Tag Archives: psychology

The Psychology of Social Media

Now I am not a psychologist, but I play one on TV … but seriously, I have always been interested and curious with the phenomenon of human behavior and what motivates individuals to do certain things. For me, the most fascinating platform to examine the driving force behind human action is social media as this is where I vest much of my personal and professional time.

So this week I have given the question, “Why do people engage in social media channels and what motivates them to reveal or filter their thoughts” much conscious (and subconscious) thought. I realize that the answer to this question is not applicable straight across the board. The response can vary across age groups, gender, geography, income-level, period of one’s life and any other demographics you can think of. But as a marketing professional, it is our duty to understand the audience we serve.

So here are some thoughts, so far from an exhaustive list, but hey, let’s get this conversation started.

For a long time, bumper stickers have been a broadcast to the world to convey an interest, position, or accomplishment. The stronger the conviction, the more likely a broadcast whether it is an announcement from a dog lover, political support, or the fact that your child is an honor student at school. Social media is a similar platform but the breadth and depth of who you can reach is far greater. Thus, the first reason that I would add to the list is that people use social media to position who they are, what matters to them, and accomplishments they have achieved.

Next, I’ll suggest that human emotion spawns social media interaction. Love what a brand has done for you? Really pissed off when you get screwed by a company or feel that they are endangering well being? Social media is the stage to tell a whole lot of people. It is the behaviorist approach suggested by BF Skinner. In its simplest form, reward good; punish bad.

Sometimes people use positive and negative brand reinforcement beyond emotion – they have an agenda. An agenda premeditated and not invoked as a response to an interaction with a brand. A motivation that can either seek to place a brand on a pedestal (often for personal gain) or diminish the brand’s reputation because the individual has a chip on their shoulder or a grudge.

Do recognize that both introverts and extroverts use social media as a communication platform. What is important to comprehend, is that these two polarized groups use social media for different reasons and ways.

Dr. Pamela Rutledge runs a blog “Media Psychology Matters,” and in a recent article titled, “The Roles for Vigilantes …,” she suggests that people use social media to keep order in their world. Others suggest that social media is used for building one’s personal brand. (Check out Dan Schawbel for more on this topical area.) I guess the key point for me is that social media communication “presents consistent, readable cues about the … author’s personality” as will be shown in a study soon to be published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.

I do not pose to suggest that I have (or can) cover all the motivations for people to use social media. My intent is two-fold: 1) Emphasize the importance of understanding your target market and how and why they might use social media, and 2) get the conversation started on the whole concept of social media motivation. As business professionals, it is imperative to think in this perspective so that you work your social strategy and plan before you do your social execution.

I know there is a ton of information to add to this mere start. What do you think and what is your perspective?

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Social Steve

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