Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Maslow, Social Media, and Influencers

I recently attended and enjoyed the Seattle Social Media Club event (#smcsea), which featured Jim Watson of Razorfish as a speaker. I have been trudging (to walk, or in this case read, with purpose) through Razorfish's annual report regarding Social Influencers and their impact on marketing. I also have run across some Tweets and other ideas about Maslow's hierarchy of needs as they relate to marketing and have been trying to wrap my brain around the identification of social media and networking participants and how we in the B2B space can maximize our messaging and conversational impact by attending to the basic psychological craving and manifest destiny that drives us all to educate, research, and participate in online dialogue. As Maslow's hierarchy is often theory 101 in marketing classes, I think that it provides an interesting and functional metaphor for our engagement in the social media and networking world.

First, some rudimentary and repetitive themes from my posts:

  1. The applications of social media and networking are tools that should be contemplated in our overall marketing and sales strategies. Our profiles and content should be driven by our ultimate sales, educational, and conversational objectives never in the reverse.
  2. We should have a finely tuned definition of our demographic that should be enhanced, perhaps even modified by the feedback and understanding that we gain from participation in the social media world. Although the common misperception that Tweeting or updating our corporate status on Facebook is "free", an inordinate amount of internal resource and cost can mount rapidly if we are not preparing our content to meet the specific audience pertinent to our organizations and if we do not at least have some fundamental understanding of the needs we are fulfilling.

Second, some of the latest facts:

  1. Forrester research indicates that 75% of the online community is engaged in some sort of social media behavior.
  2. More Forrester research ( indicates that B2B IT decision-makers have an extremely high penetration at all participation levels in social media and networking, with 91% of technology decision-makers labeled as Spectators.


In a climate so finely keyed off of maximizing our resources, I think pinpointing the spot in our Venn diagram approach to developing a message that targets the needs of these Spectators can take apply a Maslow Metaphor particularly to those participants that Razorfish would identify as influencers. Let me advance the following theory:

Let's assume that I have already gained a "following" of decision-making spectators whose profiles are the demographic that is my target. According to Razorfish, a certain number of these followers, are going to have to the nth power of impact for me as any of the rest combined. If I also accept that all humans are genetically coded to follow Maslow's hierarchy of needs fulfillment, then my goal as a B2B social media content provider is to identity my key influencers, assess their particular needs and place in the Maslow Pyramid, and provide them with content that will address those needs in order that they repeat and retweet in ways that will not only report their fulfilled needs but ideally answer needs at other levels of the hierarchy. I believe that identifying the influential constituents at each level of the pyramid and customizing content appropriately becomes the science and the art of maximizing our messaging in the social media world. My first pass matching of content and conversation to Maslow's hierarchy of needs looks something like this:

Physiological Needs = Content in the form of basic company information, solution descriptions, cost model, customer lists, mailing lists, newsletters etc.
Safety Needs = Content and responses in the form of Reference validation, invitations to secure audio/video interviews, etc.
Belongingness and Love Needs = Invitations to corporate communities, special “customer only" information, etc.
Esteem Needs = Webinar Participation/Panelist Invitations, Case Study Highlights, Success stories e.g.
Self-actualisation = Promotion as internal/external "thought leaders", Internal Guest blog posts, invitations to conferences and special executive sessions e.g.



Clearly, this is an idea in progress. Obviously, if the content that we are providing is not meeting the needs of our constituents and the conversation in which we hopefully engage them is not compelling and acknowledging of their input and value to our organizations, we are not taking full advantage of the tremendous impact and reach that is afforded us through the mechanism of social media and networking. As I noodle more on this topic, I will be asking the following questions:

  1. How do we identify our influencers at different levels of hierarchical participation and are they often/always/sometimes at different levels of the pyramid?
  2. Do different social media applications more appropriately support our message delivery at different levels of the hierarchy? (My preliminary answer would be yes)
  3. Can the Maslow hierarchy of needs truly be translated into a working model for fulfilling the conversational exchange with our constituents and can its relevance be measured?

Thanks in particular to Jim Watson of Razorfish for his presentation and in general to my new friends in the social media world!


Best regards and until next post!


1 comment:

  1. Hi great post. I'm always really interested in the application of consumer behaviour to social media. The two go hand in hand really.

    I just blogged on how the Theory of reasoned Action can be applied to status updates. Check it out if you have time!