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Opinion Editorials

Social media early adopters sadly resting on their laurels

Have you met the guy who signed up for Twitter in 2008 and tells you about it every chance they get as if that implies they know anything about social media? Let’s examine how this resting on laurels came to be.

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resting on laurels

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.

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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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Allen Mireles

    August 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    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!

    • Lani Rosales

      August 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      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 😉

      • Allen Mireles

        August 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm

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

        • bobledrew

          August 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm

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

          • Lani Rosales

            August 21, 2013 at 6:31 pm

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

  2. Danny Brown

    August 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm

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

    • Lani Rosales

      August 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      “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. Ken Brand

    August 21, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    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.

    • Lani Rosales

      August 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm

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

  4. agbenn

    August 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm

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

    • Lani Rosales

      August 21, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      LOL. Great response 😉

  5. Lani Rosales

    August 21, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Mickey, perfectly put. Perfectly.

    Thank you so much for adding such meaningful thoughts!

  6. Lani Rosales

    August 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    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. Rich Becker

    August 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    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.

    • Lani Rosales

      August 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      Great point, Rich. You’re exactly right.

  8. bobledrew

    August 21, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    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”.

    • Lani Rosales

      August 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm

      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. hessie jones

    August 21, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    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”.

    • Lani Rosales

      August 21, 2013 at 6:34 pm

      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. Kami Watson Huyse

    August 22, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    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.

    • Lani Rosales

      August 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      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. Lani Rosales

    August 22, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    “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!

    • Tinu

      August 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      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. Loren Nason

    September 8, 2015 at 1:32 am

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

  13. Warren Whitlock

    September 8, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    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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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

How Peloton has developed a cult-following

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has Peloton gotten so popular? Turns out there are some clear takeaways from the bike company’s wildly successful model.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Peloton is certainly not the first company to gain a cult-like following–in the past we’ve talked about other brands with similar levels of devotion, like Crossfit and Yeti. Now, full disclosure: I’m not an exercise buff, so while I’d vaguely heard of Peloton–a company that sells stationary bikes–I had no idea it was such a big deal.

I mean, it’s not really surprising that an at-home bike that offers the option for cycling classes has grown so much during the pandemic era (a sales growth of 172% to be exact). But Peloton has been highly popular within its fanbase for years now. So, what gives? A few factors, actually.

Vertical Integration

If your company really wants to guarantee the vision and quality you’re aiming for, one of the best ways to enact it is through vertical integration, where a company owns or controls more than one part of its supply chain. Take Netflix, for example, which not only distributes media, but creates original media. Vertical integration lets companies bypass areas that are otherwise left to chance with third-party suppliers.

Peloton uses vertical integration–everything from the bike to its Wi-Fi connected tablet to the classes taught are created by Peloton. Although this may have made the bike more expensive than other at-home exercise bikes, it has also allowed Peloton to create higher quality products. And it’s worked. Many people who start on a Peloton bike comment on how the machine itself is well-built.

Takeaway: Are there any parts of your business process that you can improve in-house, rather than outsourcing?

Going Live

But with people also shelling out $40 a month for access to the training regimen Peloton provides, there’s more going on than simply high-quality craftsmanship.

Hey, plenty of cults have charismatic leaders, and Peloton is no exception. Okay, joking about the cult leader part, but really, people love their trainers. Just listen to this blogger chat about some of her favorites; people are connecting with this very human element of training. So much so that many people face blowback when suggesting they might like training without the trainers!

The trainers are only part of this puzzle though–attending live classes is a large draw. Well, as live as something can be when streamed into your house. Still, with classmate usernames and stats available while you ride, and teachers able to respond in real time to your “class,” this can simulate an in-person class without the struggle of a commute.

Takeaway: People want to see the human side of a business! Are there any ways your company could go live and provide that connection?

Getting Competitive

Pandemic aside, you can get a decent bike and workout class at an actual gym. But the folks at Peloton have one other major trick up their sleeve: Competition. Whether you’re attending a live session or catching up on a pre-recorded ride, you’re constantly competing against each other and your own records.

These leaderboards provide a constant stream of goals while you’re working out. Small accomplishments like these can help boost your dopamine, which can be the burst of good feeling you need while your legs are burning mid-workout. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Peloton fans might be into it.

