessary for companies stay ahead of the curve and becoming what Mashable calls an “Early Adopter Brand“. The concept of an “early adopter” normally applies to a person’s use and adoption to new technologies. For example, all those people who lined since 3am to get an iPad a couple of weeks ago perfectly encapsulate an early adopter. There are a number of benefits and drawbacks to being an early adopter, for both individual people and major brands: The benefits are gaining recognition and notoriety by bringing new and exciting technologies to light. Discovering potential uses and engaging their consumers with new and exciting tools. The main drawback is that there is an inherent risk to ventures like this. As an entrepreneurial undertaking being an early adopter means that a brand might end up wasting time focusing on a technology whose results may not be as fruitful as originally expected. It essentially comes down to timing and strategy. According to Mashable:

“In some ways we’re still in the early days of understanding the relationship between businesses and social media. It’s now more crucial than ever to understand why it’s important to be an early adopter brand.”

But when the right technology meets the right brand at the right time, there are benefits for everyone. In the Mashable article they highlight Starbucks. Starbucks has stayed ahead of the curve with their involvement with social media applications. With Twitter’s recent launch of Promoted Tweets (see my previous discussion on that topic here), Starbucks was one of the first companies to start using this new service. Whether the Promoted Tweets initiative succeeds or not Starbucks gained dual benefits from adopting this new service:

“…the initial rollout of Promoted Tweets has ensured that Starbucks gets a major mention in every mainstream and new media article on Promoted Tweets…their sample Promoted Tweets screenshot served as the only visual representation…when the news first broke.”

It’s not surprising to see live web applications come up and fail shortly after release. However the lackluster adaptability of Google’s social networking application, Google Buzz is somewhat surprising. This is an example of what a failed business opportunity might look like for enterprises trying to stay on top of new technologies. Ultimately that depends on what is out there and what can potentially become the next popular venture. Today, it seems like the next hot trend in social networking will be Location-Based games. These services allow people to gain points be “checking-in” at certain places. If they check in often enough, they may be awarded prizes and distinctions. Within the games these distinctions may be meaningless, but some companies have begun to recognize their customers because of these games. They essentially work as customer-loyalty programs, if a person has enough points to become the “Mayor” of their favorite Starbucks then that store might use some sort of discount program to reward their loyalty. This represents another way of connecting online and offline marketing and public relations as a way of engaging consumers. The important aspect to consider is that they have to be engaged in areas that are familiar to them. By using new forms of technologies, brands and technologies build communities with their users and expand their reach.

I imagine that these services will continue to gain importance later this year. They seem to meld and mesh all the best components of social media: interpersonal interaction between users, mobile device accessibility, direct and indirect connections with people’s favorite brands and the ability to connect with other, well-established social networking sites. It seems then like the stage is set for the next adopters to jump into the next popular trend and reap the benefits of their entrepreneurial efforts.

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