Are You a Pioneer or a Settler?

Are you a pioneer or a settler? Do you blaze trails, follow them while they’re still rough, or wait until there’s a nicely paved road?

Being a settler is easy. You just tread down the same old path everyone else has, making sure it’s safe. But being a pioneer is tough. You’re the first to pass this way, you’re not sure if you’re heading in the right direction, and some days you’d swear you’re going the wrong way. But the rewards are well worth it.

So how do you pioneer your new niche? How do you become a leader in your field, especially when there is no niche, or the people in it are not connected? In this case, it’s actually easier to be the pioneer, rather than to be one of many. By the time the settlers are finally getting involved, there’s a traffic jam on the road the pioneers have paved. But by this time, you’ll be way ahead of the pack.

Becoming a Pioneer

Here are a few tools and techniques you can use to establish yourself as an expert in your chosen field. Before you start, make sure you have identified your niche, know who the players are, and actually have some content on your blog or website.

  • Find your flock. Use,, and Twitter Search to locate them and start following them. Avoid those “get 2,000 followers per day” spam programs, and earn your followers the honest way.
  • Talk to strangers. Read and comment on the blogs of other people in your industry. If there aren’t any, find logical allies to your industry. If you manufacture marbles, and you’re the only marble manufacturing blog out there, find marble collectors and marble players. Leave comments on their blogs and respond when they leave comments on yours. Not only do you build up some link juice, you create relationships with potential customers.
  • Share knowledge. If you find articles that would be of interest to your audience, share it with them on Twitter and your blog. Write commentary about the articles on the blog, and share those as well. If you can become a source of knowledge, people will look to you for answers.
  • Consider video. Gary Vaynerchuk of and the author of Crush It, has built a social media footprint like an elephant’s by using video to sell and promote wine. Do video posts of you sitting at your desk, pontificating about industry goings-on. Publish excerpts of you speaking at conferences and events (this is also useful if you’re trying to build a speaking career).
  • Build your contact list. As you meet new people, keep your contacts organized in Gmail. If you use Outlook, sync it up with Gmail and keep that list fresh. Gmail is the go-to contact list by every social networking tool out there. Want to find friends on Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube? They’ll import your Gmail contact list with no problem.

These are just a very few steps to get yourself started finding your niche. I haven’t even touched on LinkedIn or creating an industry-related social network yourself. But these are enough steps to get you started.

What other tools and steps do you recommend? Leave a comment, and we’ll try to feature it in a future blog post.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Don’t Miss The Point of Each Social Network

There are three major types of social networks – business, personal and communication. Notice I didn’t say “marketing?” Some may combine aspects of all three (Twitter) while others are more singular (LinkedIn).

And even though you may call yourself a social media marketing guru, that doesn’t mean you can “market” your way across all three types in the same way. In fact, every network has a point or a purpose and if you’re missing it, then you’re missing out.


Social networks that focus on business are your LinkedIn’s, your Biznik’s and all of those local listservs and forums that people participate in as part of their online business networking.

The purpose here is to do business, not to share pictures of your kitten or that fantastic dancing robot video you found on YouTube. It’s also not the place for relentless marketing. In other words, don’t spam people.


I would describe Facebook as an example of a personal network. Some people may use it for business networking, but that’s not the point of it or the purpose.

Instead, it’s private and most people create Facebook accounts as individuals, not businesses. Basically, it’s your space to be yourself, talk to your friends and family and share those kitten photos. If you’re using Facebook to bombard your “friends” with product announcements and sales pushes, you’re going to find yourself very friendless, very fast.


This is where it’s all about sharing what you know and your take on what you know and what other people you know know (have I lost you yet?). By definition, Twitter would fall into this category though the micro-blogging platform has evolved to embrace aspects of all three. Blogging would be another example.

Remember, the onus here is on the communication. So, if you don’t have anything valuable to share or you waste your audience’s screen time with pitches and spam, you’ll lose them quickly. Go ahead, make a post about your new product, but also share that interesting industry-specific article you read last week.

Social networks weren’t designed for marketing. They were designed for networking and each designed for a specific type of networking. Approaching all of them with the same marketing strategy is like trying to build a house with a Leatherman – sure, all of the tools are there, but that doesn’t mean it can be done.