How Do Your Customers Use Social Media?

How do your customers use social media? Are your customers Early Adopters? In the Majority or maybe even Laggards?






I was introduced to Rogers’ Bell Curve many years ago in Marketing 101 class. The original model was introduced in 1957 as The Diffusion Process.* It was designed to explain how farmers adopted new hybrid corn seeds. Soon others began to see the value in the curve and for many other disciplines from sociology to technology to marketing.

In the years since it was first introduced, the curve has been studied and expanded to guide everything from product launches, explain consumer behavior and now is often used to explain how consumers adopt new technologies. I find this graph to be extremely useful for entrepreneurs and marketers in guiding product plans and marketing plans even today.

While you can certainly apply this graph to any product or service to understand buying habits, for this article, I am going to adapt it to how we use social media as a communication tool.

Which Group are You?

Typically, those who embraced the use of social media early on are called Innovators and Early Adopters. For social media, this group tends to be made up of millennials who have grown up with technology all around them and people who just love being on the cutting edge of technology. Like a new tech toy, the challenge of figuring out how best to use each app can be a worthwhile challenge for this group. These users usually set the tone for how each platform will be used; they pave the way for the rest of us.

The Early Majority is the next group to adopt a new social app. This group tends to get some feedback from the early adopters and innovators before jumping onboard, but this group tends to see value quickly in a new technology and finds a way to adapt it to their life. This group is also known to be more pragmatic than their early adoption counterparts.

After that comes the Late Majority or conservative group. A little more wary of a new technology and maybe even unsure how it will benefit them, this group usually comes around to a new technology, but usually fairly late in the cycle.

And the last group is the Laggards or skeptics. This group just doesn’t see the benefit at all of embracing a new technology or app. Even with Facebook being a ubiquitous platform these days, there are still plenty of holdouts. I can think of at least a dozen friends or family of mine that fall into this group. They have various reasons for doing so, but they tend to follow the same line of reasoning. They don’t like the idea of replacing human interaction with a screen. While their numbers are continually dwindling, they still make up a huge portion of the population and are worth a business owner’s consideration when building a communications plan.

Looking at the graph, you may be able to identify what group you belong to in terms of your favorite social media platforms. If you think of your friends and family, you may be able to pick out who the early adopters are in your life and who the late majority and laggards are too!

How Do We Use This Information?

In reality, all of the people across the spectrum will still need products and services. As a small business, you have to be best positioned to gain customers from wherever they are on the curve of social media.

The good news is that despite the many ways to reach your customer, the end result is still essentially the same. Whether through social media, website content or local means, the goal is to make sure your customers can:

locate your business

understand your offerings

purchase your product or service easily

I would argue that by now, every business, small and large, should have adapted their communications plan to include SOME social media. Don’t forget your own business Laggards though and make sure your plan includes other ways to communicate; like email, website forms, and of course, the old-fashioned phone call.

Which Social Media Apps Should I Use?

As a small business, you and your staff will not have time to use ALL of the social media platforms that are out there. Besides being highly inefficient, your customer base may not need or want to communicate with you that way.

The better option? Pick a few that are most relevant to your business, customers, and product/service. While collecting “likes” or followers is important, it is more important to have content that provides value. Take time to understand the best way to use each platform and work on quality content and building a quality community.

Navigating the social media world as a small business owner can truly stretch even the most productive business owners. Stay on track by remembering that behind every screen is an individual; one you are building a relationship with. No matter how savvy your customers may (or may not) be, all customers recognize quality and value, so keep these ideas at the heart of all of your marketing for best results.


*(Beal,George M.,and Joe M. Bohlen. The diffusion process. Agricultural Experiment Station, Iowa State College, 1957.)