PR Tips for Tech Companies of All Size and Reputation.
Technology is reshaping our world faster than most of us can keep up. Advancements like artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, the internet of things and big data analytics have immensely improved our productivity and introduced countless conveniences into our lives. Meanwhile virtual and augmented reality, smart home technology and pocket-sized supercomputing mobile devices are starting to make it seem as though we really are living in a futuristic sci-fi film.
Yet despite all these positive developments, there is also a parallel current of consumer distrust toward new technology. Whether driven by product failures, data privacy breaches, unethical employee behavior, a lack of transparency when it comes to company motives and values or even just a sense that the “next big thing” is really just a short-lived fad, consumers have plenty of potential reasons to be skeptical about new tech on a macroscale.
As the bell curve below illustrates, certain customers are more willing to try a new product than others. Another way to look at this graph is the level of skepticism among the public. “I wonder if this product or service is better than what I already use?” would be a thought from people who skew more to the left. Those who say, “I can’t imagine why I would want or need this in my life,” skew much further to the right.
When it comes to managing public relations in the technology sector, the goal is to move your product or service from left to right on this curve as quickly as possible, capturing each group of users along the way. Whether you’re an industry giant like Apple or Google or a no-name start-up, there are always challenges to making this happen. Here is a guide to helping your company break through consumer skepticism.
With little skepticism, a sincere desire to try new things and a demand for a specific product, innovators might seem like the easiest group to convince to try new technology. The difficulty with innovators is that they don’t tend to have the strongest sense of brand loyalty — they’ll give a product a try, but if a better option (in their mind) comes along, they’re going to go with the one that works better for them. They tend to be younger, more affluent, and rely on technical sources, along with their network of innovators, for guidance.
At this stage, the best thing you can do is spread information about your product and get it in the hands of as many users as possible. To keep these users from jumping ship to a competitor, many companies will reward early users with exclusive or discounted merchandise and transparent product updates. A small token of appreciation can go a long way to stand out to the users who form the foundation of your userbase.
Early adopters are similar to innovators, but can be less open to adopting new technology if they already have a system or tool that performs the task adequately.
One of the best strategies companies can use is a “freemium” business model. Users can access the platform and its basic features at no cost, but exclusive and premium services are available for a fee. There’s no better feature than “free” and companies can use that leverage to attract early adopters without costly traditional marketing campaigns. The biggest challenge, however, is deciding what should be free.
Whether it’s the New York Times limiting the number of free articles you can read, video games like Fortnite limiting customization options or Spotify incorporating ads and forced shuffle to its free subscription option, freemium options are everywhere and highly effective.
These groups get lumped together because their rate of adoption has the most variance, but in general they roughly reflect the average consumer when it comes to trying new technology. They may be skeptical of “buzz” or “hype,” but they are likely to follow the consensus established by opinion leaders (i.e. early adopters) in their social circles.
Thought leaders, influencers, authority figures — we have created many buzzwords for those who sway public opinion. We have also boxed ourselves into thinking that these trendsetters are only social media stars with thousands to millions of followers. But a new trend of micro-influencers is slowly taking over.
Typically defined as those with fewer than 30,000 followers, these people tend to have higher engagement and take part in more conversations — enticing traits for companies looking to recruit new users. Additionally, these opinion leaders tend to be more active in the niche aspects of a specific field. While that makes them a bit harder to find, they’ll reach people who will actually be interested in using your product, ultimately driving more conversions.
By the time you’re trying to win over the laggards, the early adopters and innovators have likely already begun to move on. At this stage, the technology has almost reached market saturation and there are just a few people who are holding out due to significant skepticism or a very fundamental lack of interest (like those who refuse to use a smartphone). They tend to be older, grounded in tradition and have smaller or more tightly-knit social circles.
Convincing this group to adopt new technology is almost always a futile endeavor. Marketing campaigns or influencers can seldom persuade them to reconsider their reservations — generally, time and ubiquitous presence alone can prod them into accepting new technologies that fit with their tradition and way of doing things.
What do your current consumers look like? What stage is your product in?
Does your brand have a trustworthy reputation? How badly do your potential customers need the function of this technology? Are they in a financial position to accept the risk of trying new technology?
There are so many variables that determine where an individual or innovation falls on this bell curve, and the curve doesn’t always have a normal distribution. Most companies will find themselves in the range of innovators to early adopters, and most individuals will find themselves in the range of the early to late majority.
The most important part is to be honest with your assessment — it doesn’t do start-ups any good to compete for the majority before they’ve had the opportunity to solidify their reputation among innovators, just as its redundant for established products to seek the validation of early adopters.
Just remember to keep a long-term view and a foot on the gas pedal.