resting on laurels

Social media early adopters sadly resting on their laurels

August 21, 2013

resting on laurels

Social media people resting on their laurels

At a social media event last night, a mixture of people new to the industry sat alongside industry insiders who pioneered the space, and the discussion was lively. I came to a halt, however, when an attendee made a reference to having been on Twitter many years ago, making it sound a lot like they somehow invented the space. It got me to thinking… how many other people are resting on their laurels?

The graphic I created above is obviously a mockery of those who exaggerate their role in the early days of social media, but rest on their laurels of having been an early adopter. Social media experts are about as common as sales people – there’s no shortage of someone who will take your money and show you how to sign up for Twitter, especially those who were there in the early days.

The rise of the social media expert coincided with massive unemployment, so while many legitimate experts were born, there were also thousands of unemployed people poking around the internet that discovered Twitter and Facebook and saw people there figuring out how to use it as a marketing tool, so light bulbs went off and the guru era ensued. Great.

Fast forward to today, and you have people that haven’t accomplished a whole hell of a lot since they signed up for (sorry, I mean pioneered) Twitter. Sure, we (@BennRosales and I) were some of the first people on Twitter, in fact, I looked it up today and my personal account was created five years, seven months, and two days ago, making my account older than 99.8 percent of all Twitter accounts, according to Twopcharts.

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But I am an established pioneer, I swear

So shouldn’t I be telling people that every time I encounter someone to really demonstrate my prowess, to prove what an expert I am, and to instill in minds of many that my very presence on Twitter so early means that I am an established pioneer who knows more than anyone else who has figured out how to sign up for Twitter since?

No. I shouldn’t. Not only because it’s a douche move, but because resting on laurels is a lazy move, and an ignorant one, because let’s be honest, just because someone was on Twitter in 1983 (I kid), does not mean they know anything about marketing or social media. You’ve signed up for Twitter and know how to tweet – is the actual act really that difficult? Nope.

Although I am confident that Benn and I did play a role in helping shape the very culture of Twitter and helped businesses to understand the tools, we didn’t stop there – in fact, there are thousands of articles on this very website that catalog our continued involvement in and shaping of the community, we’ve hosted dozens of events on the topic over the years, and we’ve even won a few trophies along the way.

When someone proclaims how long they’ve been on Twitter as if they invented it, my first thought is, “okay, great, but what have you done since?” Most people that puff their chest about having been on the internet in 2007 don’t have much to brag about since, because news outlets have stopped calling to interview them as the glorious marvels of early adoption. Most of them peaked around 2008.

Next time someone rolls their eyes at social media information and proclaim they’ve been on Twitter since forever, ask yourself what they’ve done since. Many of these people are the same nerds that like to casually (and frequently) mention in conversation that they were on the football team in high school, and will probably slip in a few of their stats even though you were talking about something completely unrelated. That’s exactly what they’re doing when they assert that the age of their Twitter account implies they’re superior social media beings. What have you done since high school or since you signed up for Twitter, bro? In most cases, probably not much.

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.


  1. I have met the type of person you describe in this post, Lani. I understand your frustration. I am also an early-ish adopter of Twitter (and many of the other social platforms) and my usage has changed drastically over the years. It’s fair to wonder what people are doing with their social profiles now, especially after so many years and so many changes. Especially if they imply that early adoption equates with expertise on any level.

    It’s also really interesting to watch the ebb and flow of involvement in social networks. People change how they use Twitter as they change–and as it changes. There are so many reasons. Some of us are still working through a protracted “social media existential crisis”. Others have gotten bored. Some are still using the platforms to do nothing but broadcast.

    In the end, if someone needs to promote the fact that they are early adopters of a technology or a social network, I think it’s fun to ask them for their observations on how things have changed over time and even where they predict things may be going. The response can be very telling!

    • Allen, that is a GREAT suggestion – people that only know one moment of the timeline (aka, their glory days on Twitter), they can’t tell you the rest of the timeline and as you suggest, can’t possibly predict the future.

      Thank you for reading, digesting, and not being a social media douche 😉

      • lol, perhaps we need to create badges saying: “I am NOT a social media douche.”

        • And then all the douches would start wearing them, so we could shun them!

