Why there is no first mover advantage in social media

first mover advantage

One of my readers left this comment the other day as she advocated that you should establish a foothold in every emerging social media channel — a first mover advantage:

“If you’re among the first on a new social network, it will be easier for you to become big there, compared to arriving there after everyone else. Assuming the network survives, you’ll be set up for success.”

This seems to make sense, and we have certainly seen this “first mover advantage” play out in many marketing strategies over the years.

But today I will take a contrary position and offer a more realistic strategy when it comes to approaching social media channels.

The impossible risk of first mover advantage

Here’s the first challenge to a first mover strategy — finding the energy to do it all!

Here’s a popular chart that illustrates some of the most popular social media networks (please don’t strain your eyes!):

first mover advantage

Don’t even bother trying to read it or understand it. I’m just making the point that there is a lot of stuff out there.

Trying to keep up with it all and place the right business bet is hazardous duty.

An example … One of my friends bet the ranch on a streaming video channel called Meerkat. He became an advocate and spoke at Meerkat events. He wore Meerkat t-shirts. He pushed tons of content on the platform and indeed became the undisputed Meerkat stud.

In less than a year, Meerkat was dead. His content went poof. His status evaporated. He had dedicated a good portion of his life to a social media channel that is now a memory.

There are not too many people (or businesses) that can afford to make that mistake over and over with every new platform that comes along.

No focus equals no excellence

Challenge number two: If you’re trying to be everywhere, you will be great nowhere.

There is only one way to stand out on any social media channel — earn an audience through consistently valuable and entertaining content.

Unless you have a huge team of people working on that for you, there is simply no practical way to maintain an excellent presence everywhere.

A better strategy is to be superior in one or two carefully-selected places.

Nobody cares

Eventually, the best content wins, not the person who was there first.

Let’s look at TikTok as an example. This is the social media rage right now. Simply being first means nothing if you’re not relevant, interesting, entertaining and superior according to the high school kids who love it there.

Nobody cares that you were there first. Why would they?

Be a fast follower

Here’s a better strategy: Let other people be the pioneers and figure things out. Then, be a fast follower.

In the history of business, the first movers almost never win.

One small example — the Apple iPod.

The iPod was one of the most successful product introductions in history but it wasn’t the first portable MP3 player in the market, or even the second or third. Apple let the others make mistakes and build a market and then came in with something that was more relevant and superior.

I think this same philosophy works in the social media space, too.

Being a first mover and maintaing a presence everywhere on social media sounds like a good strategy, but honestly, I can’t think of any practical reason to do that.

Think of that Meerkat example — It would have been a lot smarter to wait to see if it actually worked out before going all-in!

So when it comes to social media, take the first mover advantage advice with a grain of salt. Be patient and place your bets in the channels that emerge as important and relevant to your customers. The fast follower wins.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of Unsplash.com

All posts

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast that I co-host with Brooke Sellas.

View details

Top-rated social media speaker and keynote presenter

Mark is one of the most sought after marketing keynote speakers. He specializes in marketing strategy and social media.

View details

Close

Send this to a friend