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Trendsetter or Just…Trendy?

There are huge risks and drawbacks involved with being an early adopter or adapter—there are costly and time-consuming device and software/platform malfunctions, lack of extensive tech support, and a steep learning curve. However, late adopters suffer a costly penalty, too. Simply muttering about your gout and then crawling onto whatever social media marketing horse because “that’s what the kids want these days” is also the wrong way to do it. Worse than coming in last, however, is to come near the end—the semi-late adopters.

For sake of illustration, let’s take the now-trendy aesthetic steampunk.  The early adopters are like the forum I joined back in 2008 when simply saying the word was a guaranteed eyebrow raise. You couldn’t market using steampunk imagery around Halloween because nobody knew and nobody cared. Then, sometime around late 2011, it became more and more popular to where by last year, it was everywhere.

And this is where the semi-late adopters swarmed and stuck gears on everything. By this point, using any sort of marketing strategy with the aesthetic was kind of a moot point with progressive consumers. And finally, after that, the late adopters would lumber in, having lost all relevance whatsoever as people would flock to a new aesthetic like piranhas.

There is a marketing sweet spot—that proverbial 2011, and you have to hit it in order for your time not to be wasted. So…what’s this point between too early and too late and how do you find it? Gentle reader, continue to the end of this article, and you will have the inspiration and, most importantly, the spirit of the best social media marketers.

New Media: it starts with you.

Photocredit: Flickr Cogdog

If you aren’t interested in whatever marketing strategy or outlet you are going to use, your subscribers can tell. I can’t tell you how many small business owners come to me expecting for me to work wonders on their social media presence when they don’t even understand or care how it works. I call these people “Adumpt”ers—they adopt quickly, but they then dump any further exploration of the option.  “I am too busy building my business,” they will say. “This is your business.” To be honest, it’s this attitude that consumers can sniff out and is used to sort the followers from the leaders.

The first bit advice is, before you binge on registering accounts for your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, etc, use them yourself. Reserve the name and then sit on it. And then, explore for yourself with your private account.

Researching the motives and strategies for “making things go viral” is a “step seven” stage, not a “steps one through five” stage. First, watch viral videos yourself, and then reflect. Before you were ever a business owner, you were a consumer, I can guarantee it, so you can follow your instincts. “Why do I like this? What are the comments I am seeing on this content that resonate with me?” Then, find things that are more niche and maybe less popular. Figure out what kind of an audience you don’t want to attract.

Discover the full capabilities of the platform you are using—subscribe to the information issued by the developer and read it! Are most of the tips and tools going to be in that early stage of development? Absolutely, so don’t steer your business towards those quite yet; instead, do this personally. Figure out the strengths and weaknesses of the new plug-in or feature and think about what you, as a consumer, would like. Then take that to your business and use that.

For instance, I am currently working with mentoring lots of my clients on how to begin making use of Pinterest. Did you know that you can use Pinterest to collaborate on boards secretly? Or to keep track of who is repinning what pins with the new analytics feature? Staying engaged privately will help you stay ahead of the game and be one of the inspirers. Additionally, troubleshooting your own problems will give you a level of familiarity that allows you to best achiever follower engagement.

The best way to engage your followers is to, sure enough, consult with them.  For example, instead of jumping ahead and setting up a contest with the winner getting branded merchandise, make your customers feel a part of the merchandise design, letting them vote on various designs and hearing out their opinions. Furthermore, really use the teamwork as a resource—don’t engage with your audience to appease them. Definitely use their ideas and credit them with your use; they often have some pretty fantastic suggestions.

Behold: collaboration

Photocredit: Flickr Kalexanderson 

When I feel that I am heard and that my opinion on topics beyond “what do you want to obtain from me” are respected by a company, I begin to view them less as a company and more like a partner—and partnerships are much harder to dissolve than simple business allegiance.

You are your own best and worst enemy when it comes to new media marketing. Although these tips are basic, they are both the most important and, often, the most overlooked when the stampede towards whatever “hip new thang” kicks off.  Be on the ball, not in front of it or behind it.

Allysia Lowe is a digital media marketer currently working with Leighmans’. She specializes in helping established small businesses not get lost in the shuffle of expanding outreach to new media. When she is not working or researching, she runs a small tropical fish business on the side, raising bettas in a rainbow of colours. 

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