          • Yeah, the douches always like to think they’re not douches. They are usually so *edgy* and cool.

  2. Go to LinkedIn, see what “early adopters” have done pre-2006. That tells you all you need to know. 😉

    • “Sprint sales assistant to the regional manager 2005-2006
      Gap shirt folder/sniffer 2004-2005
      Full time Phish tour fanatic 2000-2004”

      Am I close?

  3. You and a very few others are the “real deal”. I’ve learned a lot from you guys and I’m thankful. The Poser/Pretender ratio to Pro is about 1,787 to 1.

    • I think you’re being generous with your ratio 😉 But thanks for the props – you were right there with us, buddy!

  4. Hello, my name is Benn, and I too suffer from early adoption. Know anyone hiring?

    • LOL. Great response 😉

  5. Mickey, perfectly put. Perfectly.

    Thank you so much for adding such meaningful thoughts!

  6. Julie, you’re exactly right. That evidence is often flimsy – having a job somewhere isn’t really evidence, but is typically used as such. And for the record, my comment about trophies was a jab as well – they don’t mean much in the scope of things.

  7. As the old saying goes: Some people who work somewhere for 10 years have 10 years of experience. Other people who work somewhere for 10 years will have one year of experience ten times. There is a difference, no matter what they did in high school.

    • Great point, Rich. You’re exactly right.

  8. A friend of mine is having a slight struggle shaping her career plan right now. She feels her resume isn’t solid enough and that she’s too young to be taken seriously. But I look at what she’s accomplished and marvel at the quality and of the output given her time in the social media field. There needs to be some common ground between the “whippersnapper” who’s hired simply because they’re young, and the guru-by-inertia at the other end of the scale. Perhaps we need to judge people by their words and their deeds, not simply by the capricious numbers of age and “years of experience”.

    • Bob, that’s a great point and one I failed to mention in my column – a lot of people who have only been practicing in the field for two or three years have done amazing things but are often slighted based on the age of their Twitter account.

      I’m with you – this has to change. Businesses can’t be fleeced anymore by the idiot gurus who simply say they were there first. So what?

  9. I know ALL too well how many people boast about being earliest to the Twitter and LI platforms, but never having done anything with their account. Somehow the early bird seems to have carried more weight. I know people who are far more effective than I am on Twitter, who came on to the platform much later than myself and were able to garner more engagement and more momentum in the process. Early doesn’t mean they get it. This could have been happenstance. I like what @bobledrew:disqus said: Judge by your “words and deeds, not simply by the capricious numbers of age and “years of experience”.

    • Hessie, right on. “Happenstance” is one of the best words to describe this entire phenomena that isn’t unique to social media, it just happens to be where we are on the timeline of social media’s history.

      Do you think businesses are wising up to the gurus that hang their hat on being first to Twitter?

  10. In the world of online marketing it really only matters what you have done for me lately. Early adopters have some cred, but their current accomplishments mean a lot more, and how they synthesize and use what they have seen over the years is even more critical. Ask for case studies and beware the snake oil.

    • Yes! Any “expert” who can’t provide a case study or reference to someone they’ve actually worked with is not legit. And unfortunately common. Snake oil salespeople – you nailed it, Kami!

  11. “I’ve already stopped listening,” YES. THAT.

    You and Kami are on to a bigger point – due diligence is necessary and six years later, people actually know how to Google you now instead of taking your word that you’re a ninja guru maven expert sensei or whatever.

    Thank you for your commentary, it is always a delight to hear your perspective!

    • Don’t get me wrong. Despite the easy use of Google, LOTS Of people don’t do their due diligence, or think that a recommendation is enough.

      And if these discussions didn’t exist, when people look up things like due diligence and social media, they don’t have a starting point from a trusted source. I think it’s important that we keep talking about it, if for no other reason than to have a 3rd party article to send the people who trust us to read.

  12. I’ve been on twitter longer than you. So that makes me better than you.

  13. It’s not yet time to write a history of social media… We are just now getting started.

    I have no problem with somebody deciding not to use Twitter. I do find it troubling that those same people think they understand.

    I am just now learning new things about Twitter. Seven years after I wrote the first book about the Twitter Revolution. The only thing that’s changed is the number of people who think they have it figured out… Those of us using Twitter far outnumber them

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