The Social Media Hierarchy of Needs


Ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? If you’ve taken a Psychology 101 class or brushed up on basic psychological theory (which if you’re a marketer, should frankly be a no-brainer), you’ve probably heard of Abraham Maslow.

In his 1943 paper titled “A Theory of Human Motivation” published in the Psychology Review, he essentially established the framework for why humans do what they do. He studied exemplary people like Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass to develop the patterns that human motivations move through. Maslow’s concept can be applied to your social media marketing: What motivates your brand, your consumers, and your chosen social media platforms?

His findings are generally placed in a pyramid, with the largest, most fundamental of needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top: In other words, humans must meet their most basic needs before focusing on secondary needs. We need to be fed, and have slept, and have the ability to go to the bathroom, before we begin worrying about our personal safety, and so on. The levels progress from physiological (did you eat today? Check!) to safety (are you in a safe environment) to love and belonging to esteem and self-actualization. Self-actualization is certainly the trickiest, but envelops the human desires to become the best we can be. However, we can’t be the best we can be if we aren’t safe, fed, and don’t have any self-respect– hence, the pyramid.

For me, this progression is a helpful way to think about marketing. Obviously, each brand is different and each strategy is different, but there should be progressions in necessity that determine how, and why, you market your company.

First and foremost, do you have a marketing department? Is there a general, company-wide awareness that marketing is important and that your company needs to be promoted in some way, somewhere? If not, that’s the most important place to start.

Second, if you know that marketing is a must, do you have a base strategy or purpose behind it? What is the point of your marketing? What’s your brand strategy? What’s your goal? You need to know where you’re going and what you want to accomplish with your marketing efforts. Who is your audience?

Third, do you want to work in digital, print, or both? Which genre is most applicable for the largest number of your audience? For many companies these days, the answer to that question is digital (the power of social media to reach large numbers of people is truly remarkable), but maybe your audience engages better with traditional advertising methods. If that’s the case, start there. If it’s not, figure out what realm of digital you want to work for you. Is it just social media? Is it social media, and a blog? Is it complex social media, incorporating Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, and all of the above?

And finally, just like human beings striving for self-actualization, what will it take for your company to be the best it can very possibly be? This is an innate human desire: What are you working for if you don’t want to be successful, or the best, or maximizing your potential through marketing efforts. Once you’re through the first three stages, this is the longest, and hardest part of the journey. It means not cutting out the other levels (reducing marketing budgets because your company isn’t clear on level one, a re-branding, looking at something you’re doing that isn’t working and finding out how to change that). Make a plan for this and set actual goals for what you want your social media to do for you.



Reprinted by permission.


Image CC by Automotive Social.


About the author: Maggie Happe

Maggie Happe is a recent graduate of Creighton University and a contributor to Social Media Contractors.

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