Takeaway: Is there a way to cater to your audience’s competitive side?

Conclusion

At the end of the day, of course, Peloton also has the advantage of taking a unique idea (live-streamed cycle classes built into your at-home bike) and doing it first. Plus, they just happened to be poised to succeed during a quarantine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what Peloton is doing right to build your own community of fanatics. There are plenty of people out there just waiting to get excited about a brand like yours!

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Opinion Editorials

How a simple period in your text message might be misinterpreted: Tips to improve your virtual communication

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) Text, email, and IM messages may be received differently depending on your communication style and who you’re communicating with. Here’s some ways to be more mindful.

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Black woman smiling in communication talking on phone and laptop in front of her.

Life is full of decisions, learning, hopefully some adventure, and “growth opportunities” through our careers and work. One that some of us may have never considered is how our text, email or IM communication comes across to the receiver – thus providing us a growth opportunity to take a look at our own personal communication styles.

It may have never occurred to us that others would take it a different way. After all, we know ourselves, we can hear our voices in our heads. We know when we are joking, being sarcastic, or simply making a statement. The way we communicate is built upon how we were raised, what our English teachers stressed, and even what we’ve been taught through our generational lens.

NPR put out an article recently, “Are Your Texts Passive-Aggressive? The Answer May Lie in Your Punctuation”. This article discussed what to consider in regards to your punctuation in text.

“But in text messaging — at least for younger adults — periods do more than just end a sentence: They also can set a tone.” Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR’s All Things Considered last year that when it comes to text messaging,”the period has lost its original purpose. Rather than needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message.”

While it may seem silly that the receiver would think you are mad at them because you used a period, here are some things to consider in our virtual communication now that we are all much more digital:

  • There are no facial expressions in a text except for emojis (which, even then, could be left up to misinterpretation)
  • There’s no sound of voice or inflection to indicate tone
  • We are emailing, texting, and sending instant messages at an alarming rate now that we are not having as many in-person interactions with our colleagues

Gen Z (b. 1995 – 2015), who are the most recent generation to enter the workplace, grew up with much quicker forms of communication with their earlier access to tech. They’ve had a different speed of stimulation via YouTube videos, games, and apps. They may have never experienced the internet speed via a dial-up modem so they are used to instantaneous results.

They also have quickly adapted and evolved through their use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and now TikTok. The last two platforms are designed for pretty brief attention spans, which indicates our adaptation to fast communication.

Generational shaming is out and uncomfortable but necessary conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are in (which includes ageism). You can’t just chalk it up as “those kids” don’t understand you, or that they need to learn and “pay their dues”.

So if you are of an older generation and even a manager, here are some considerations that you can take regarding your virtual communications:

1. Consider having yourself and your team take a DiSC assessment.

“The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

DiSC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: How you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, and how you solve problems
  • Improve working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members
  • Facilitate better teamwork and teach productive conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members

This quiz is designed to help you identify your main communication style. It helps you to be more conscious of how your style may come across to others. Does it builds relationships, or create silent conflicts? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change, but you can adapt your style to best fit your team.

2. Always ask your direct reports about their preferred method of communication (call, text, email, IM, meeting).

Retain this information and do your best to meet them where they are. It would also be helpful to share your preferred method with them and ask them to do their best to meet you where you are.

3. Consider putting composed emails in your drafts if you are fired up, frustrated, or down right angry with your team.

You may feel like you are being direct. But since tone will be lost virtually, your message may not come across the way you mean it, and it may be de-motivating to the receiver. Let it sit in drafts and come back to it a little bit later. Does your draft say all you need to say, or could it be edited to be a little less harsh? Would this be better as a meeting (whether video or phone) over a written communication? Now the receiver has a chance to see you and have a conversation rather than feeling put on blast.

And finally, be curious.

Check out Lindsey Pollak’s books or podcast on the best ways to work with a variety of generations in your organization. Lindsey is a Multigenerational Work Expert and she does a great job explaining her research to drive multigenerational workplace success. She gives ideas on what all employees, managers, and even corporations should consider as we experience so many generations and communication styles in the workplace at the same time.

You may laugh that your children or employees think you are mad at them when you use a period in a text. But there’s a lot more behind it to consider. It may take adaptation on all sides as communication styles and the “future of work” continue to evolve.

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