It started as a throwaway line in a post on Google Plus (adopter + hipster = adopster), and then became a tweet:

And lo, mere moments later, I realized that tweet was traveling far and wide:

That’s when I knew I’d probably hit some sort of nerve. (I got re-tweeted by a muskox!)

And, truth be told, I was pointing a finger at myself as much as anyone else.

I’ve been an “early adopter” of a number of social media platforms over the past several years — usually via invitations from friends who are REAL early adopters: the kinds of folks who know start-up founders or have start-ups themselves, or who happen to run in tech-savvy circles where everything is in beta (including the fish.)

Maybe that makes me more of an early “hanger-on”… but regardless, I’ve been given access a time or two.

When platforms are solely populated by early adopters, a lot of the conversation surrounds how the platform is functioning, how we should / could be using it, where it could be improved, and which existing platform it will “kill” when everyone can sign up.

I’m not an entrepreneur or a developer or a venture capitalist, so my contribution to those conversations is usually pretty limited. I tend to do what I do with my personal accounts on all social platforms regardless of how new they are, or who else might be there (share random links, rhapsodize about the bottle of moisturizer I just bought, talk about recipes and dinner menus, poke fun at my friends, fling non-sequiturs into the ether…)

In some sense, I’m probably actually doing most of the things that bug the early adopters when a platform is open to the public — just a few months early. And I know those things bug them because they make no bones about expressing disdain when their private club has their virtual doors opened to digital “riff raff.”

Or, you know… everyone else.

I saw it with various blogging platforms.

I saw it with podcasting (though that’s less a platform issue than a technology that become easier to use with certain platforms.)

I saw it with Facebook.

I saw it with Twitter.

And I have to admit — I was one of those people with Twitter. When we were just a few hundred thousand folks hanging out in a 140-character cocktail party, it was easy to have conversations about things I enjoyed without getting followed by a bot replying to all tweets mentioning the word “furry”.

Then came the spam. Then came the internet marketers. Then came the sparkly MySpacers. Then came the self-help people with bushels of inspirational quotes. Then came the relatives who didn’t quite get how things worked, but tweeted thoughts at me that were better suited for email. And I can’t forget how hard I shook my fist when Oprah platituded her way to a zillion followers.

But as soon as I realized how insular I sounded (“Email was SO much better when only six of us had it”), I cut it out. Because everything evolves over time, and opening up a platform shows what it is really capable of doing (see: national revolutions, emergency news distribution, health support networks, citizen journalism, live-tweeting the Oscars… okay, maybe not that last one…)

Now I’m seeing a number of folks who’ve been futzing around with Google Plus expressing irritation at how their channels are changing, now that the doors are wide open.

They rail at the rise in “spam” (some of which is actual spam, but some of which is just content they’re not interested in), they sigh at random comments that derail conversations on their posts (“Why is my uncle talking about Sarah Palin on a post about access to APIs?”)… and ultimately have embarked on an ardent search for their next treehouse.

I can take this from true nerds who still pine for old IRC channels (you’ve never made any bones about being truly “social”), but since many early adopters nowadays are social strategists, integrated marketers, community managers on other platforms, and the like, it seems absurd to pine for the days when the only people they had to talk to were… social strategists, integrated marketers, community managers on other platforms, and the like.

Yes, I know it’s more fun in the back room of the store, where you can complain about the crazy lady who tried on 14 red dresses before stating that “red has never been my color.”

Yes, I know it’s more fun to talk about potential ways you could use a tool than to have to actually USE the tool to talk to someone who uses your products, or wants to know more about your initiative, or needs you to use plain language to help them work something out.

Yes, I know that not everyone is as supportive as your five friends who comment on every post you make, and re-share every link you post with the world.

Yes, I know it feels like they’re “doing it wrong” (sure, there are best practices, but they’re not best laws.)


You can’t…

  • tell businesses that they “can’t afford NOT to be social”,
  • tell conference goers in a 40-slide deck that there are “endless opportunities”
  • tell everyone in a book that anyone can use these channels, even “dummies”!
  • tell your friends and family they can get better customer service through social media,
  • tell nonprofits that they’re going to have more access than ever to their communities and constituents,
  • tell reporters that want to quote you about how social media is changing everything from government to education to art…

…  UNLESS you’re genuinely excited when everybody gets a chance to use them.

Even if it’s not that fun at first.

After all… home runs are rare in inside baseball.