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Think Fast! The Power of First Mover’s Advantage

By Snap Agency January 24, 2017

Do you remember your first day on Facebook? Maybe you were one of the relative few who had access in college during Facebook’s early years. Maybe you joined Facebook many years later. Regardless, the idea of not being on Facebook is probably pretty strange to most people these days.

What about Instagram? Five years ago, almost nobody was on Instagram. This year, however, Instagram is so popular they felt the need to launch an algorithm in order to prioritize updates.

The point is this: Social media platforms can go from zero to hero in just a few years. There was a time when Facebook and Instagram were completely barren from posts and statuses. Now they’re a necessary part of practically any internet marketing strategy.

Spotting these new trends and capitalizing on them is the goal of any successful SEO pro. Here’s what you need to know:

What Is First Mover’s Advantage?

There will always be a new platform out there. The trick is being able to determine what’s worth your time and what isn’t. However, just keeping an open mind will help you stay ahead of the competition. Why? Because other businesses are often afraid to take the risk of moving into new spaces. A study conducted by Harvard Business Reviews showed that only 34% of businesses surveyed believed in the benefits of adopting new technologies. Companies that do try to adopt new technologies are referred to as “IT pioneers.”


There is some risk to being an IT pioneer. You might spend a lot of money and time developing a strategy that doesn’t really go anywhere. But when the first mover’s strategy works, the company has put itself into the perfect spot for higher revenue, growth and market position.

The Two Types of FMA

There are two types of first mover’s advantage: marketing and technology.

Marketing FMA is when the initial movement occurs in a market segment. Technological FMA is when the initial movement occurs in a new platform or piece of tech.

There can be overlap. For instance, the first people to create a Twitter account were moving into a technical platform. However, the first people to use Twitter to promote their products were first movers in a marketing segment. For instance, while Taco Bell wasn’t the first company to use Twitter, they were among the first to create a unique marketing style specifically for Twitter.

Technological FMA

First mover’s advantage can be a riskier proposition than marketing FMA. Sometimes the company which goes first can show others what not to do. Then the second wave of companies can come in and embrace the new technology in a better way. This is called “second mover’s advantage.”

Does this mean you should ignore new technology? Absolutely not. But you also shouldn’t ignore technology that other companies have embraced before you. Watch how a company performs in a new space and see how you can improve on what they did first.

Marketing FMA

On the other hand, being first in a marketing space can have a huge advantage. Think of all the “growth hacks” you’ve used over the years on social media platforms that don’t work today. Once one marketing strategy starts to show results, other marketers jump on it. Soon, everyone is using the strategy and the results become diluted for everyone.

How to Stay Up-to-date

In order to be a first mover, you need to know where to move. Following social media trends and content marketing trends will help you stay ahead of the curve. The more you know about what’s happening, the better you’ll be able to notice unique patterns.

Blogs are a great resource here. When you find an industry blog you like, follow it regularly. There’s no shortage of marketing blogs out there (although we’re partial to our own Snap Agency blog).

Document Your Strategy

Once you’ve found a marketing or tech segment you want to enter, don’t hesitate. You might not have a master plan and that’s OK! You’re a bit of a pioneer, after all.


Whatever strategy you adopt, make sure to document your every move. This will help you stay accountable. Plus, you’ll be able to later evaluate your performance—good or bad. Even if you fail, you can review your strategy and adjust your course for your next FMA effort.

First Mover’s Advantage When You’re Not First

Let’s say you notice someone else with first mover’s advantage. You see a type of post going viral in your niche. Or you’ve learned how quickly users are adopting a new social media platform. Whatever the case, you’ve noticed something, but you’re definitely the first do so.

Adopt anyway. Get into that space, and use whatever lessons you can learn by watching the earlier adopters. You might not be first, but you can still stay ahead of at least some of your competition.

The Benefits of Difficulty

Being the first isn’t always easy. If it were, everyone would try to be first. So when you see a potential opportunity to move into a new area, but aren’t quite sure what to do, take that as a promising sign.

The difficulty of moving into a new marketing or tech space is often a sign that you should move forward. The potential rewards can be tremendous. A new audience, increased brand exposure and more conversions are all benefits that could await the first mover.

Have you ever been a first mover? What space did you see and move into? How about the opposite? Have you ever overlooked a potential opportunity and later regretted it? Share your stories about first mover advantage in the comments below.