techthingsEarly adopters of new technology typically make up a small segment of the population. But a new study shows that it’s actually a majority of Americans who have been first among their peers to test out new gadgets and services.

The Webby Awards, an annual Oscars-style bash for Internet innovation, creativity and other wacky stuff, conducted a study with the help of Harris Interactive that polled 800 U.S. adults aged 18-to-44 about their consumer behavior toward new technology.

The results are interesting. About 56 percent said they have been the first among their friends, colleagues or family members to try a new product or service.

As far as why the number of early adopters has increased, Webby pinned that on the Internet.

“It has become overwhelmingly clear, both anecdotally and now through this research, that the Internet has democratized the culture of early adoption,” Webby Awards Executive Director David-Michel Davies said in a statement. “Being first is no longer reserved for die hard fan boys or those with special access and connections. Average Americans are camping out for the new iPhone, purchasing designer labels in flash sales, and participating in Kickstarter campaigns that raise millions overnight, then sharing their experiences as ‘Firsters” to define their online identity.”

The study also found that the ability to share initial experiences with friends on social media is a big reason for the spike in early adopters. In fact, 45 percent said they share photos or thoughts on social media about a new product or service they just tried. Those browsing their feeds are also influenced by these “first time experience” posts, as 62 percent said they are at least somewhat likely to make a purchase based on a friend’s social media post.

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  • Marcelo Calbucci

    Am I the only one that finds this hilarious? For 56% of people to say they are the first to try a new technology among their friends it would mean these people have 1 friend on average (actually less than one friend). Clearly the data is correct, but the conclusion is wrong. 56% of people *think* they are early-adopters of technology, or they see themselves as such, but they are not. And, by definition, early-adopters* are the top 16% of the population.

    • DMD

      Good points Marcelo!

      Your point about people’s perception about themselves vs. their actions is well taken, and clearly this one poll is not a substitute for a real academic study of how adoption rates have changed in the hundred years since they were first studied by Rogers. Is technology still adopted at an essentially a “normal” rate – ie bell curve. Or has the shape of that curve changed in the past 100 years?

      One thing to keep in mind is that believing you were among the first to try a product is not the same as believing you were among the first to try _every_ product. Everyone in a group of 10 could be among the first to try something.

      • Marcelo Calbucci

        It’s unlikely that the shape of the adoption curve has changed because it reflects human nature. That said, because information spreads so much faster nowadays, the curve has been compressed. What might have taken 10-20 years to get adopted in the fast (TV, phone, CDs, etc.) maybe be compressed in 5-7 years now.

  • NewAgeMeMe

    Check it out, I’m early adopting web 2.0 by writing a comment on this Web Site (note, I still use caps and two separate words cause I don’t early adopt grammar and writing styles).

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