Some of you are really interested in tech, some of you are really interested in the future of our world...if you fall into at least one of those camps, I recommend you read the linked post here from venture capitalist Benedict Evans who lays out his high-level thoughts on things to expect in tech and the future.
When I read it myself, I got to thinking about which of my friends would be the early adopters of these new habits versus the fast followers and late adopters.
I mean I know thousands of extremely cool, smart people. They're spread out all over the world, they're stylish, and they're hip to some of the best in arts, culture, entertainment, fashion, music and political happenings before most. That's what I tell myself. I look around at my friends around the world and think to myself, "my friends are early-adopters and mavens of information."
But reality is much different.
It used to annoy the hell out of me when friends of mine would commit to me right to my face that they'd be active Localeur contributors then their faces and voices would be nowhere to find when I checked to see if they were actually doing so, especially if they were raving about their particular city as a means to have us launch their city on Localeur.
It's quite disappointing to revere your friends as early-adopting, local-loving tech-savvy people only to be severely disappointed by their behavior, or lack thereof toward a concept, a community and a product you care so deeply about. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for my friends who are artists, musicians and freelance writers.
But as Localeur has grown tremendously this year and outgrown the influence of my personal relationships the role I place on the Localeur engagement of my own friends has declined dramatically, and what I've realized is that my friends aren't early adopters. At least not to something like Localeur or maybe for tech in general.
I bet the same thing is true for Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook; sure those other Harvard kids joined but not because they love social media or technology but because everyone else at Harvard joined. I'm almost certain that Kevin Systrom's friends didn't get on Instagram because they are serious about photography but because they heard Instagram got 25,000 downloads the first day it was released. I'm also certain that many folks aren't getting Tesla's because they are passionate about climate change, but instead because the car has become a status symbol as an intelligent and tolerable luxury buy.
So, sure, I do have friends who were among the first at UT-Austin on Facebook or among the early users of Twitter and Instagram and maybe SnapChat or Tinder now, but they are the exceptions. Most people are not early adopters, but fast followers and late adopters. My friends included so when I don't see them using Localeur it doesn't make me feel like our product sucks (although there are a world of things we need to improve upon) but instead that those particular friends maybe weren't ever going to be among the first 1 million users for Localeur and maybe they won't be a part of the next 1 million either. My job is to make the cycle of attaining millions of users quicker and quicker, to grow more rapidly, not to worry about whether or not a particular friend of mine who I think is really cool to become a super user of Localeur because of the way they dress or their taste in music.
Thinking more broadly, I've noticed that many people use Facebook to keep tabs on people they moderately know more than to connect with people they love. Many people have a Twitter profile, but use it when the Oscars or Grammys come around or when their favorite sports team is in the playoffs, not when they want to learn what's happening in the world. Many people have Instagram accounts because so many of their friends had one that they felt obliged to do so rather than because they thought Instagram was a great platform for sharing. Many people have tried Airbnb, but how many fully embrace the Sharing Economy...how many would continue using Airbnb if boutique hotel prices were lowered by 40% overnight? Many people have supported their friends' campaigns on Kickstarter, but how many have ponied up for the campaigns of complete strangers after discovering a project not through a friend's Facebook post but through Kickstarter-itself?
All this goes to answer the question of what exactly makes someone an early adopter? I consider three elements:
1. You were interested in the activity before the product or service existed.
What I mean by this is that Facebook didn't turn an introvert into an extrovert and Tinder didn't turn someone who doesn't date ever into someone who has two dates a day every day. Either you were about that life or you weren't, adapting a new product or technology doesn't really swing a person either way. Maybe you weren't blogging on Medium before, but it's likely if you now find yourself there you were already sharing thoughts on some kind of community or audience-driven platform before.
2. Your friends look to you for cues.
Almost everyone thinks they're an early adopter when it comes to at least one particular musical act. For me, it's acts like Local Natives and Kanye West. I didn't grow up in SoCal, but I've seen Local Natives something like 18 times, no kidding. I've seen them at multiple festivals, in multiple cities, have bought their albums for at least two dozen friends and played a very small role in evangelizing their music to a certain producer of the Austin City Limits TV program. My brother Kahron put me onto Kanye West's College Dropout (a leaked copy) when I was in college, but his production for Jay-Z and others was already familiar to me, and once Through the Wire dropped, I immediately started telling all my friends about this guy who reminded me of A Tribe Called Quest. I've seen Kanye live 9 or 10 times, bought all his albums twice, even have unopened copies of his LPs and have fond memories of watching him open up for Usher a few months before the famous "George Bush doesn't care about black people" line back in '05.
3. You share out.
If one of your friends says they tried a restaurant before you and you think to yourself, "no, I went first" but don't say anything, that doesn't make you an early adopter. What that makes you is first. What separates an early adopter from the person who does something first is that the early adopter has a real understanding of their role in doing something early on as a trigger for others to follow suit. The early adopter puts his or her friends up on that new restaurant not because they went first, but because they want their friends to go too. Only when fast followers exist do early adopters get rewarded.
So whenever I see people lamenting their favorite musician not having as many fans as they should or I read a angry post from a friend who is upset his or her favorite bar or restaurant has closed, I think to myself, "well, did you actually evangelize and share the music of that artists or recommend that restaurant or bar to anyone?"
I think it to myself, then I write about it on Facebook, Twitter, etc...