I’ll start this post with complete honesty: I do not have an answer to this question. Indeed, I hope to elicit some good discussion in the comments because this question has been on my mind for some months now.

The background to the question is simple. We all know that the social media landscape is changing faster than most can keep up with. For the most part, early-adopting consumers tend to be the first to jump cannon-ball style into any new technological pool. Once the waters are proven safe and comfortable, other consumers join in, all eventually followed by large, lumbering brands that want to join the party. We’ve seen this with Facebook, Twitter, mobile applications, etc.

The sheer size and labyrinthine organizational structure of most large brands has pretty much prevented them from being the first to splash into any new pool. Lately, however, I have noticed a distinct increase in the speed with which many brands are jumping on various new media bandwagons.

Foursquare is one of social media platforms where I have noticed this. It seems to me that there have been brands spending significant energy on Foursquare for many months now; even though Foursquare boasts a relatively small user base compared to many other social networks.

So, again, I pose my question: Can brands adopt a new platform too early? In our personal lives we don’t really need to run a cost-benefit analysis of messing about on Gowalla. We try it and we like it or we don’t. But when companies and brands begin to “mess about” on a new platform, it costs them money (either directly or in the opportunity costs of where else that time could have been spent).

For a few months now, I have been leaning back and watching some brands enter new social spaces with no apparent plan. I want to know if this strategy is working for them. Is there significant value to being one of the first kids in the pool? Or, are these brands suffering from premature adoption (is there a pill for that?)

So here are some questions to ponder (and please discuss in the comments):

  • Does a brand’s early adoption of a new technology provide the same status bump (in certain circles) as a consumer’s early adoption?
  • If brands enter a new social space and don’t know what they are doing, does it hurt them, help them, or not affect them at all?
  • What is the next platform/technology/network that you think brands are going to start using?
Written by Matt Peters
Matt is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pandemic Labs, and enjoys thinking about, writing about, and talking about social media marketing whenever someone will let him.