We know who uses social media. The demographics have been dissected down to the eyelash. A simple counter can tell a blogger how many readers she has, where they come from, how long they stay, and what they were searching for when they found her. The ubiquitous Forrester’s social media ladder tells us what people are doing and where they go.

What we don’t know is why.

At MicroMass, we rely on the discipline of behavioral science to tell us what, in an individual’s mental makeup, is the key to motivating behavior. The why someone acts is always more interesting than the action. 

What moves a mystery fan to comment on an author’s blog? What is the psychological need that prompts a mother to join a conversation about family health? What are people searching for when they look up classmates they haven’t seen in decades? The answer, like everything else human, is more complex than it first appears.  Fortunately, we have science to enlighten us.   

That Guy Who Beat You Up in Middle School? He Wants to Be Your Friend.

The Problem: Pharmaceutical clients want to reach people in the social media sphere, but their strict guidelines for how they engage people make it difficult to create a branded, fully interactive experience.

The MicroMass behavioral investigators set out to discover more about the users of social media. We wanted to find ways to engage people, while still staying within pharma’s limitations. We conducted a study using original research and the Simmons database to find out what motivated users of social media and how that understanding could be used to develop a workable social media strategy.

We discovered four main groups with remarkably similar motivations for using social media. People may be demographically, economically, and geographically different, but they agree on what they expect from the experience.

These insights suggested ways to reach even those people once considered beyond the reach of marketing.

Here’s how the social media users break out by motivation:

  • Power Socialites are early adopters and use social media to voice their opinions, meet others, and expand their personal visibility. Favorite sites include FaceBook and Match.com. They overwhelmingly trust expensive, well-advertised brands.  Power Socialites can be your strongest advocate or your most vocal critic. Marketers should help them amplify their perceived influence through Twitter and Facebook feeds.
  • Sincere Influentials use social media to help maintain strong personal relationships with established friends. They strive to improve the quality of their lives and use Evite.com, Craigslist, and Facebook to support their relationships and share advice. They respond well to cause-related initiatives and programs that tap into other empathetic influencers.
  • Solo Escapists are more solitary than other groups and regard technology as a personal companion. They look to social media for entertainment and diversion, favoring sites such as YouTube and Download.com.  They are extremely skeptical of corporate messages and respond best when they’re invited to play.
  • Independent Achievers are grounded, conservative, well-informed, and use social media for simple solutions and practical information. Favorite sites include MSNBC and MapQuest.  The best way to connect is to help them do everyday tasks more efficiently.  They respond well to online concierge services and simple mobile applications.  

By knowing why a person uses a social media, and what sort of internal or external drives motivate that behavior, we have a much clearer picture of what messages are most likely to influence that person.

This research gives us a perspective on the social media user and that lets us create communications that are highly relevant, instead of adding more static to the ad noise that’s being thrown at this new medium.

Author: Kelly Andrews, Director Strategic Planning, MicroMass Communications, Inc

This study is the first of several projects MicroMass is conducting into how technology is affecting the way marketers reach an ever-evolving audience of always fascinating human beings. MicroMass has a passion for research, education, innovation and creativity. Since 1964, the company has built award-winning patient education and support programs for some of the most respected names in the life sciences.  The company is headquartered in Cary, N. C.  For more information, visit http://www.micromass.com/.