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Social Media Trends Change Fast. Are You a Pioneer or a Settler?

Catch the buzz about a new social media platform? As a marketer, there are risks and rewards to being a pioneer on a new platform or staying with the tried-and-true tactics of established land.

Author: Jeremy Harrison

April 1, 2021

There is a new social media platform gaining traction (a new one seems to come around every other week). You keep hearing people talk about it. Social innovators are pouring large chunks of their time into it. New users are addicted to it, and marketers are figuring out how it can best be used for marketing. So how should you and your organization respond? Do you start experimenting or avoid it?  

How do you even decide? 

If you’re a marketing leader in a small-to-mid-sized business (SMB), you have two conflicting pressures. On one hand, your co-workers count on you to be in the know about the latest social marketing trends. You don’t want to give them a blank stare when they ask about new trends. On the other hand, they count on you to deliver reliable results, and you don’t want to get distracted with things that aren’t going to make a real, lasting impact on your business. 

So how do you balance these expectations? Here are a few recommendations for how you can make wise choices with newly-emerging platforms and prioritize your resources to be as successful as possible. 

Pioneers vs. Settlers: Which Should You Be? 

When it comes to being on the cutting edge of technology, being a pioneer or being a settler each has its unique advantages. Let’s weigh the pros and cons. 


Social media pioneers are the ones blazing the trail. They are the first to try new things. Although many new things don’t pan out, a few will be a big success. People are interested in hearing what a social media pioneer has to say about their experiences in this new territory. 

If you are a pioneer on a platform that goes big, there’s some prestige to say you were there at the very beginning. (Not to mention,“social media pioneer” sounds a lot cooler than “social media settler.” Who wants to settle?)

But hold your horses! There are some real advantages for settlers, too.  


Social media settlers are the people who build success on a trail first blazed by pioneers. They stay where they are until it’s clear there is more success and growth to be had on the other side. They use proven strategies and tactics to thrive. 

If you are a settler, you may face some pressure from people around you to make a change, but when there’s room to keep growing where you’re at, it’s wise to stay put and stay focused on your goals. 

As a social media settler, you can innovate faster and more cost-effectively than a pioneer. You can also collaborate and share ideas with a community of fellow settlers. 


The best thing a settler does is to STAY. They focus on the established social platforms and avoid “shiny object syndrome.” They create great content, and they do it consistently. It may be less exciting, but it works. 

Great social media settlers build an audience and they keep engaging with that audience. Most importantly, they continue to innovate, sharing ideas and learning from others. 

Ironically, a pioneer by definition CAN’T stay. They must keep blazing the trail to find new territory. In order for them to enjoy the benefits of that new territory they found, they must become settlers. 

Social media marketing is not a land grab. There is infinite territory to be had as the platform continues to grow. For that reason, it makes sense to watch the pioneers and other settlers in order to learn from what is working before taking unnecessary leaps and investing extra time, energy, and money into uncharted territory. 

So should you be a social media pioneer, or a social media settler? Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide. But if you lead marketing in a small-to-mid-sized business that looks to you to build brand awareness, get leads and grow sales, I think your company needs someone to be a settler — a collaborative marketer who is constantly innovating in proven territory. 

5 Ways To Be a Successful Social Settler

Being a social media settler does not mean you shouldn’t keep up with trends. Here are 5 ways to deliver the most value with your social media strategy. 

  • Pay attention to what others are doing and keep innovating on the social platforms you use. 
  • Stay connected to the social media pioneers and study what they are doing on other platforms. 
  • Each social media platform has a lifespan, so be attuned to when it might be time to pack up the “wagon” and move on. 
  • Be careful. Pioneers get lonely and they tend to overstate the success they are having. This can make the grass look greener than it really is. 
  • When co-workers approach you about new trends, be ready to share what you know about the new platforms, but also feel confident about the ways you are innovating with your current social media marketing strategy.

Your company can still be a pioneer in ways that will bring more value to the company. Be a pioneer in the way you serve your customers, or the way you manufacture your product, or the problems you solve that nobody else can solve. This will give you a story to tell that the world—the already established and flourishing world of settlers—needs to hear.

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