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Motivators of Social Media Users

I’ve had a lot of social media skeptics (yes, there are still many) asking me WHY anyone would want to interact on Facebook or Twitter (as the two most universally popular platforms) and I think it’s more important than ever to make sure all marketing endeavors on these platforms always stem from the user-centric motivators as the primary and apply the marketing objectives to these.

So: WHY?

People use social media platforms for a variety of needs. Limiting oneself to the “online dating” type perspective of neediness, escapism and loneliness is archaic and depressing, to be blunt. Here are a couple of user motivators which are good to always consider. Even though they seem obvious, be sure to focus and re-focus and then focus some more:

Self-involvement – the ability to define oneself editorially, pictorially and by opinion online and broadcast this to others (mediated presence). The hyperactivity of this motivator has been phrased as “Facebook Narcissism” which has seen the creation of ego-fuelling spin-offs such as ThreeWords.me  – I’ve been accused of Facebook Narcissism myself, so I’m choosing to not harp on about this one too much.

The Promise of Commitment – the expectation of response, reaction and future interaction.  Update your status before you go to bed at night and expect a response when you logon in the morning. With smart phones becoming more cost effective and available, you’ll find more and more people letting Facebook tuck them in at night.

Unpacking oneself – very few people can list 5 of their favourite past-times, books, movies, music artists and quotes in real-time conversation. Social Media Platforms are “interested” in “your interests” and the page remains active whilst you give it a think. It’s your definitive space and allows expression and revision – a sense of self which serves as currency for validation from others. I feel like I know myself better when I relook my “About Me” sections on Social Media Platforms from time to time.

Self Motivation and Broadcasting – many people would claim that they use social media platforms purely for self-promotional purposes in their professional capacity and not for any sort of personal emotion needs or gain. It is impossible to isolate interaction as this. Even compartmentalising one’s life work into a Curriculum Vitae format on a professional network like LinkedIn.com is inherently servicing self-involvement, the promise of commitment (head-hunting or re-connection with ex-colleagues), unpacking one’s career path onto one screen and connection with other similar industry professional to exchange knowledge. You’re not fooling anyone, Mr Trump.

Maintenance of Relationships – older generations are more readily embracing social media and instant messaging platforms, especially because it enables cost effective and rich format interactions with friends and families who are geographically removed from them. Social Media Platforms appeal greatly to the expected larger consumer segments as a cheap and instant form of touching bases with friends and family (who are often not geographically removed from them) which does not require a lengthy phone call or face-to face social engagement. There is no defined parameter of what is or isn’t an acceptable duration for an online interaction, whether it be IM, commenting on posts, or clicking through someone’s gallery of photo’s to see what they’ve been up to and whether they’ve gained weight since high school (I am not ashamed of having done this myself – I’m referring to trawling through someone’s photo albums for this purpose, and not to gaining weight after high school ;-D)

It’s important to shift the view of online users away from “people with needs” and rather to “people with interests”, which is a far more empowering perspective. Looking forward to 2011 as a far more interesting year for all.

~ Mirisa du Toit